Macintosh External Floppy Take-Apart
When I added an original Macintosh to my collection recently I was fortunate to also get an external floppy drive with it. This is the original external floppy, model M0130, that Apple sold as a $500 accessory. Since the original Macs did not have hard drives users often had to swap disks in and out of the internal floppy drive to get work done (i.e. if they stored their documents on a different disk then their applications). The external drive reduced the need to swap disks and made life on a Mac much more productive. It plugged into the external floppy disk port on the back of the Macintosh and could read and write single sided 3.5″ floppy disks holding a whopping 400 Kb of data.
The internal drive on my original Macintosh seems to have some issues reading disks, so the external drive is the only way that I can boot it and run software. That’s great except for the fact that it refused to eject the first disk that I put into it, locking me into running only one piece of software. If I tried really hard I could eject the disk manually by inserting a paperclip into the manual eject hole on the right side of the drive, but the disk only lifted up out of the drive mechanism and did not pop out, forcing me to use pliers to grab hold of the disk to remove it. Knowing that I’d eventually break my disks I decided that I’d open up the drive to see if I could fix the problem.
The disk drive is housed in a beige rectangular case with a single cord coming out of the back. The cord connects to the floppy drive port on the Macintosh and provided both power and data to the drive. Like all Macintosh floppy drives, there are no functional buttons on the front, only a small hole into which a paper clip can be inserted if the disk needs to be manually ejected. On the bottom of the drive there are six black screws. They look like flat head screws with a small indentation in the middle. The flat track across the screws is long enough and deep enough that a standard flat head screw driver works to take them out. The screws themselves are made out of a polished black metal, a seemingly small but important detail from the Jobs era. The two screws toward the back of the drive are recessed into the casing and require a long screwdriver with a thin neck.
The case consists of a top and a bottom piece which are joined at the front by a bezel that slides over them. With the screws removed, the bottom of the case pops off easily. Once the bottom is removed, the bezel pops off with a little pressure toward the sides. With that, the plastic casing is removed and the drive housing is revealed, cord and all. The entire drive is housed inside a smooth aluminum frame that provides structure and protection. The aluminum frame is composed of two pieces of aluminum that are bolted together. It is very light and very smooth, lending to a feeling of clean design, even on the inside.
The first thing I noticed when I took out the drive housing out was how large it was. The floppy drive itself looks big – it’s about four inches tall – large enough to fit two 3.5″ hard drives inside. This is due to all of the circuitry required to control the drive (remember, this was 1984). The actual mechanics of the drive are on the top of the housing. The circuitry and power supply are on the bottom. This is the same exact drive assembly that is inside the Macintosh which explains why there wasn’t any room for a second disk drive. As technology improved, the size of the floppy drive would decrease, allowing Apple to fit a second floppy drive or a hard drive into the Macintosh case.
The housing is attached to the drive assembly with a single screw. Once removed, the drive assembly slides out easily. The assembly looks pretty much like any other floppy disk drive would. There is a slot at the top for the disk, a small lever on the right for the manual eject mechanism, and a circuit board on the bottom for the controller. The whole thing looked very clean. There was no dust or residue and nothing looked burnt. Not bad for something manufactured in December 1984. Looking around the assembly, I noticed that the power components were in the back, stamped with a Sony logo. Apple continued to use Sony drives in many of its Macintosh models throughout the years.
Now that I had the drive open, I could attempt to fix my issues. I had noticed when trying to manually eject the floppy disks that there seemed to be some delay and cushion to the eject mechanism. The disk seemed to float up when I pushed the paperclip in and instead of popping out it just sat there and slowly floated back into the drive when the paperclip was removed. Seeing as the drive was mechanical I assumed that it had some sort of oil on the parts to make it operate and since it was pretty old I assumed that maybe the oil had broken down and become sticky, making the mechanism slow. I figured that if I put some WD-40 on the drive mechanism I might be able to fix my problem.
I flipped the drive over to the side where I could see the manual eject mechanism. This was very helpful because I could push the eject lever to learn what parts were supposed to do what. I put some WD-40 on a Q-Tip and dabbed lubricant on the parts of the mechanism. I didn’t want to spray it directly for fear that oil would land on the circuitry or the read head and break the drive. After a few pushes of the eject button, disk snapped up and down in the drive, all float removed. This was great, except that the disk still didn’t actually pop out of the drive. After a little more investigation I found the mechanism that popped the disk out, lubricated it, and voila I had a working disk drive again!
In order to get to the last part of the drive mechanism I had to remove a small cage on top of the drive, again attached with only one screw. With only eight screws removed, the entire drive had been disassembled for repair. A floppy drive is pretty basic, but this one definitely has the Apple touch. The internal components were all well packaged and organized, details that I suspect were agonized over.