Virtual Floppy Disks with VMware

by David Davis - January 8, 2009

You might be thinking that floppy disks are "dead", right? Well, you are correct that the physical floppy 3.5" disks (or physical floppy disks of any size) are not used anymore. However, the use of virtual floppy drives is very much alive and surprisingly useful. In this article, we will show you how to use virtual floppy drives with VMware Workstation or VMware Server.

What is a virtual floppy drive?

Like a regular floppy disk drive, a virtual floppy disk is mounted on your common floppy disk drive letter, A:. However, the difference is that, instead of being a physical floppy disk that is inserted into the drive, the virtual floppy is an image file that is really located on your hard drive.

The benefits to using virtual floppies and virtual floppy imaging tools are:

  • Ability to boot certain applications - like a Linux virtual router/firewall on a floppy (read more about this here: http://www.rtfm-ed.co.uk/?p=101)
  • Ability to transfer files between systems
  • No Floppy media to storage, search or get damaged (do you really have floppies lying around anymore, I hope nor)
  • If you need to get data on a virtual floppy, a virtual floppy imaging tool can be used to save you the steps of having to first boot a virtual machine, copy your data to the virtual machine, then to the virtual floppy.

How do you create Virtual Floppy Files?

Virtual floppy files usually have an extension of .FLP or .IMG. They can be created with a number of different programs. Here are some options:

Virtual Floppy Drive (VFD), found at http://chitchat.at.infoseek.co.jp/vmware/vfd.html

Floppy Image Creator, found at http://www.tanontech.com/ or http://www.download.com/Floppy-Image-Creator/3000-2248_4-10438292.html?tag=lst-0-1

EMT4WIN, found at http://dvalot.free.fr/emtcopy.htm

RawWrite, found at http://uranus.it.swin.edu.au/~jn/linux/rawwrite.htm

WinImage, found at http://www.winimage.com/

These applications allow you to mount and create virtual floppy disks within a Windows host computer.

VMware also can create floppy .IMG virtual floppy files.

Let me show you two examples of using virtual floppy files.

How do you use Virtual Floppy Files?

Example 1 - Moving a file to a Virtual Machine with VMware Tools

Of course, VMware tools are the handiest way to move files to and from VMs but let me show you how to do it with a virtual floppy drive.

First, I create a virtual floppy within WinImage (by far, my favorite program used to work with virtual floppies) and Injected (as they call it) a file onto the floppy. I saved it as a .IMG file because VMware only likes .FLP and .IMG files.

Next, I mounted that floppy drive in VMware by editing the properties of my VMware floppy drive, checking Connected, and giving it the path to my new virtual floppy file.

Then, inside my VMware virtual machine, I opened the floppy. You can see the results, below.

The file placed inside the virtual floppy image on the host was accessible on the guest. This works file back in the other direction.

Example 2 - downloading and booting a virtual router/firewall

I downloaded the virtual_router.flp file from http://www.rtfm-ed.co.uk/?p=101.

Next, I opened my VMware Workstation & created a new VM. I used the specs for the VM on the webpage above.

Notice how your virtual router/firewall needs no disk drives, sound, USB, or CDROM. It even can function with only 8MB of RAM.

I edited the floppy drive on the VM and directed it to the .FLP file that I downloaded, like this:

Here is what my VM looked like when done

Next, I powered it on and booted it up. It looked like this:

There are SO many uses for a virtual router/firewall like this one and it all runs from a virtual floppy disk.

Summary

While physical floppy disks are in the museum, virtual floppy disks are very much alive and useful. In this article, we learned how VMware can use and create virtual floppy disks. Also, we saw two very interesting uses for virtual floppy drives, including moving files from host to guest and how to use a virtual floppy disk as a fully functioning router/firewall.

Got a question? Post it on our VMware Forums!

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