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[ The PC Guide | Systems and Components Reference Guide | Floppy Disk Drives | Floppy Disk Drive Construction and Operation ]

External Packaging, Dimensions and Mounting

Virtually all floppy disks are internal drives with a faceplate (or bezel) that is used to provide access to the drive door. The size of the faceplate of the drive determines what size drive bay is required for the drive; 5.25" drives go into 5.25" bays, and 3.5" drives can go into 3.5" or 5.25" bays. In the latter case an adapter or mounting kit is required that adapts the drive to the larger bay size. These kits are cheap and you need one if you are putting a 3.5" drive into an older case that doesn't have a 3.5" drive bay.

The height of a 3.5" floppy drive is one inch, matching the height of hard disks which often share the same drive bays. 5.25" drives come in two different heights. The old standard was the so-called full-height drive, which was a whopping 3.5" in height. These are found on only the oldest of PCs and bays for them have not been used for at least a decade. The current standard is the so-called half-height drive, which is (unsurprisingly) about 1.75" in height. This fits into a standard 5.25" drive bay.

The door to the floppy disk drive of course is different for 5.25" drives and 3.5" drives. The former uses a manual latch that when enabled, closes the read/write head and actuator arm on the surface of the disk media. The latter automatically engages the disk media when the disk is inserted, and a button is used to extract the disk when necessary.

Most floppy drives have screw holes tapped into their sides and/or bottom for relatively painless installation. Older systems use drive rails that are used to mechanically slide the drive into the drive bay. Newer systems allow the drives to be screwed into the bays directly.

Since floppy drives use a solid clamping mechanism to hold the disk in place while reading, they can be installed on their sides without any problem. In fact, many desktop cases have their 3.5" drive bay oriented vertically.

Next: Floppy Disk Media and Low-Level Data Structures

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