• Please review our updated Terms and Rules here
  • Exhibitor application for VCF West 2022 is now open! If you are interested in exhibiting, please fill out the form here.
  • Here are the results of the VCF East 2022 Post Event Survey: Survey Results

Need Advice: Cleaning Dusty Floppy Drives

jamesbeat

Experienced Member
Joined
Apr 19, 2017
Messages
71
Location
Long Island, NY
Every time I come across an old PC being junked, one of the items I routinely strip out of them (if I can't save the whole machine) is the floppy drive.

I have eight or nine 3-1/2" drives now, and they all suffer from the same problem to some extent - dust bunnies.

I'm not talking a bit dusty, these drives have evidently sat for years mostly unused with the PCs fan busily sucking in dust laden air.
This is especially bad with the drives I pulled from Dell machines, as they are a more open design.

They all have large clumps of dust that resembles dryer lint inside them. I have gotten most of it out, but there is still so much dust in there that there's no way they could be powered up safely, let alone have a disk inserted.

What should I do about this?

I'd like to get them completely clean and packed away safely in esd bags for when I need them.
 

Chuck(G)

25k Member
Joined
Jan 11, 2007
Messages
38,881
Location
Pacific Northwest, USA
Compressed air is my first tool of choice for cleaning out dust. And by that, I don't mean opening up the regulator on my compressor to blast 120 PSI air. 10-20 PSI should do. Put some distance between the nozzle and delicate parts. I don't have problems here with static electricity as I don't use a dryer on my compressor, so the air comes out a bit damp anyway.
 

jamesbeat

Experienced Member
Joined
Apr 19, 2017
Messages
71
Location
Long Island, NY
Do you partially disassemble the drive first?
I feel like compressed air directed into the slot would just force the dust further into the drive's nether regions.

I'm tempted to try water like you can do with pcb's, but I'm not confident about getting it completely dried out before it caused rusting.
 

KC9UDX

Space Commander
Joined
Jan 27, 2014
Messages
7,468
Location
Lutenblag
Don't use water. Do use compressed air. It gets all the dust out.

Do it outdoors, or you'll get a lung full of nastiness.

If I recall, water in compressed air doesn't alleviate the static electricity problem any more than rain dissipates lightning. All it does is rust the tank and get wet rust all over whatever you're blasting with air. But in practice none of these are worth worring about most of the time. I always blast the water out of my air before blasting the air on anything else. It's normally invisible in the air, but can be seen if air is blasted onto a clean piece of metal or something.
 

SomeGuy

Veteran Member
Joined
Jan 2, 2013
Messages
4,143
Location
Marietta, GA
Water isn't good on motors. It can get trapped inside motors and can corrode things. The other parts on drives shouldn't be quite as bothered.

If you do use water, follow up with a bit of compressed air to get as much water out as you can, and let it dry in front of a decently powered fan.

Another possibility to consider is isopropyl alcohol. That would dry faster, but runs the risk of removing more lubricants.

But unless they these 3.5" drives are somehow special (uncommon non-standard forms or connectors) I wouldn't worry about damaging them too much.
 

kgober

Veteran Member
Joined
Mar 19, 2017
Messages
617
Location
New Jersey, USA
Compressed air is basically the way to go. It won't force dust further in unless the air has someplace further in to go. As soon as the air hits a dead end it will turn around and carry the dust with it. If there is an air filter in there that allows the air to escape but not the dirt, then yes in that case the dirt will end up getting caught on it.

-ken
 

jamesbeat

Experienced Member
Joined
Apr 19, 2017
Messages
71
Location
Long Island, NY
Yes, it was the mechanical components (especially motors) that made me decide not to use water.
Using it on a pcb is one thing, but a drive has so many nooks and crannies for water to linger that I don't think I could get it all out promptly enough before corrosion started.

None of the drives are special in any way, but it would be a shame to ruin them by doing something silly.

It looks like compressed air is the way to go.
I don't have a compressor yet. I have been meaning to get one for some time now because there are a lot of other things I could use it for.
I do have an old nebulizer pump that would probably work, especially given Chuck(G)'s advice not to use too much pressure.

I presume that a good cleaning with a floppy cleaning kit after the compressed air would be good?
 

KC9UDX

Space Commander
Joined
Jan 27, 2014
Messages
7,468
Location
Lutenblag
Those "air duster" cans work well when you don't have a Kompressor. Just use them upright unless you're trying to diagnose an overheat problem. :)
 

Chuck(G)

25k Member
Joined
Jan 11, 2007
Messages
38,881
Location
Pacific Northwest, USA
By "water", I mean "moisture". After using my compressor, I purge the (20 gallon) tank and there's always a bit of water at the purge valve--not much; perhaps a teaspoon. A dry tank is a happy tank.

If you have a compressor that introduces oil, be sure that you have an oil filter at the exhaust. You don't want that stuff in your electronics.
 

jamesbeat

Experienced Member
Joined
Apr 19, 2017
Messages
71
Location
Long Island, NY
By "water", I mean "moisture". After using my compressor, I purge the (20 gallon) tank and there's always a bit of water at the purge valve--not much; perhaps a teaspoon. A dry tank is a happy tank.

If you have a compressor that introduces oil, be sure that you have an oil filter at the exhaust. You don't want that stuff in your electronics.

Yes I know, I was talking about my own initial idea of washing the drives in water.

This works well for most pcb's but I decided against doing it with the floppy drives because of all the nooks and crannies that would be difficult to get dry again before corrosion set in.

I was responding in agreement with someguy's above post about water not being good for motors.

Actually that's not strictly true - I run my RC car motors in a cup of water to break then in - but I agree that floppy drive motors would probably not survive.
 

rorypoole

Veteran Member
Joined
Dec 8, 2004
Messages
585
Location
UK, Surrey
Back in the day I just removed the disk drive cover and used compressed air cans outside to liberate the trapped dust bunny's and yes the Dells where the worst for dust buildup in the floppy drives
 
Top