Some notes we've thrown together.

Here are a few articles we've prepared on technical topics which other people may find helpful.

Working with classic Apple Macintosh Computers in the Internet Age :

Last Updated : May 2008

The Need for Intermediary Machines

There is no way to write, create, or delete from 800KB disks formatted for Macintosh on your Windows computer's floppy drive. You may find that you are forced to pick up an intermediary machine whose sole purpose is to copy files from 1.4MB high density floppy disks onto its' hard drive, and then copy those same files back off of its' hard drive onto 800KB floppy disks intended for the classic Macintosh computer. Luckily, these machines can be found cheap at thrift stores, curbside on garbage pickup day, or for very low cost elsewhere. However, you may unintentionally need to procure a slightly newer (and yet still extremely obsolete) Macintosh computer in order to assist you in maintaining older Macs.

If you have one of the following Macintosh computers that came with an 800K floppy drive :

  • Macintosh 128k (the original model)
  • Macintosh 512k
  • Macintosh Plus
  • Macintosh SE (with older ROMs and 800K floppy drive)

Then you will likely need a :
  • Macintosh SE (with newer ROMs and 1.44M floppy drive)
  • or, any other newer Macintosh model containing a floppy drive

Creating Mac floppy disks from modern PCs

It is indeed possible to format, read from, write to, and delete from Macintosh-format 1.44MB (high density) floppy diskettes using a Windows PC's floppy drive. Several software packages are still available, but most of them are commercial offerings requiring you to purchase the package before use.

A free utility called MACETTE was mentioned in several articles online as being able to write files to 1.44MB (high density) Macintosh-format diskettes using a Windows PC's floppy disk drive. Most of the sources for this program online had disappeared by the time I tried to track it down, but I did eventually find a single place to download it from after much searching. To save someone else the aggravation in the future, I will mirror a copy of this program so you can download it here.

Upon running the utility from inside of Windows XP, several Windows warning messages were presented. They indicated that the MACETTE software was attempting to directly access the floppy drive hardware, and the program could not properly complete reading and writing operations on the floppy.

The MACETTE program appears to have been created around 1994, and seems to have been originally intended to be run from a DOS-based environment. As such, I tested running the MACETTE program on an actual Windows 98SE computer, and it worked perfectly.

I also tried running the MACETTE program from inside of a VMWare virtual machine, and it actually worked fine. The host machine was a Windows XP computer, and the guest operating system in the virtual machine was Windows 98SE. So, it is possible to use the MACETTE program on your Windows XP computer to create Mac floppy disks, but you will need to do so from inside of a virtual machine pretending to host a DOS-based environment such as an older version of Windows. Other virtual machine software (SoftPC, Xen, etc) may also work for these purposes, but I haven't had a chance to test them yet.

With the vast majority of modern computers no longer shipping with floppy disk drives, you may need to keep an older PC around just to create floppy disks in order to transfer files back and forth to your classic Mac computers. If you have a desktop PC, however, it is very cheap (usually $5 or so) to purchase a floppy disk drive and install it if you need one.

The Need for DSDD 3.5" Floppy Disks

If you're going to attempt to load system software or perform other maintenance on classic Apple Macintosh computers, you are going to need some 3.5" 800KB DSDD floppy disks. There isn't much way around this, despite many experiments here attempting to use 1.44MB disks I already had onhand. The 1.44MB high density disks commonly still kicking around homes and offices are just not adequate. You really do need the proper DSDD disks -- in my experience, if you try to fake it by using the high density 1.44MB floppies, you get intermittent reading and/or writing errors when copying files to and from the diskettes. Luckily, DSDD disks can be used successfully for creating the standard (more modern) 800KB-formatted disks, or can be formatted as the original (and quickly obsoleted) 400KB-formatted disks.

Using actual 800KB DSDD floppy disks really does make a difference to the Macintosh floppy disk drives. Finding DSDD diskettes might be tricky depending on where you live, but they shouldn't be very expensive. Check local flea markets, computer recycling depots, or garage sales -- used floppy disks often work fine. Any DSDD diskettes will work after you reformat them on your Macintosh -- disks from Apple IIs, Ataris, Amigas, PCs, or any other purpose. Some vendors still sell these disks new, as supposedly they are still in use by industrial embroidery machines and high-end synthesizers from the 1980's.

Compatibility Problems with StuffIt archive file formats

It appears that there were file format changes to the StuffIt archive file format in the early 1990's. The changes appear to have been made roughly between when version 4 and version 5 of the program were released. Newer versions of some of the StuffIt programs appear to be backwards compatible with the older versions, but often computers running version 4 of the utilities cannot open archives created with version 5 or later. This appears to have been a deliberate strategy on the part of the creators of the software to 'encourage' customers to keep buying new versions of the software.

Some versions of StuffIt are also described as only running correctly on machines running System 7 or greater, which you may be unable or unwilling to do. Others are described as requiring a Motorola 68020, 68030, or 68040 processor as commonly found in slightly newer (and equally obsolete) Mac computers, while leaving the classic Mac computers unable to run the software.

To make matters worse, it would seem that once people had newer Macs and began connecting to the internet, they started archiving their collections of older programs (eg. for the classic Macs) using the newer version of the StuffIt archiver. This was no problem if you had one of those newer Macs alongside older Macs, so it probably was very common and made sense at the time. However, if you now only have an older Mac and are attempting to work with those newer archives, you will encounter problems trying to open and work with those newer (incompatible) archive file formats. This is another situation where having an intermediary machine may become a necessity in order to prep software meant for a classic Mac computer.

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