Format diskettes on the fly

Diskettes are almost universally reviled for being too slow and too small, yet almost everyone depends on them for backing up individual files and sharing data among computers. But formatting them is a chore. You have to open Explorer, then navigate to the floppy drive, and choose the Format command from a menu. This is where a batch file can come in handy.

If you just want to format a disk, fire up Notepad and type format a: /autotest (type b: instead of a: if that's the drive you want to use). Save the file to a desired folder as something like fmt.bat, making sure to use the three-letter .bat extension. (I keep a separate folder just for batch files.) But be warned: The /autotest switch tells DOS to format a floppy disk without prompting you for confirmations. If you accidentally execute this batch file on a floppy containing data, use the DOS Unformat command to reverse the dire effects. Unfortunately, this rescue technique works only with Windows 3.x and DOS 6.x. If you use Windows 9x, look for the file mirror.com on your hard disk. You may have to dig out your old DOS floppies and find a file called mirror.co_. Start a DOS window (choose Start-Programs-MS-DOS Prompt), and at the C: prompt, type expand a:\mirror.co_ c:\dos\mirror.com (your path may differ), and then press . Now open the fmt.bat file in Notepad and add the line c:\dos\mirror a: above the format line in Notepad. Mirror takes some space on the floppy, but it'll let you recover data after an unintended format.

Note that this batch file won't work with NT, nor will it allow for quick formatting. To overcome these limitations, change the format line to format a: /q

If you're not using NT, you can include the mirror line as before. Save and close the file. Now right-click an empty area of the folder identified in the command line (here, it's the Windows folder) and choose New-Text Document. Name it cr.txt. Double-click the new file to open it for editing. Press twice to insert two carriage returns, then type N followed by again. This will reply to the Format command's prompts. Save the file, and exit.

If you prefer to see the normal Windows Format dialogue box (Windows 9x and NT only), right-click the Start button and click Open or Explore. Double-click Programs, then navigate to the folder from which you'd like to launch the formatter. Right-click an empty area and choose New-Shortcut. In the Command Line box, type rundll32.exe shell32.dll,SHFormatDrive, taking note of the lowercase/uppercase letters. Click Next and type a name for your Shortcut (such as Floppy Formatter). Click Finish. If you want, you can assign a keyboard shortcut to launch this formatter: Right-click the new icon, select Properties, click the Shortcut tab, then click in the Shortcut key field and type a letter or number. The system will automatically add "Ctrl + Alt +" to what you type, and that key combination will be your keyboard Shortcut. Whenever you want to format a floppy, just choose your new command from the Start menu or press its keyboard Shortcut.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Scott Dunn

PC World
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?