Tech Line

Virtual Floppy Freedom

Here's a slick virtual floppy drive that can be used for both local and virtual storage.

A common source of pain among those who work with VMware, Virtual PC or Virtual Server is the need to copy data to a virtual floppy disk. This often has to be done using a two-step process, first involving copying the data to a virtual machine, then copying the data to a virtual floppy drive from within the virtual machine. If you're migrating from one VM platform to another and need a Ghost boot floppy, for example, then you may need to set up the virtual floppy disk twice (once for each VM format). Of course, if you have a physical floppy drive in a system, then this is not necessary since any VM can bind to the physical floppy drive.

If you need a virtual floppy drive that can be used by both Microsoft and VMware platforms, then take a look at Virtual Floppy Drive 2.1. VFD allows you to create and save virtual floppy drives on any 32-bit Windows system. What's nice is that when you mount it, you can use this as a floppy drive on your Windows host system. Then, any VM can access the drive by connecting to the "Physical Drive" on the host. Even though VFD is a virtual drive, its emulation makes it appear as a physical drive to the host OS and both VMware and the Virtual PC/Server applications. So if you need to make a boot floppy for a VM, you can mount the VFD on your host system, create the floppy and then link it to a virtual machine.

Here's all you need to do to use VFD:

  1. Download VFD 2.1 here.
  2. Extract the downloaded .ZIP file to a folder on your system.
  3. Open the folder and then double-click on the vfdwin.exe file.
  4. You should now see the VFD Control Panel window. From here, click the Driver tab and then click the Install button.
  5. Next, click Start.
  6. Now click the Drive0 tab. Next to Drive Letter, click the Change button. In the Drive Letter dialog box, click the Drive Letter drop-down menu and select A if no floppy drive is installed on the system, or select B if a floppy drive already exists.
  7. At this point, your system will show that it has a floppy drive; however, it currently does not have a disk. To add a virtual disk, under the Drive0 tab, click Open.
  8. In the Open Virtual Floppy Image dialog box, you have two choices: have the virtual floppy live in RAM or link the virtual floppy to a file. If you need a temporary floppy disk, you can leave RAM selected as the disk type and then click Create. If you want to maintain a permanent virtual floppy disk, click Browse and enter the name of the new file. Note that it can have the .FLP or .VHD extension (among others). Next, click Create and your virtual floppy is ready to go.

At this point, any VM can access the virtual floppy by connecting to it as a physical drive on the host system. While leaving the VFD Control Panel open, you can now use Windows Explorer to navigate to the floppy drive, format it and save files to it. If you see the drive appear as a 5.25-inch drive in the Windows Explorer GUI, don't go running for your old copy of Oregon Trail. This is just a glitch and the drive will still be treated as a 1.44MB disk.

In addition to its usefulness with VMware and Virtual Server/PC, the virtual floppy can also be helpful in testing or training environments where a floppy drive is needed, but no physical drive is installed in a system. While it may not resurrect floppy disk classics like Oregon Trail, VFD can at least ease the management of virtual machine floppy disks.

About the Author

Chris Wolf is a Microsoft MVP for Windows --Virtual Machine and is a MCSE, MCT, and CCNA. He's a Senior Analyst for Burton Group who specializes in the areas of virtualization solutions, high availability, storage and enterprise management. Chris is the author of Virtualization: From the Desktop to the Enterprise (Apress), Troubleshooting Microsoft Technologies (Addison Wesley), and a contributor to the Windows Server 2003 Deployment Kit (Microsoft Press).learningstore-20/">Troubleshooting Microsoft Technologies (Addison Wesley) and a contributor to the Windows Server 2003 Deployment Kit (Microsoft Press).

comments powered by Disqus

SharePoint Watch

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.