Floppy Drive Resurrection (Citizen W1D)

Intro and Backstory

Floppy drives are very fine little intricate pieces of machinery, and that’s something I’ve definitely learned. Especially some particularly unique designs, such as the Citizen W1D floppy drive.

I came across a Compaq Presario 1070 laptop from my recycler buddy that I purchased for a measly $10 from him. Its hinges were seizing up when I got it, the screen backlight just barely worked, and, after fixing all of those issues, I had discovered the floppy drive didn’t work!

The floppy drive, made by the probably-long-gone company “Citizen”, was buried deep inside of the system. It wasn’t like the NEC Versa 2435CD I used to have, where the floppy drive simply slid out. No, this one required just about entire disassembly of the system! And as anyone who collects vintage electronics can tell you, that can be dangerous as the plastic parts and what not become brittle over time.

Well, I wound up getting my hands on another couple of these laptops – a Presario model 1070, and a model 1010. The two models are very similar. The former has a modem, as well as a slightly larger screen, despite being the same outside dimensions. The LCD assemblies are cross-compatible, and you can put the 1070’s LCD assembly on a 1010, and vice versa. As far as I can tell, the LCD screen and bezel are the only differences in the assemblies. Everything else seems 1:1 the same.

Sadly, these too, also had bad floppy drives!

Possible Symptoms of a Bad Belt

A couple of different things could happen: either, upon insertion of a disk, you hear a fairly constant whirring/whining noise, or you don’t hear any hints of anything spinning at all. In either case, floppy disks do not read, and this is because the disk itself is not spinning. The former symptom seems to happen as a result of the motor rubbing up against the worn belt which is no longer tight enough to allow proper drive function, while the latter seems to be what happens when the belt is just so bad-off, that the motor can’t even grab onto it whatsoever.

Floppy Drive Adventure

Other than the other two laptops I wound up with, I did buy another Citizen W1D drive for a bit shy of a whopping $90. These drives are just that uncommon, sadly. Unfortunately, it, too, did not work, so I was able to send it back for a full refund.

But why were all of these drives bad? I decided to investigate further.

The belt has turned brittle and broken down into pieces.

Opening up one of the drives, upon lifting the ejection mechanism plate (or whatever the heck I should call it), I immediately saw what you see above. The belt was broken. It had dry-rotted and was completely and totally useless. The only way to proceed was to replace the belt.

But what size?

I used my “Google-fu” skills, and I found out that these drives use approx. 70mm belts. But keep in mind, I really had no real way of knowing. My only drives are bad, so I had no working drive to use as a reference. Even if I did, in that case, would I really want to open it up?

I wound up buying a cassette player belt kit on Amazon of multiple sizes. Here is a link to that kit.

2023 EDIT: The kit seems to have gone out of stock! Here is another kit that seems to include the same kinds of sizes – please note that I cannot guarantee!

The replacement belt, installed.

The belt replacement was fairly involved, but I went ahead and got it done. Here is the complete process:

  • Remove top cover of drive. (Two hidden screws are under the metallic tape.)
  • Gently lift the head, and carefully remove the ejection mechanism plate.
  • Remove the motor (top-left of above picture).
  • Remove any and all existing fragments of the old belt. Do take that it can get messy, as the belt has become so brittle that it splits into pieces.
  • Install the new belt. This is a bit tricky, and is a process in itself. I like to first put it around the motor, reinstall the motor, then put the belt around the large drive wheel in the center that spins the inserted floppy disk, and afterward put the belt against the little golden wheel.
  • Gently lift the head once again, and reinstall the ejection mechanism plate, taking care that the spring for the dust cover is put under the plate.

It’s definitely tricky, but it’s possible! I really hope this article can help someone, because it was very difficult finding information on this topic.