Old dog…new tricks!

A few weeks ago – and with some money left in the kitty – I made a pitch to purchase some additional equipment to build on established procedures in place for handling physical media in the collections. At present we have the capacity to capture, quarantine and virus check items on CDs, DVDs, flash storage and 3.5″ floppy disks (HD and DD), but we lack the tools to take images of 5.25″, 3″ and any other type of physical storage media.

Following a meeting with Stephen Rigden of the National Library of Scotland, who kindly demonstrated their forensic workstation I was convinced we needed something similar, albeit not quite as sophisticated. The NLS have both a FRED machine and a Kryoflux device to enable extraction of data from  5.25″ disks and other types of media. Given a FRED comes with a price tag, and that we already have the capability to read optical and flash media, I just couldn’t justify the expense. Maybe in a few years if volume dictates it or my quarantine PC decides to die on me I may have to make the case for a FRED. On the face of it though I was very interested in the Kryoflux device.

The Kryoflux isn’t cheap by any means for an institutional license (approx 3,500 euros as of June 2017) but given the extensive work that has gone into creating and developing the device it seemed fair enough. At present this is the only known method for archives and heritage institutions to read 5.25″ disks so supporting the sustainability of this unique technology could be considered a community responsibility.

Arrival of toys!

Arrival of toys!

That said we placed order and within a week a big box of toys arrived. In addition to the Kryoflux (of which we received 2, one as a backup), we also received a 3.5″ floppy drive, a USB cable, 2 ribbon cables, power cable and also 2 reconditioned 5.25″ disk drives (which were additional).

I was itching to have a play with it, and this week I was able to connect it up and try it with some sample 5.25″ disks I use for training and demos.


Fortunately, there is a more comprehensive (for those of us that are not techies) instruction manual that is doing the rounds for comment, “The archivist’s guide to Kryoflux”, which is infinitely more digestible than the manual that you can download from Kryoflux’s website. With that to hand (and a 2 pin adapter) I was able to get going.

The first and most important thing to note is that there is a very precise order in which to connect the and disconnect the pieces, in order to maintain the integrity of the very fragile looking Kryoflux. Honestly, having spent that much money on a tiny circuit board and having to connect it up in a certain order to make sure it didn’t blow up wasn’t a problem (albeit a case of checking, double checking and triple checking before I plugged it in!).

The second thing I say is that you have to be quite brutal with the connections. I have a light touch with these things but you do really need to push the ribbon cables and the power adapter cable in quite firmly otherwise the Kryoflux software spits back an error message. But once the driver is installed and checked, the cables connected and the lights blinking happily I was ready to try it out on a sample disk.  Here you can see our Kryoflux in action!

The software, which you can download from the Kryoflux website, then begins to read the sectors on the disk and attempts, where it can, to read or to make modifications in order to read the contents. You can pre-select the type of disk image you wish to take from an extensive list, which I’m still getting to grips with, and determine the output for the image and the log files that document the work undertaken by the soft and hardware.

At the end you have a disk image, which you can then read in a disk image reader such as WinImage or FTK Access Data. This will give you a file list, as though you were reading the disk through windows explorer. At that point you’re ready to continue with your digital preservation work!

I’ve yet to try this out on an actual collection of archival 5.25″ disks a I wanted to be sure of what I was doing first, but now that I’m getting comfortable with it I’m hoping to let it loose next week.

The one thing I do need to do though is get some kind of enclosure for the Kryoflux. There are a couple of 3D schematics for printing a plastic enclosure…a perfect excuse to go down to our Ucreate Studio and use their 3D printer, as well as getting our conservation team onto the job of building an archival storage box for it!

More fun to be had…watch this space!

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 17 other subscribers

Follow me on Twitter