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I would like to have some original software shipped to me but I am afraid that it might become damaged in shipping.

The software are the original boot disks and disk tools that came with my first Mac SE and some miscellaneous original goodies. They are ~25 year old 400K low coercivity diskettes which is the reason for my concern. I don't know the strength of the remaining data and don't want it destroyed by security scans as it crosses national borders.

I am afraid of the possibility of magnetic fields further demagnetizing the already weak data on the disk. I have no idea how to recover the data if it is lost. I don't have 400k drives to recreate the disks.

I want to be able to use them on the elderly computer. They were matched for the first release of the model, became lost in a move long ago, and recently relocated.

How best to protect my treasures in transit. What precautions should I ask the borrower to take for returning my original diskettes to me?

Update: The disks are 3.25" (beige plastic hard shell case) 400K disks with no second notch (that indicate a high density, high coercivity diskette). The 400K drives do not recognize the 800K disks I have tried in the drive. It wants its boot disks to access the internal 10 MB disk. :(

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    Last I heard XRay machines no longer produce enough magnetism to do anything to floppy disks. HOWEVER newer imaging devices (MRI, etc.) just may do so. Big red stickers with "Magnetic Media" on them used to be really commonly available. I would imagine a little bit of looking might turn such a thing up. Failing that print out a label like that and attach it to the box, or send it to the seller for them to attach to the box. – Steve Chambers Jun 9 at 15:39
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    An 800K disk can be read in a 400K drive because the 400K disks/drive are single head/single side. 800K is dual head dual sided drives. Basically, you’ll lose half the capacity. However, if you have an 800K drive, it will read both 800K and 400K disks. 1.44MB is considered HD (High Density) – Allan Jun 9 at 20:00
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    Sorry, nothing to do with shipping, but If you're worried about the viability of disks in general in future, be aware that "floppy disk hardware emulators" exist, which store the disk images on USB or SD, and "look" like a normal floppy drive to the device you replace it in. More pricey versions have better features/compatibility. Google Nalbantov N-Drive, HxC2001 or GoTek Emulator. – Stax Jun 10 at 0:14
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    I'd suggest migrating this question to retrocomputing.stackexchange.com. It's exactly the sort of thing that site is for, but is irrelevant to users of current Apple hardware. – Peter Cordes Jun 10 at 0:24
  • Are you able to get shipping with insurance sufficient to cover the replacement should they be damaged in transit ? Are you able to afford that cost if it is available ? – Criggie Jun 10 at 11:16
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Any time I shipped magnetic media, I used the anti-static bags that electronic components came in. Granted, when you have access to an IT department, they are easily available; we would save them for reuse. I still do, but my stash isn’t as plentiful as it used to be.

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However, you can get reusable zip poly anti static pouches. They will provide shielding from low level EM fields and are transparent enough that if your package is opened for inspection, the contents are easily identifiable. I’ve never had any issue with data loss using this method whether shipping in-country or internationally.

You didn’t mention which format the diskettes were; if they were 3.5” or 5.25” or even the large IBM 8” but typically you could copy the disks so long as the drive was capable of writing it. For instance, the 3.5” 1.44MB FDD drive could easily handle the 720K disks. We had a “copyboard” in an IBM AT that would duplicate anything including copy protected disks for Apple. It didn’t even matter if the OS could read it so long as the drive could.

Along that note, I just recently ran across some Gateway 2000 MS-DOS 6.22 setup disks in a storage box that weren’t exactly put away with the greatest of care (about 25 years old). I was able to image them and install MS-DOS onto a Virtual Box VM with no issue. I’d bet your disks are still readable. If at all possible, I’d make an image for safe keeping (I can walk you through it, but it’s technically a different question). Oh, and those DOS disks were imaged using a Mac!

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    Do anti-static bags really reduce static magnetic fields? I thought they are only useful against static electric fields, and have virtually no influence on the magnetic ones. – Ruslan Jun 10 at 12:48
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    @ruslan low level ones. If you hit it with a strong magnet it will go through. – Allan Jun 10 at 12:53
  • Any electrically conductive wrapping establishes a "Faraday Cage" in which no electric or magnetic fields can penetrate. For that - a good aluminium-foil wrapping will do the job just fine. – Motti Shneor Jun 16 at 12:24
  • @MottiShneor - yes, that's true, but now with a "device" wrapped up in foil that inspectors cannot see and will show up on an X-Ray, you've just attracted their attention. A disk in a transparent or translucent pouch will easily be passed over while a foil wrapped object is much more likely to be opened and unwrapped. – Allan Jun 16 at 16:05
  • @Allan those translucent bags show up on X-ray as well, hiding from the X-ray the content - as long as they protect your diskettes... the whole point is to block radiation from getting to your diskettes. The only difference - when they DO unwrap and open up your stuff - they'll be able to look through the plastic backs and see these are diskettes - while they'll need to unwrap your aluminum foil to see what's inside (maybe this triggers slower processing of your package). I was answering the technical question... not regulatory/beurocratic question... – Motti Shneor Jun 24 at 7:00
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Well-wrapped packaging with a bit of insulation is as good as you are going to get. Anything more elaborate (Faraday cage?) is liable to attract attention of customs agents, who may then take them apart. I agree that marking them with "Magnetic media" would be a good idea.

However, I would add that once you get them back, I would certainly keep them on the shelf, and use newer disk copies. There are also archive websites for vintage computing where you can download the actual data. (Assuming your 30-year-old SCSI hard drive is still working too!)

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Allan’s answer is really good but a free option, if you have them, is to use the packing that you get when you buy hard drives. I bought hard drives from ebay that came in a pink electronics bag. If they are good enough for hard drives they should be good for floppy disks.

Also, I bought cables from Amazon that had those silver bags. Finally, I was curious if I could get free bags, so I asked the the Geek Squad guy if they had any left over bags from hard drives and he said yes and gave me two free bags! So, I say just ask and you might get lucky - the worst that they can do is say no!

Hope that helps!

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  • Actually - not so. Hard drives come in their own faraday cage - they reside in a metallic enclosure that protects the magnetic disks inside them. the plastic baggage protects the electronic circuits outside the cage from X-ray radiation - and will NOT block magnetic fields. I suspect these wrappings may not be sufficient for protecting plastic-caged old diskettes. – Motti Shneor Jun 24 at 7:04
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Actually, any electrically conducting wrapping that completely covers your diskettes, "Faraday Cage" in which no electric or magnetic fields can penetrate.

For that - Double-wrap your diskettes with aluminium-foil, making sure there is no hole in the wrapping, and it will do the job just fine, protecting your diskettes from electric and magnetic fields.

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