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Soldering Tips For Lead-Free Solder

The days of using a 20 watt soldering iron from Radio Shack are long gone when it comes to repairing lead free soldered circuits in Apple Computers, PCs, and other lead-free electronics equipment. With multilayer boards, thick ground planes and power planes, and high temperature circuit board materials, along with countries having bans on the [...]

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The days of using a 20 watt soldering iron from Radio Shack are long gone when it comes to repairing lead free soldered circuits in Apple Computers, PCs, and other lead-free electronics equipment.

With multilayer boards, thick ground planes and power planes, and high temperature circuit board materials, along with countries having bans on the use of leaded solder in circuit boards; electronic components are now being attached using lead-free wave soldering or pick-and-place machines using conductive epoxy flux adhesives and then heat cured. All of this adds up to quite a bit of difficulty in reworking and repairing circuit boards today.

CHIPQUIK at While it is good to keep our environment clean, I think the wide spread use of lead-free solder in printed circuit board assembly processes is a case filled with a manufacturing life of unintended consequences. There are major challenges that have and continue to affect printed circuit board manufacturing around the world. First off, PCB materials must be able to withstand lead-free soldering temperatures of up to 260[degrees]C during the assembly operation. [1] This in itself, requires the use of more expensive, and much more difficult materials to work with at the PCB manufacturing stages. Not only is the multilayer construction much more difficult to deal with, but the drilling of the holes in thick multilayer circuit boards, with circuit board materials that are of a “harder” material nature, as compared to traditional FR-4 resin systems (not designed for lead-free), directly adds to the manufacturing costs involved.

I also find it interesting, that about the time where the world (pushed by the European Union) started converting over to using lead-free PCB manufacturing techniques, there seems to be a correlation between the electrolytic capacitor failures that started to occur a short time later in TVs, Set-Top Boxes, Computers, PCs from Dell, Apple, and other computer manufacturers, along with a host of other high powered electronic gadgets. I have no way of proving it, but I suspect that many of these components were hit with a large temperature blast through either high temperature wave soldering processes or oven based curing used in the finished component filled PCB assemblies.

“With a melting point of 217°C, SAC solder also is closest in melting point to the conventional lead–tin solder. This does mean, however, a yet-unquantified increase in energy use. Furthermore, the higher temperature may pose problems for the electronics industry. Higher temperatures mean more stress on components and the entire manufacturing process, notes Geibig. Higher temperatures also mean increases in the time it takes to make products, because more time is required to heat and cool the products during the course of their manufacture.” [2]

On July 1, 2006 the European Union Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE) and Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive (RoHS) came into effect, prohibiting the intentional addition of lead to most consumer electronics produced in the EU. California recently adopted a RoHS law and China has a version as well. [3] In order to meet the new directives established by the EU on removing the lead from electronics, has greatly affected the PCB assembly world at large. In effect, countries that did not have directives for the use of lead-free electronics assembly, were forced by default of having to build to meet the international requirements from the EU.

“This directive (EU Directive 2002/95/EC) places a restriction on the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical or electronic equipment sold or used in the European Union (EU) after July 1, 2006 with some exemptions.” [4]

‘Within the United States, California’s Electronic Waste Recycling Act imposes a fee on “covered electronic devices” currently being sold within the state. This fee is intended to cover the cost of properly disposing of the products when they become waste. Second, it requires “covered electronic devices” sold in California after January 1, 2007 to meet the same requirements as those found in European Union Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) legislation. Electronic devices containing toxic metals and not complying may not be manufactured, sold, or imported into California after January 1, 2007.’ [4] Other states have enacted similar laws.

So, what does that mean for circuit board and electronics repair folks today looking for ways to extend the service lives of their equipment? Well, there are some special soldering techniques that are involved to do the electronic repair jobs right.

What is required to repair lead-free circuit boards with large discrete components?

These lead-free soldering tips are specifically geared toward the large discrete components such as: electrolytic capacitors, transistors, diodes, bridge rectifiers, and coils (inductor chokes). Information on how to repair and replace surface mount devices with lead-free soldering techniques is waiting for a later date to be written.

1. The minimum wattage for a soldering iron needs to be 60 watts. The 60 watts rating is only part of the specification to consider. Be aware that some soldering irons actually get hotter than others given the same wattage ratings. Additionally, you will need to consider using a proper soldering tip for the job at hand. If you are trying to solder on a thick multilayer PCB, then a wide tip is absolutely required to do the job right. There is also a difference in the coatings between the lead-free tips and the old standard Pb tips used for the standard 60/40 Tin Lead (60/40 Sn/Pb) Solder. 60/40 Sn/Pb melts at 370 °F or 188 °C while various lead-free solders used in PCB assembly have a melting point range of 415-441 °F or 213-227 °C . It is important to note that the increase in the melting temperature for lead-free solder, does not tell the whole story for proper solder joints involved with component replacements and PCB repairs.

You might be thinking, that the soldering iron I will be using gets up to 850 °F, I should be able to repair any lead-free soldered component on any PCB. That is wrong thinking here. I mentioned at the beginning about having a wide tip when soldering a thick multilayer. But, you need more than a wide tip. The soldering iron, at the tip, must be able to quickly recover on the heat cycle. It must also be able to supply the heat continually at a constant temperature, or near constant temperature to do the job right. This is where the wattage of the soldering iron is a factor for delivering the heat continually.

A thick multilayer PCB acts like a huge heatsink, sucking the heat away from the area that you want it, and dissipating it over the area where it is not required. If you use a small caliber soldering iron to try and remove components on this type of PCB, you will more than likely simply heat up the circuit board in a wide area, including the component itself before the solder will ever melt. In fact, it is quite likely that the lead-free solder will never melt, because the soldering iron can not quickly and effectively localize the heat in a high enough concentration to do any good. Actually you will probably do more harm than good.

I have heard from some folks, and talking from experience, that you will end up throwing a few choice words around that will not endear yourself to your spouse, if you try to use a low powered soldering iron. Even if you do manage to remove the component, the new component you install will have either the poorest of a solder joint, making you look like an amateur, or worse, an overly heated and damaged component that will result in early failure. Solder joints made with a low wattage soldering iron will likely result in cold solder joints, which will result in poor electrical connectivity and a non-working circuit board.

How about a portable butane powered soldering iron, won’t that work better? Been there and done that. Take it from experience, the answer to that question is no. I tried a wide tipped butane powered soldering iron and I was not able to even make a dent in the lead-free solder on a Apple iMac G5 motherboard.

What about a soldering gun? Once again, been there, done that. It doesn’t work with even the highest powered soldering gun. Soldering guns are not really designed for circuit board repairs. Take it from experience, put this idea out of your mind, it won’t work.

So Jim, what do you recommend in a soldering iron? Do you recommend a lead free soldering iron or a lead free soldering station? Let me first say here, that I have recommended some soldering irons and soldering stations to folks that have written to me and asked for my advice on various Apple repairs, and I would be more than happy to recommend something if you send me an email request. I will say this, that you can get a very good one at a very decent price. You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on a soldering station. However, don’t make the mistake and think you can get by with the old hobby soldering iron that you have in the desk drawer. Trying to use a substandard, low wattage soldering iron for lead-free motherboard repairs will give you headaches galore.  Actually, I would like to hear more from readers of what you have used for lead free soldering.

2. What is the best way to remove the electronic component such as a electrolytic capacitor off a thick multilayer PCB once I have a good soldering iron or soldering station? I suggest you have the PCB standing up on edge, so that you can work from both sides of the circuit board. Check out the Chip Quik kit for removing the capacitors in difficult circuit boards. While heating up one leg of a radial electrolytic capacitor from the bottom, and at the same time slightly pushing the capacitor from the top, away from the leg being heated, at which time the solder starts to melt, the capacitor leg will start to move out of the hole. Do this for the other leg, alternating back and forth to each leg, and slowly work out the capacitor from the hole as the solder melts. After the capacitor is removed, a solder sucker can be used to remove a lot of the excess solder in and around the circuit pad. Using solder wick, (also referred to as desoldering wick or desoldering braid) on the thicker boards does not work well because of the extra heatsinking that occurs when the solder wick is applied. At this stage of the component replacement repair, invariably, not all the solder will come out of the holes with the use of a good quality solder sucker. This is where I suggest using my next soldering tip.

3. Try using a sewing pin, with a plastic head, (even a correct size safety pin works) and heat up the tip and the solder pad at the same time, once the caps are removed. This will push the solder out of the holes and solder will not stick to the steel sewing pins. Stop in at your local sewing machine center and you will find a large assortment of sewing pin sizes. Select a sewing pin size that matches up to the size of the leg of the capacitor. Once the pin is pushed through the hole, continue to apply heat to the pin and the pad, and move it in and out, making the hole the right size for your new components.

4. Is it best to use lead-free solder when installing the replacement capacitors? I have mixed thoughts on this. On the one hand, since the board is already using a lead-free solder, I would say stay with using lead-free solder. Yes, standard 60/40 lead solder is much easier to work with, due to its lower melting point, and some folks say it seems to work fine, but I have some reservations about using it. One negative item to be aware of here is that it is much more likely to end up getting cold solder joints when mixing solder types, and the other concern is, there may be a reduction in the soldering iron tip life if using the special plated tips designed for lead-free soldering, and using leaded solder.

I do have one major item that must be adhered to; only use a rosin core type of solder. Do not use acid flux. No acid flux. Acid core solder and acid flux will damage the circuit board and/or the components. With that being said, it is important that what ever solder is used, that the old solder and the new solder join (melt) together when installing the new components. Be careful with this that you don’t under heat or over heat your work. Just the right amount will do. It is hard to describe how much, and how long the heat should be applied to get a good solder joint. Take a close look at your solder joints. If they seem to be loose, then reapply the heat until the old and the new become one. As an additional note, and I have to say once again as a matter of importance, remember that the components themselves do not like it too hot for too long.

NC600 Lead Free Solder No_Clean Flux Core To properly solder motherboard capacitors on thick MOBs, you will need to operate the soldering iron or soldering station temperatures at or near maximum temperature settings. Heat up the pad on the bottom first and foremost by having most of the soldering tip on the pad; while at the same time having the tip touch the capacitor leg. I strongly suggest using lead free rosin core solder with a no clean residue; which you can purchase with your capacitors order at The no clean flux rosin core solder simply means that the center of the solder has a flux rosin core that is activated by heat, and the remaining residual flux does not need to be cleaned off the circuit board and will not harm the onboard circuitry. Remember also, that the MOB has residual lead free solder already present on the circuit pad and lining the circuit board hole walls, and must be melted (typically referred to as “wetting” action) with the new solder to form a good solder joint. If you use standard 60/40 lead solder for soldering, it is much more difficult to do the job just right, and is much more likely to produce cold solder joints because the different types of solders melt at substantially different temperatures and will not properly join together.

Be careful of other small components and surface mount devices (SMD) on the bottom and top of the boards. These devices are so small, that many times they can be damaged or unattached to the PCB simply by accidentally placing the soldering iron tip on the surface mounted component soldered leads, either moving it or bridging the leads with solder. So what I am saying is, try to use a steady hand.

The picture above, of the custom circuit board clamping hands-free support system, is the brainchild of Paul N. — Grayslake, IL. Paul writes, “You can buy a 12″ x 2.5″ (depth) wood-working clamp from Home Depot for about $10 and a 3″ ‘C’ clamp for another $5. Then apply some adhesive-backed, dense foam rubber on each face of the wood-working clamp. Note that I removed the hard rubber covers that were on the clamp originally.” Paul calls the device the, “Kludged Circuit Board Clamp.” It is important to note that when clamping the circuit board with any clamping device, that you do not position the clamps on top of any components or the very small low profile SMDs on either side of the PCB.

There is another lead free soldering/unsoldering components helper that is simply amazing! Check out the video of the Chip Quik lead-free unsoldering kit and system of replacing components on circuit boards. I highly recommend this patented SMD and discrete components removal kit.

Read more about Apple iMac G5 Motherboard and Apple Power Supply Repairs.

Feel free to contact me at anytime.

Jim Warholic

Years of experience in the electronics industry. :-)

[1] The effects of lead-free on PCB fabrication: assemblers may bear most of the brunt of the…

[2] Getting the Lead Out of Electronics

[3] Solder: Wikipedia

[4] Why Should I Care About RoHS and Lead-Free Initiatives?

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The Floppy Disk Drive Engineering Design Challenge SSD to FDD

The challenge is to design a floppy disk drive interface to be a direct replacement for 3½-inch FDD or older 5¼-inch floppy disk drives on legacy industrial computer equipment. The FDD engineering hardware design requirements would be to build a new style FDD solid state disk drive, hooked up on the floppy disk connector (FDD). [...]

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The challenge is to design a floppy disk drive interface to be a direct replacement for 3½-inch FDD or older 5¼-inch floppy disk drives on legacy industrial computer equipment. The FDD engineering hardware design requirements would be to build a new style FDD solid state disk drive, hooked up on the floppy disk connector (FDD). Keep in mind, the option to install is not available on legacy machines a solid state HD device — IDE to Compact Flash CF adapter on the parallel IDE HD connector since many industrial equipment machines do not support IDE; which by-the-way, these direct replacement hard drive adapters are currently available for PCs with IDE PATA ports (see images below). As part of the engineering guidelines, the direct replacement FDD device must also be able to read and write from FDD 1 to Solid State CF FDD 2 or vice versa. Additional followup information to this FDD article can be found at: FDD Floppy Disk Drive Emulators and Interfaces

View solid state hard drive adapters for compact flash memory cards displayed below.

FDD Engineering and Design Notes For Direct Replacement Floppy Drives

Message: “Jim: I have been searching for a replacement for a 3.5″ FDD that reads/writes to a USB flashdrive or CF memory card.

Has the Engineering Challenge generated any solutions, yet?

I’m hoping ….



Hello M,

I’ve gotten a bit of feedback in this area.

Apparently the signal conversion is a bit more difficult than meets the eye. I have spoken with some engineers that have a cursory understanding of the floppy disk system, but it seems the interface is more complicated than the HD solid state disk drive to an IDE port. This seems strange that a simple device (in concept) like this is not available. I would think there is an engineer out there that could do this, but so far haven’t heard from anyone that can do it.

Some people have a hard time understanding what it is being requested here.

They want to tell me that there are already external USB floppy drives. I have to tell them that is not what we need. We need a direct plug in to the FDD cable that reads/writes to a USB flashdrive or CF memory card.

Maybe I need to spell it out a little more concisely.

Email Jim today.

Many of the old industrial machines used in various product manufacturing industries, and continued to be serviced and supported throughout the manufacturing world today, especially that of the circuit board drilling equipment and PCB routing machines, along with legacy CNC metal fabrication and CNC plastic machining, mold cutting equipment, and die making machines still use either the 5¼ FDD or 3.5 inch FDD to load operating systems and store part programs on hybrid computers. These hybrid computers are not PC based and have no internal or external hard disk drives, nor are these industrial equipment machines capable of hooking up a hard disk drive through any type of IDE cable connector; since the computers do not have IDE HDD interface capabilities, nor do they have USB connector capabilities either. Other machine fields that are excellent candidates for a new style SDD FDD would include: commercial grade and high-end consumer models embroidery machine equipment, quilting machines, and programmable sewing machines used built-in floppy drives for storing patterns and job programs.

Other industrial machines were designed around the original IBM PC which preceded the “IBM XT” and included 5 ¼ inch floppy drives but no hard disk. There may not be very many of these types of machines still in existence or actively used in production today.

Machines that are still being used in production, but have their own hybrid computers, are typically using a proprietary floppy disk controller for reading and writing to the floppy disk drives. This makes disks written in the proprietary format, unable to be read with the standard PC format floppy drives.

New manufacturing equipment is very expensive. Many of these these older machines are still quite capable of producing products in a production environment, and their owners are not willing to throw them away to buy a brand new machine equipment that will produce the same amount of product, in the same amount of time.

History of the Floppy Disk Drive

Floppy drives have been around since 1971, when IBM was the first to introduce the 80 KB read-only 8-inch FD. Subsequently, IBM, Memorex, and Shugart introduced 8-inch RW SSSD and DSSD floppy drives that reached a storage capacity of 980 KB (CP/M) – 1.2 MB (MS-DOS FAT) in 1977. Then in 1978 the 5¼-inch DD was introduced which had a storage capacity of 360 KB or 800 KB. In 1982 the first 3½-inch HP single sided FDD came on the market with a capacity of 264 KB. 1984 marked the introduction of the Macintosh which used the 3½-inch (DD at release). It had a marked capacity of 1 MB, though it was more like 720 KB (400 KB SS, 800 KB DS on Macintosh, and 880 KB DS on the Amiga computer).

3½-inch and 5¼-inch floppy drives shared the market place from 1982 through the late 1990s and even some industrial equipment manufacturers continued to use 5¼-inch floppy drives just at the turn of the century, though most industrial equipment manufacturers switched to the 3½-inch FDD models long before. The floppy disk drives have now been largely superseded by USB flash drives, CD-ROMs and DVD-ROMs.

R&D and Investment Capital by US Industrial Equipment Manufacturers

How did we get into this FDD mess. Part of the reluctance for US industrial equipment manufacturers to design new industrial equipment, with using new style PC based controllers had to do with the costs associated with R&D investments in both hardware and software engineering and design. Also, because of the sizeable R&D investments which many of these companies had made in the past, with specialized dedicated computers that had worked well up until this time in a manufacturing environment, top management was reluctant to spend any more investment capital into designing what was already perceived as a solid engineering design. While US companies sat on their laurels, their foreign manufacturing counterparts had leapfrogged over the controller designs, and started building controllers that were using standard, over the counter, PC based controllers, with software written to run under a Microsoft Windows environment. Now, many of the US manufacturers have been hit hard by the foreign competition and are struggling mightily to compete once again in the world markets.

What we need, is a Floppy Disk Drive Solid State Bridge or FDD SSD

What is happening for many of the end users of this legacy equipment is simply that the floppy drives are wearing out. They are getting old, and with the lack of replacement parts available, the equipment is becoming obsolete. These end users need a floppy disk drive bridge to get them over the hump, especially in these difficult economic times. They need something cheap and easy, that would quickly interface to these old floppy disk drives with a simple FDD plug and play device that requires no software drivers to be installed on the computer. Ideally speaking, it would be based on the solid state drive design similar to the SDD HDD — solid state drive hard disk drive, but for a SDD FDD — solid state drive floppy disk drive hookup.

The demise of the floppy disk drive is making it more difficult to keep aging computer systems operational. Floppies are still used for emergency boot disks on many of these aging systems that lack support for other boot media such as CD-ROMs and USB devices. Even some of the Windows Operating systems such as Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 relied on third party drivers, loaded on floppies. Many of the BIOS and firmware update and restore programs require they be executed from a bootable floppy disk. And if heaven forbid, during a BIOS update something goes wrong, even as of 2008, a floppy disk is required to perform a BIOS recovery after a failed BIOS update attempt.

The music industry still employs many types of electronic equipment that use standard floppy disks as a storage medium. Equipment that is quite functional, and was quite expensive to purchase, and would undoubtedly be prohibitively expensive to replace such items in the music industry as: synthesizers, samplers, drum machines, and sequencers, all of which continue to use 3½-inch floppy disks. Other storage options, such as CD-R, CD-RW, network connections, and USB storage devices have taken much longer to mature in this industry. Source: Wikipedia — Floppy Disk Drive.

So, it makes sense to bridge the FDD storage technology gap between the old floppies and the newer storage device options of CDs, DVDs, external HDs, and USB storage devices.

SSD HDD — Solid State Disk Drives For Laptops, Notebooks, and PC & Apple Desktop Computers

Here are some examples of HDD solid state hard drive adapter devices that can be used on computers to replace the internal hard disk drives using an adapter plug and socket to install Compact Flash (CF). Besides the availability of hard drive adapters, a person can replace their internal hard drive with solid state drives. There are SSD HD IDE PATA for the older parallel ATA interface IDE internal hard drives and SSD HD SATA for the newer and faster serial ATA interfaces available too.

Floppy Disk Drive Bay Mounts and PCI Slot for IDE to Compact Flash Adapter

Addonics Technoloigies, located in the Silicon Valley, California, manufactures many types of adapters designed to be direct replacement devices for hard disk drives. Addonics offers a full range of storage devices based on various storage technologies – optical (CD, DVD, CDRW, DVD-R/RW), hard disk (3.5″, 2.5″, 1.8″ and Micro Drive), floppy, small digital media reader/writer and stand alone storage appliances. Most of Addonics products are designed to connect to different interface technologies – USB, Firewire, Serial ATA, CardBus, SCSI, IDE and all Windows operating systems. Some devices also have been certified to work under Linux, Mac and Solaris 8. Together with a set of complementary accessories – power cables, host controllers and adapters, Addonics products have been selected to deploy in various vertical markets and applications, including in some mission critical environments. Read more about Addonics’ storage solutions.

Many of their products are used to create your own storage size solid state HDD using Compact Flash card sizes of your choice and embed the devices in laptop and notebook computers’ HDD cavities. The item pictured above provides two slots to include both a master and slave HDD Solid State CF drive built into one compact unit. Single slot CF Hard Drive Adapters are available too. With the price of Compact Flash Memory dropping, it is very easy to see how this IDE HDD adapter to Solid State HDD could be utilized in both old and new notebook computers. To replace the internal laptop HDD drive requires simply removing the old 2.5” IDE hard drive from the 44 pin IDE connector and attach the CF adapter with the CF card inserted onto the 44 pin IDE connector with key pins matching. Then you simply tuck it away inside the old hard disk drive bay cavity with double faced tape. Read the details for this device, along with detailed illustration about replacing the hard drive with the Addonics CF HDD Adapter in a notebook or laptop computer. Adapters like this and others for the newer serial interfaces would be an excellent choice for both Apple laptops as well as any of the older PC laptops with either Microsoft Windows or Linux based operating systems.

A while back, I had the pleasure of speaking with a sales engineer at Addonics about the need for a FDD solid state replacement device. He was most helpful, but at that time, Addonics did not have anything available in the way of an adapter to go from floppy disk drives to compact flash or any other form of solid state storage. While he did mention that others had also contacted him over the years to design this type of device, he felt it would be expensive to develop the FDD solid state interface device for what was perceived as not having a very large demand for the product.

External Floppy using USB Interface

In recent years, because many of the computer manufacturers were not installing floppy disk drives into new computers, has brought about a need for an external floppy disk drive. Behold the USB plug and play Floppy Disk Drive.

A0769810 Before we get to the USB Floppy Disk Drive product, there was however a plug-in module device available from Dell Computers in the UK that plugged directly into the IDE interface cable from a motherboard to a 1.4 MB Floppy Disk Drive. The manufacturer was Origin Storage, with the manufacturer’s part number being listed as: CSERIES/FDD, and the Dell part number listed as: A0769810. Not sure if this floppy disk drive adapter hookup to an IDE parallel hard drive port is still available, or who would really need or be interested in this FDD to IDE port device today, but I thought it might be interesting to note it in this article. Also note that I was not able to find that particular FDD IDE device on Dell’s US website. Maybe it is an old out-dated link on Dell’s UK website. Like I said, I’m not sure there really is a need for this device. I don’t think we need to place floppy disk drives at the end of IDE cables, but it sure would be nice to store old system software from a floppy disk on legacy, non PC based and no IDE based machines, and boot to a solid state CF adapter on the FDD cable. Let’s build a solid state floppy disk drive as a direct replacement for a FDD.

USB Floppy Disk Drives — External USB Floppy Disk Drives

Some have asked, “why not just install a USB floppy disk drive on this old equipment?” Well, the biggest hurdle with this solution idea, is old non-PC based computers do not have the option for USB interfaces. Yes, you could install an external USB FDD drive on any PC that provided for USB devices to be installed, though there are generally Microsoft Windows software requirements for hooking up most of these external USB 3.5 inch floppy disk drives.

Others have even come up with a brainstorm of a solution of having some sort of Floppy Disk Drive to USB interface. In essence, this would involve going from the FDD cable into some sort of USB storage device. That might be a possible solution, but one would have to engineer an interface to go from the floppy pin-outs and reading and writing electronic signals requirements of the floppy disk drives, to a USB interface device that was a stand-alone, no drivers required plug-in adapter unit.

Sony Floppy Disk Adapter Sony developed the Memory Stick/Floppy Disk Adapter MSAC-FD2M. The MSAC-FD2M adapter was specifically created for the Sony Mavica FD-95 camera. SanDisk, SmartDisk, and Dane manufactured the FlashPath Floppy Drive Card Adapter for Smartmedia memory cards. These floppy disk adapters provided a slot in the edge of a floppy disk looking unit that Smartmedia cards could be inserted and then insert the whole 3.5 inch adapter into the camera or into a 3.5 inch floppy disk drive in a PC. The application was for those computers that did not have a built-in USB port, to be able to read the Smartmedia memory cards into the PC. With the addition of USB support in newer computers, these floppy disk adapters quickly faded off the landscape though you can still find them available in some online locations.

So that gives an overview of what is available for floppy disk drives, adapters, memory cards, and solid state disk drives.

FDD to USB Emulator Engineering and Design Project

On April 2008, Google Groups section, Jim F. wrote about his venture into building a floppy drive interface and the information he is seeking.

I’ve decided on a new project (this is for fun only) where I will build my own USB thumb drive to floppy interface. My intention is to replace the single floppy drive that exists in a particular piece of legacy test equipment. This will need to be a complete hardware solution (cpld/ucontroller) interface which I can remove the floppy and replace it with my USB floppy emulator.

I’ve really never given floppy technology much thought, so I figured it would be fun to go back to the 80′s and get acquainted with it…

I’ve been searching the web but haven’t had any real luck finding *good* technical data on floppy drive electrical interface data. I’ve read a few floppy drive specification data sheets, but they seem a bit lacking. Does anyone know of a really good repository for this information?

Thanks for any help that you can offer…


This is quite an interesting thread into building the floppy interface by creating a USB thumb drive to a FDD interface. Read more at sci.electronics design. I’m not sure what the status of his engineering design is currently, but it sounded like others would certainly like to see a device like this too. In the thread you will find more technical information into the engineering and design of this FDD interface project. If anyone has any further information into this FDD adapter interface project, please post your comments here or at the Google Groups Science Electronics Design posting. Considering the reduction in the cost of USB Flash Drives, this might very well be a viable solution for the FDD adapter project.

Read the second segment FDD interface article titled: FDD Flopyy Disk Drive Emulators and Interfaces.

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Best regards,



Universal Hard Drive Adapter IDE Laptop or Desktop SATA and PATA

Apricorn DriveWire – Universal Hard Drive Adapter SATA 2.5″ or 3.5″ Hard Drives and Parallel HDs, IDE 44 Pin Adapter, or IDE 40 Pin Adapter for Laptop Drives & Desktop Drives to USB Interface Have you ever wanted to get information off an old Windows PC internal hard drive or just a dead computer? Maybe [...]

Click to read more about: Universal Hard Drive Adapter IDE Laptop or Desktop SATA and PATA

Apricorn DriveWire – Universal Hard Drive Adapter

Apricorn Hard Drive Connector

SATA 2.5″ or 3.5″ Hard Drives and Parallel HDs, IDE 44 Pin Adapter, or IDE 40 Pin Adapter for Laptop Drives & Desktop Drives to USB Interface

Have you ever wanted to get information off an old Windows PC internal hard drive or just a dead computer? Maybe you have a dead Apple iMac G5, G4, or G3 and need to recover the data off the hard drive. Have you ever wanted to be able to install a new larger hard drive in your notebook computer, MacBook, MacBook Pro, or other Intel-based iMacs, or a desktop PC and do it quickly, with all the drivers, and software intact? Well, I’ve got the answer for you.

Here is a cool device from Apricorn that makes it easy to plug in any new or used internal hard drive from a laptop or desktop (Mac or PC), to any external USB port on another Apple MAC or a Microsoft OS PC.

Apricorn includes both the DriveWire hard drive adapter hardware, with AC power adapter, cables, and USB cable, and software to be able to clone virtually any PATA/IDE or SATA, 2.5 or 3.5 inch, hard disk drives.

The DriveWire provides a hi-speed USB 2.0 interface to: SATA, 40 pin PATA/IDE, and 44 pin PATA/IDE.

DriveWire is bundled with Apricorn’s “Upgrade Suite” which features the award winning “EZ Gig II” cloning software for Windows and “Shirt Pocket’s SuperDuper!” for Mac

System Requirements

Pentium CPU II or later, 64 MB RAM or more
Available USB 2.0 or USB 1.1 port
CD ROM or CD-RW drive
Windows 2000 Professional
Windows XP Home and Professional
Windows Vista

Apple G3 or later, 64 MB RAM or more
Available USB 2.0 or USB 1.1 port
CD ROM or CD-RW drive
Mac OS 9.2 or later, Mac OS X 10.2 or later

Five Star Recommendation * * * * *

I have used this universal hard drive plug-in adapter quite extensively myself for all types of applications. I have cloned Apple hard drives, tested old parallel IDE disk drives, used it to backup old computer systems, recovered files off a bad PC, and used it as an external connection for a spare hard drive for both PC and Mac computers. People have used it to quickly backup their system on an old hard drive and then placed that backup into a secure fire safe, not to be touched unless all else fails. The HD adapter has been a lifesaver for me. I don’t like to touch a computer system unless I have a backup to begin with. You do not need to install any backup software or other special device drivers if you are just plugging in various hard drives.

Follow the simple instructions and make sure to set your IDE PATA hard drives only, to “Master mode” (not cable select) with the jumper setting on the hard drive, and you are set to go. Note, master mode is a jumper setting that only applies to 3.5″ PATA hard drives and determines which hard drive is the main device on the ATA bus. Most newer PC Bios systems and motherboards utilized cable select mode jumper settings on the hard drives to automatically identify which drive is the primary and which drive is the secondary based on cable hookup. In “Cable Select” mode, the black cable connector plugs into the primary master drive, gray cable connector plugs into the secondary slave drive, and the blue connector attaches to the computer motherboard or host IDE controller.

Once you have confirmed this important “master” jumper setting on the HD, then simply plug in one hard drive at a time to the DriveWire adapter and plug the USB cable into your USB port, and it shows up on your “My Computer” on a PC, or your desktop on a Apple Mac. You can copy and retrieve information from an old HD drive. That is the beauty of this plug-in device. Fast, easy to use, reliable, and really really handy too.

Pictured below, from left to right is the Apricorn adapter, USB cable, AC cable which plugs into AC adapter, AC adapter with drive plug, and software disk with both PC and MAC software included.

This device is great for IT departments, techies, and even the ordinary person that simply wants to easily plug in a hard drive to see what is on it. Check out the video on how easy it is to use.

Apricorn DriveWire – Universal Hard Drive Adapter How To Use Video

How To Instructions For Cloning or Copying Old Laptop Hard Drives to Large Hard Drives – Article Addendum 12/15/08

Here is a question from a reader in Internet land about his laptop hard drive.

I have a question. I have a small laptop hard drive (dara-206000), 6GB ATA/IDE IBM Travelstar. I want to transfer all the data from this small hard drive to another hard drive with the same features. Does this universal hard drive adapter would work for me?

Here is the answer.

It depends on how you intend to use it. First off, if the hard drive is still in the laptop, then you need to have a USB 1.1 or USB 2.0 port available on your laptop to clone directly with the adapter to the computer’s internal hard drive. Then once you’ve done that, simply pull out the internal HD and replace it with the new higher capacity laptop drive.

If you have the hard drive in your hands, then you can copy the entire drive onto another computer then copy the the contents back directly onto your new hard drive and then install the new hard drive into your old laptop with all the software intact. You will probably need to use the included backup software to get all the system files transfered. You can also use backup software such as Acronis. See: Upgrading Computer Hard Drive and Backup Software

It’s important to note that the adapter is designed to only hook up one drive at a time to the output port of the adapter and then hook up the input to a USB port of a computer. The hard drive will show up as an external hard drive on the computer’s “My Computer” page for a Microsoft Windows OS PC or display on the desktop for an Apple Mac OS computer.

The Adapter is for SATA 2.5″ or 3.5″ Hard Drives and Parallel HDs, IDE 44 Pin Adapter, or IDE 40 Pin Adapter for Laptop Drives & Desktop Drives to USB 1.1 and 2.0 Interface.

Hope that helps explain the details of how to go about transferring the HD information from one HD to the other. By-the-way, you could even use the Apricorn DriveWire adapter to clone to a solid state hard drive – SSD HD too.

Best regards,


PS Learn more about quickly retrofitting to a SSD, Solid State Diskdrive in a laptop, notebook, and Apple & PC desktops too.

Don’t make the mistake, before it is too late; backup your system now. And don’t forget to get your business discovered online with Internet marketing services from Professional Web Services today.