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kamakazi20012

Atari ST Disk Imaging Tutorial

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Hey Atarians!

I noticed there were no threads for helping in making and using ST disk images on real, unmodified, ST hardware.  So I thought I would share what I do.  ST owners won't need a ST floppy emulator for this.  It is for systems that still have a floppy drive.

CREATING DISKS FROM IMAGES OF ST SOFTWARE

NOTICE: This is NOT, in anyway, shape or form, to promote pirating of commercial software, be it they are in the public domain or not.  I am not responsible for any lawsuits that may arise from misuse, abuse, illegal sales, etc., of any ST programs made using the tips outlined in this thread.  It is only being presented as a way to use these programs without having to modify your ST.

First you will need:

  • An Atari ST (of course) with a disk drive capable of using double sided, double density disks (720k).  Can also work with single sided disks but not recommended.
  • A Windows based PC with an internal 3.5" disk drive, XP recommended.  External PC floppy drives will not work!
  • Some DSDD 3.5" floppies (HD disks have a hole opposite of the write protect tab, DD disks don't).  If you can only get HD disks jump to the Tips section for help.

Now we need to obtain a few things for the Windows PC provided below

  • Floppy Drive Controller
  • Floppy Imaging & Transfer Program

Windows versions after 98 stopped offering support for DD disks.  The FDC included returns the support for those disks to Windows.  Simply download, unzip, and double click to install.  Reboot PC after install.

Now download, unzip, and install the Floppy Imaging & Transfer Program.  Once installed, double-click to make sure it loads.  Now you are set to make some ST disks!  But we need images!  Where do we get those?  If you are familiar with, or have a favorite, place to obtain ROMs then visit them to get one or two ST images.  They have to be in ST, STT, or MSA formats.  STX won't work directly but there are STX to ST converters out there.  I recommend Atari Mania's extensive ST section.

Atari Mania ST Section

Or, if you are really patient, brave, and have the space, there is a single file you can obtain from the Internet Archives that seems to have every ST program made stored in it.  It must have because the compressed file size is almost 15 GB!  I will leave this at your discretion.  Not recommended for those with slow ISP connections.

ST Collection (click ZIP on right)

Once you have an image (ST extension preferred), assuming it is on the same PC where the ST disk imaging software is installed, we need to return to the imaging software.

If it's not already up and running, open the ST imaging software and on the right click on "Open another image file".  Browse your computer in the pop up window to locate the ST image.  If the file is compressed you may have to unzip it before you can use it.  Open the image...the window should close.

Insert the disk you want to place the image on in your PC's internal floppy drive.  On the right, under the Open another image file box are some options.  The one we need to have is Format.  Make sure this is checked. This formats the disk while the image is being copied.  This insures the disk matches the image precisely.  Now, click the image to floppy icon.  The disk should spin up and the image should now be in the copying process.  The bar at the bottom will tell you the percentage of completion during the copying process.  If there are any errors with your physical disk, a message will appear above this bar.

Once done, put your newly created disk in your ST and power on your ST.  If it is a program designed to automatically load you should see the start up screen shortly.  Otherwise, browse the disk for the program and double click on it.

If you find the disk did not work, try another disk.  If that don't work you may to have force format your disks using the command prompt in Windows before making your image/disk.  At the command prompt type:

format nn: /n:9 /t:80 

Where nn is the letter assigned to your disk drive, usually or B.  Doing this has a few advantages.  For one it formats the disk to match the density your ST is expecting.  The other reason is the format command will find and report any physical errors with your disk.  If there are any bad sectors, or you get a Track 0 error, then the disk is no good and you will have to use another disk.

PROTECTING YOUR ST LIBRARY

The PC with software above installed can serve a double purpose in protecting your collection of ST software.  Simply place your original ST software disk in your PC and click the A disk icon.  Once the imaging software has the geometries of your disk click the floppy to image icon on the left just under the A disk icon.  Name your file and click OK.  You now have a backup of your software.  Keep in mind that any bad sectors of your disk will also be in the image created.

TIPS

If you own a single sided disk drive for your ST there is an easy way to see if any disk image you want to use is also for single sided disks.  Once you load up your image look at the Geometry of Image section of the ST floppy imaging software.  The third geometry is where the number of sides the image will create.  A single sided disk will have a 1 here, a double sided disk will have a 2 instead.  For ST single drive equipped systems this needs to be a 1.

If you find it hard to obtain DD type disks but have an abundance of HD disks on hand there is a trick you can do to use those disks on your ST disk drive.  Then only real physical difference between HD and DD 3.5" floppies is a single hole.  If you look at both types of disks side by side you can see the difference.  Opposite of the write protect tab is the area being referred to.  The one with the hole is an HD disk, the one without is a DD disk.  To use a HD disk in your ST simply turn the disk over, label side down, and place some tape over the hole.  TADA!  Instant DD disk.  Place the disk in your ST to format it or use the Command Prompt formatting syntax on a Windows PC.  Don't remove the tape unless you need a HD disk again.  Doing so will keep the disk from working in your ST.  (Thanks to RickR for pointing this out).

This also works with creating disks for ZX systems.  Just make sure you have images ending with a ZX extension.  I don't own a ZX so those that try this will have to do so on their own.

FINAL WORDS

I hope this tutorial helps others out in getting to try ST programs on real hardware.  Please use it wisely and don't abuse any copyrighted programs.  My hope is that this will encourage more ST score challenges in the future as well as encourage other ST owners to share their findings, reviews, and more!

REQUIRED WINDOWS PROGRAMS

FdInstall.zip (adds support for formatting DD disks to Windows systems)

FloImg1.zip (the ST imaging and transfer program for Windows systems)

Edited by kamakazi20012
Added more tips, corrected typographic errors, reworded some sentences

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You are most welcome.  It can be time consuming to setup and learn how to do it but the end results are worth it.  Besides, we need more ST stuff here.  And its a good way to repurpose an old Windows machine.  I have an old Dell desktop with XP I don't let online.  It is used strictly for ST purposes.

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The only thing to keep in mind is if there was any sort of copy protection schemes used they may still be present.  So you may still need original code disks, instructions, or any other printed materials used to get pass the copy protection.

You are very welcome.  I highly recommend setting up a dedicated Windows machine just for doing this.  And I would suggest keeping it offline to avoid hacks, attacks, and other mishaps.

And, RickR is right.  The only thing separating DD and HD disks are a single hole.  Cover the hole up on an HD disk and it will be a DD disk.  The disk material in both types of disks are identical.  Brings back old memories of needing a HD disk and only having DD disks.  Drill a hole a viola!  Instant HD disks! 

I will add a tip in the tutorial.

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