Progress to superior HD (disk) format!

Posted: January 26, 2012 in Good Bloggy!, Hardware of the People!
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Commendations to Comrade Rupert of ST Freakz! He has a supply of fully compatible HD 1.44mb drives that are “plug n play” compatible with all Atari TOS systems, including that obscure beast, the TT. The drive in my TT was sadly rather unhealthy.

I initially swapped it out with that from the STe which worked fine, but 1) left the STe with no drive, and 2) meant the TT only had a 720k DD drive instead of 1.44mb HD. Since, unlike on the PC, floppy disks still play an important role on Atari systems, that is not very helpful.

Rather than refurbishing old drives, Rupert’s offering is a brand new drive but assured to be completely compatible, being recognized either as HD or DD depending on what type the system supports. However, the fascia that comes with the drive is that of the standard PC types, with a rectangular eject button and flat rather than lipped face. Thus, to mount it in the stock TT case the eject button needs to be filed down to avoid snagging on the case (meaning the disk wont be read).Even with this though, the drive leaves a frankly ugly cosmetic appearance, since the lip on the Atari drives covers up the raw edges of the mounting point. I asked Rupert if it would be possible to swap the fascia over with that from the dead Atari (actually a customised Epson) drive. He informed me that you couldn’t, and on examination the mounting lugs for the two models are in different locations.

However, not be deterred it turns out there is a rather “hack” method of re-using the original fascia to create a pretty good aesthetic result that does still work a treat:

 So, here’s the how-to:

1. Remove the defective Atari drive.

2. Use a small flat headed screwdriver to release the fascia from the drive body. Two lugs on the top of the drive, and two underneath. You will probably find you need to gently persuade the fascia off using the screwdriver to prise it a little bit on each side. Alternative, you can remove the drives outer case by removing the tiny (and I mean tiny) cross head screw on the underside (toward the rear, right hand side with the front of the drive facing away from you).

3. Remove the eject button from the Atari drive. This just pulls off.

4. Do the same to the replacement drive. There are four lugs, located on each corner and should come off easily. The eject button is more problematic. it is attached via a lug just inside the drive. Use the flat headed screw driver again to gently lift the plastic of the lug up, so it clears the metal retaining notch, and it will them come out easily with no pressure.

5. On the Atari fascia, use a gentle file to file down all the lugs. You don’t need to take them all the way down. I left about 3mm, to avoid snagging other parts of the fascia with the file. I actually used a strong nail file for the job, as the plastic is very soft, and gave a smoother finish.

6. File down the eject button. To create a good aesthetic look, we will file down just the rear of the button, leaving the front intact. As you look at the front of the button, you will need to file down the rear right-hand side (the side nearest the outer edge of the drive bay) to around 1/2 to 1/3 the original depth.

7. Attach the Atari fascia to the new drive. I used a length of duck tape, taping the fascia to the outer casing of the drive mechanism behind. This is invisible from the outside when the drive is mounted. Before fixing it definitively in place, make sure it is aligned properly so that it will fit through the case holes!

8. Mount the drive in the case and test the eject button by resting it in the hole and try inserting and eject a disk. The button  may not push right in to eject the drive. If so, you will need to file down the rear a bit more.

9. You can attatch the eject button in a number of different ways, though I went for the crude but effective method of super-glue on the part of the button that will contact with the eject mechanism in the disk drive. I did this with the drive mounted, so I could guide the button through the case hole, ensuring it would be in exactly the right place.

10. Admire your handiwork!


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