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RISC OS 3 User Guide


RISC OS 3.7 User Guide

6 - Using floppy and hard discs

This chapter shows you some more desktop options to help you use hard discs and floppy discs.

Floppy and hard discs

Most computers are fitted with a floppy disc drive and a hard disc drive. A hard disc can store large amounts of information for long periods of time; then, when needed, it can retrieve the information quickly so that it can be used again. A floppy disc holds much less information than a hard disc, and can't retrieve it so quickly. You'll find some more general information about discs and disc drives in the Welcome Guide supplied with your computer.

Naming discs

All floppy discs and hard discs can be given names. Names that you recognise and understand are helpful.

The name of a hard disc appears underneath the hard disc icon on the icon bar, and in the title bar of directory displays. Names of floppy discs are only shown in the title bar of directory displays. The floppy disc drive icon on the icon bar always has the drive number beneath it. This will be :0 unless you have more than one floppy drive. If a hard disc is not given a name it is given the number :4. If a second hard disc is fitted, it is given the number :5.

Each disc may be referred to either by a name, or by the number of the drive on which it is mounted. You should use names, since the filing system can prompt you to insert a floppy disc by name if it is needed.

It is advisable to keep disc names unique, so that the filing system can tell them apart. If you don't name a floppy disc when you format it than it is automatically given a name based on the current date and time.

To set or change the name of a disc:

  1. Click Menu over the disc icon on the icon bar.
    If you're formatting a floppy disc, ensure that it is formatted and not write-protected before you insert it into the disc drive.
  2. Move to the Name disc/Disc name box.


  3. Type in the name (it must be at least two characters long).
  4. Press Return or click a mouse button.

If you have any directory displays open for the disc under its old name, they will be closed when you rename the disc.

Naming restrictions

A disc name must contain at least two, and at most ten, printing characters. The name must not contain a space or any of the following characters:

      $ & % @ \ ^ : . # * " |

If you are using a DOS disc that was given a single-character name on another machine, you will only be able to rename the disc on the other machine.

Changing the name of a hard disc

If you change the name of a hard disc you may find that certain start-up files no longer operate correctly. This is probably because they refer to the old hard disc name rather than the new one. The files that may need changing are discussed in Customising the desktop start-up procedure.

Mounting and dismounting discs

When you've displayed a disc's root directory (this can be a floppy or a hard disc) the disc is said to be 'mounted'. When you have finished with a disc, it is useful to 'dismount' it (and essential to dismount a DOS disc). This closes all the files on the disc, removes its directory displays from the screen, and tells the computer to forget about it.

Dismounting floppy discs

To dismount a disc:
  1. Insert the floppy disc into the disc drive (if it's not still in there).
  2. Click Menu over the floppy disc icon on the icon bar.
  3. Choose Dismount from the icon bar menu for the disc drive.

Warning: Do not dismount a disc during a Filer operation on that disc.

Dismounting hard discs

Dismounting a hard disc also parks its heads, so that once you've switched the computer off you can move it safely. The disc remains dismounted until the next time it is accessed, or until the machine is next switched on. It is good practice to dismount the disc before switching the computer off; you can do this automatically by using the Shutdown command from the Task menu. This command logs you off networks, prompts you to save any unsaved files and dismounts the disc.

Formatting discs

Formatting a disc means setting up a structure on the disc within which data can be stored. You will need to format a disc in the following circumstances:

Warning: When a disc is formatted, any data that was previously stored on it is permanently lost.

Formatting a hard disc

Hard discs are supplied ready-formatted, and you should not need to reformat them. In the unlikely event that a hard disc does have to be reformatted, use the application !HForm.

Formatting a floppy disc

  1. If the disc is not already in the drive, insert it.
  2. Move to the Format submenu of the icon bar menu for the disc drive.


  3. Choose the disc format. You should choose the ADFS 1.6M format if you have a high-density floppy disc and the ADFS 800K (E) format if you have a standard double-density floppy disc. This displays the Format dialogue box.


  4. Give the floppy disc a unique name by deleting the contents of the Name box and typing in the new disc name.
    If you don't give a floppy disc a name, the default name given to the disc is based on the date and time, for example 11_09_Mon.
  5. Click on Format to go ahead with the operation or click on the Close icon to abandon the operation.
  6. The disc is first formatted, then verified (checked for errors). During formatting and verification, an indication of the progress of the operation is displayed. You can interrupt the formatting process by clicking on Pause.
  7. Finish formatting by clicking on OK when you see the message Disc formatted OK.

If the disc verification process finds errors on the disc see the section Disc errors during formatting for instructions on how to remove them.

RISC OS floppy disc formats and Other disc formats describe the available disc formats in more detail.

Disc errors during formatting

Faults that prevent data from being read from or written to a part of the disc are known as defects.

The formatting process is designed to deal with any defects found on the floppy disc. Any defects found are displayed during the formatting and verification process.

If a defect is found, click on Continue. This marks the area of the disc as defective and ensures that it is not used. If you don't want to continue with the format/verify process, click on the window's Close icon.


While RISC OS will allow you to use a floppy disc with defects (by 'jumping over' or ignoring those defects) we recommend that, unless you have an immediate need to use the disc, you throw it away at the first opportunity.

When formatting has finished the window shows you how many defects were mapped out (marked as not to be used).


RISC OS floppy disc formats

You choose disc formats from the Floppy disc icon bar menu.

Your computer can use both high-density and double-density discs. Always choose ADFS 1.6M to format high-density discs and ADFS 800K (E) to format double-density discs.

There are four different RISC OS formats available:

Other disc formats

You can format floppy discs in different formats using the Format/Other formats sub-menu.

DOS-formatted discs

DOS-formatted discs should only be used if you are transferring files to or from a DOS computer or storing DOS files on the disc. Files stored on DOS discs are stored according to DOS file naming conventions and not RISC OS conventions.

For more information about DOS files and discs, read Using DOS and Windows discs.

There are different PC-compatible formats for floppy discs. These formats are compatible with computers that use the DOS operating systems (i.e. MS DOS, DR DOS or PC DOS):

Note: If your machine has no VRAM, it is recommended that you switch to a screen mode that uses less memory than 800x600x256 colours (e.g. 800x600x16) to format discs in DOS format.

Atari-formatted discs

Atari-formatted discs should only be used if you are transferring files to or from an Atari computer or storing Atari files on the disc. Files stored on Atari discs are stored according to Atari file naming conventions and not RISC OS conventions.

There are two different Atari-compatible formats for floppy discs:

UNIX and Apple computers

Many UNIX computers incorporate software that allows the computer to read and write to DOS-formatted discs in much the same way that RISC OS does. Most Apple computers also have software that allows the computer to read and write to DOS-formatted discs.

Checking a floppy disc's format

If you want to find out what type of format a floppy disc has, put the floppy disc in the disc drive and go to the Format/Current format box. This will tell you the format type and storage capacity of the floppy disc.


Backing up discs

It is essential that you keep backup copies of your important files, in case they get damaged. You might delete a file by mistake, or you might get errors on a floppy or hard disc that mean some files become unusable.

Backing up floppy discs

As well as making backups of important files, it is recommended that you make backup copies of applications supplied on discs, and use the backups as your working discs.

You should format the discs that you are using for the backup process and discard any that contain defects, even if they have been mapped out by the formatting process. Do not use discs that have defects.

The backup process copies an entire floppy disc (from the 'source' disc to the 'destination' disc) as a single operation. You can only back up onto discs with the same format as the source disc.

Warning: Backing up a disc deletes the entire previous contents of the destination disc.

Note: The floppy disc drive indicator light will remain on at some stages of the backup process, but don't worry, you can still insert and remove discs as instructed.

To back up a floppy disc<:

  1. Choose Backup from the icon bar menu for the disc drive. If the destination disc is a new, blank disc, format it first (see Formatting discs).


  2. When prompted, insert the source disc into the disc drive and click on OK. For safety, write-protect the source disc.


  3. Similarly, when prompted, insert the destination disc, and click on OK.
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 as prompted until all of the data has been copied. The destination disc will be given the same name as the source disc.
  5. When the backup has finished, click on OK.

If you are using your computer a lot, it's good practice to back up the files you've been working on at least once a day, and to back up all your files once a week, or once a month. Naming discs with the date of the backup will remind you when the backup was made, without having to check the date of the files on the disc.

Backing up hard discs

You can back up your hard discs by copying valuable data and applications to floppy discs. The backup procedure used for hard discs differs from that used for floppy discs.

You should keep backup copies of the following directories:

You should also back up any data you may have produced and applications that you have installed.

Warning: This backup procedure does not back up files that are bigger than the size of a single floppy disc (approximately 1.6MB). If you want to back up such files, you'll need additional software (not supplied by Acorn) or you should back up to alternative media with large enough capacities, such as a second hard disc or a network or tape streamer.

To back up files and directories from your hard disc:

  1. Click on your hard disc icon to see the directory display.
  2. Select all of the main directories that you wish to backup. You can only choose directories from a single directory display.
  3. Choose the Count option from the Selection menu.
  4. Take the figure given by the Count option and divide it by 1,000,000. This will give the approximate number of high-density floppy discs needed to store the information on.
  5. Format this number of high-density floppy discs using the 1.6M format.
  6. Give all of the discs exactly the same name.
  7. Put the first of the destination discs in the disc drive and click on the floppy drive icon to view the directory display.
  8. Select all of the directories you are to backup and drag (copy) them to the floppy directory display.
  9. Wait while the files are copied.
  10. When the Disc full when writing error message is displayed remove the floppy disc and replace it with the second destination disc. Be sure to label the discs in the order in which they are used.
  11. Click on the floppy disc icon to view the directory display.
  12. Click on Retry.
  13. Repeat this procedure each time you see the Disc full error message.

When the copying process is finished, the backup is complete.

If you need more floppy discs you can format them, give them the correct disc name, and then continue with the backup.

Fitting more data onto backup discs

To fit more information onto floppy discs, you can use the file compression application !Squash; you'll find more information about this in the section on Squash.

Restoring backed-up data to a hard disc

You can restore your data by inserting the first backup floppy disc in the disc drive, clicking on the floppy disc icon and dragging its contents to the appropriate directory on your hard disc. When the first floppy disc has been copied over, Dismount it, insert the second disc, click on the floppy disc icon and repeat the procedure; carry on until you've copied all the discs.

Checking for disc defects (verifying)

You can check whether a disc is free from defects by verifying the disc. This checks that all the data on the disc is readable (it does not check that the data is correct). This is not something you need to do very often, but is a good idea if, for example, you have made a backup of important data and want to check that it is stored safely.

To verify a floppy disc choose Verify from the icon bar menu for the disc drive.


The Verify dialogue box is displayed and the operation starts.


If there are no faults on the disc, the message Disc verified OK appears.

Some types of hard disc incorrectly report addresses of defects using Verify (and *Verify from the command line). To verify a hard disc it is therefore preferable to use the application !Verify, found in the Utilities directory. To use !Verify, just double-click on its icon and follow the instructions on the screen. The number of the standard hard disc shipped with the computer is 4.

Defects on a floppy disc

If you find that there are defects on the floppy disc, click on Continue to carry on with the verify; repeat this process if any further defects are found.


The easiest way to remove the defects is to format the disc again. This allows you to mark the faulty areas of the disc as bad so that they are not used (don't forget to copy any important files off the disc first!).

Defects on ahard disc

If there is a defect on your hard disc, the position of the error on the disc is displayed during the verification process.

  1. Write down the number displayed.
  2. Click on Continue to carry on with the operation
  3. Repeat this process if any further defects are found.

When the operation ends, you should have a list of the defects found. Turn to Removing a disc defect and follow the instructions given there.

Checking the amount of free space on a disc

To check how much free space is available on a disc, choose Free from the icon bar menu for the disc drive.

This shows the amount of unused space on the disc, together with the amount of space that has already been used. The total disc size is shown as well. This window is updated whenever the space available on the disc changes.


Adding more applications to a hard disc

Adding applications to the hard disc is quite easy. Usually you only need to copy an application from the floppy disc to a directory on the hard disc. Some applications require you to add system modules or fonts to the computer. These are normally supplied as !System and !Fonts files. To add these to the hard disc, merge them using the !Boot application.

Do not copy a !System or !Fonts directly onto your hard disc.

You must not double-click on a !Fonts or !System icon. This will confuse the computer resulting in erratic operation. If you have double-clicked on a !Fonts or !System icon by mistake, you should reset the computer.

Note: You won't need to copy or use any !Scrap applications you find, as one already exists inside the !Boot application.

Using several floppy discs

If the file, directory or application you want is on a floppy disc that has been seen by the Filer but is not currently in the disc drive, the Filer asks you to insert the floppy disc (see below). When you do this, the computer finds the required files automatically.

If you decide not to go through with the operation (for example, if the requested disc is not available) click on Cancel.

The desktop remembers the names of the last eight floppy discs that have been inserted into the disc drive. If you insert and use a disc that has exactly the same disc name as one already in use, the 'earlier' disc will be forgotten about. You should always try to use unique disc names, and dismount discs before removing them from the floppy disc drive.

Copying between floppy discs

When you are copying from one floppy disc to another using a single floppy drive (by dragging a group of objects) you may be asked to swap the discs occasionally, which becomes tedious when copying many files and directories. It is probably faster to copy the files from floppy disc to hard disc or RAM disc, and then from there to the new floppy disc (see Using a RAM disc).

What to do if something goes wrong

Most errors and problems connected with discs are accompanied by self-explanatory messages. Often all you need to do is acknowledge that you have read the error message by clicking in the appropriate box. There are a few cases that are more serious or need a little extra explanation. < A NAME=HEADING2-172>

Protected disc

The message shown below indicates that a floppy disc is write-protected. This prevents you from accidentally writing to the disc. You can remove the write protection by sliding the small tab at one corner of the disc so that the hole is blocked off.

For more information, consult your Welcome Guide.

Unreadable disc

The message below indicates that the computer can't read the floppy disc. The floppy disc may not be formatted at all, or it may be formatted in a way that cannot be read on the computer. The computer cannot read discs formatted with Commodore Amiga disc formats, or Apple Macintosh formats (although there is a third party application which does this - ask your supplier).

Disc errors during use

If a disc defect error occurs with a floppy disc while you are using it (a rare occurrence) you will see a disc error message.

To correct the error you should copy any files you want to save from the affected disc onto another disc, and then throw the disc away.

A similar error can occur if you try to use a disc that has not been formatted.

If a disc defect error occurs on a hard disc, the error's position is displayed. In this case write down the number displayed and refer to Removing a disc defect and follow the instructions given there.

RISC OS 3.7 User Guide - 21 JAN 1997

This edition Copyright © 3QD Developments Ltd 2015
Last Edit: Tue,03 Nov 2015