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[ The PC Guide | System Care Guide | System Care: Protecting Your PC | Care of Specific Components ]

Floppy Disk Drives

Unlike hard disk drives, which are sealed and have their read/write heads in a controlled environment, floppy disk drives are exposed to the outside air, and all the contaminants that go with it. The drives should be cleaned about quarterly, and more if you use your drive a great deal.

The most important part of cleaning the drive is cleaning the read/write heads, which over time will tend to accumulate dirt and residue from disk media (which they contact while in operation). This cleaning can be done using alcohol or special cleaning kits. While cleaning the heads is an important part of overall maintenance, make sure not to overdo it; you can wear the heads out if you clean them too often (like on a daily basis.)

In addition, the inside of the floppy disk drive should be cleaned of dust as well, since it can accumulate on other components. This is best done the same way other components would be cleaned, using either a vacuum or compressed air. You can do the cleaning right through the drive slot; you don't have to open up the drive.

One maintenance activity that used to be part of the routine for floppy disks was to check and adjust their alignment. If the alignment of a drive drifts from what it should be, it will lose the ability to read disks written by other drives, and they will lose the ability to read those that it writes. When floppy drives cost several hundred dollars, computer repair labor was about $20-30 an hour, and alignment made sense. Now, a new floppy drive costs less than an hour of labor--often much less--so if a drive seems to be out of alignment, it is almost always better simply to replace it.

Next: CD-ROM Drives

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