Contents of the STEPRATE.DOC file
or Don't You Growl at me
One of the many annoying features of the IBM PC and certain compatibles is
the noise generated by the floppy disk drives. I have found almost
invariably that the fault is not in the drive but in some brain damage
associated with the original design of the system. Apparently when Big Blue
first designed the PC, they were anticipating using the "worst case" floppy
disk drives. These drives were to be so poorly designed (i.e. cheap) that
they had to use a 9 millisecond track to track step rate. Thus, and from
then on, all disk drives, no matter how good, were to be driven at this slow
rate. But then, who ever accused the Big Blue Mother of using good disk
Unfortunately, (or fortunately as you view it) most decent drives are
designed to run at a stepping rate of at least 6 millisceonds (track to
track). When these drives are run at lower than their rated stepping rate,
they often sound like thrashing machines. Resonance sets up and the system
will almost walk off the table.
Unfortunately, the cloners in their thirst for 100% compatibility stuck with
the 9 ms. step rate. Thus, a lot of the "clones" also sound like thrashing
Most (if not all) of the floppy drives manufactured today are designed to
operate at a 6 ms. step rate. Some of the full height drives, such as the
MPI 52A, while rated at 5 ms will operate dependably (and very quietly) at 3
ms. All of the half height drives that I am aware of will operate at 6 ms.
Having a low threshold of pain as far as noise is concerned, I decided to do
something about it. The program STEPRATE is the result.
where r is 3, 6, 9 or 12
If STEPRATE is run without any parameters it will display the present step
Determining the Proper Step Rate:
How can you determine which step rate is proper for your drive? Simple!
First boot up your system. Set the step rate at 12 ms by the following:
Then insert a clean diskette into drive B or drive A in the case of a hard
disk system, and fill it up with files via a COPY *.* command. You should
be able to hear the drive grinding away.
Now, erase all the files from the "clean" diskette (Drive B) and set the
step rate to 9 ms via:
Repeat the COPY procedure to the "empty" diskette. The drive noise should
be different (but perhaps not less).
Next, set the step rate to 6 milliseconds via:
and perform the noise test using the the copy command again.
Finally, set the step rate to 3 milliseconds by:
and test again.
If the specified step rate is too fast for the particular drive, you will
probably get SEEK errors or BAD SECTOR error messages during the COPYing
process. In this case, use the next higher step rate (i.e. larger number).
Once the correct step rate is found, include the command in your
May peace and tranquility be yours!
Don L. Finley
310 Willow St.
Mt. Carmel, TN 37642
(615) 357-3355 (after 7 pm)