Make disk Tutorial

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Original from http://home.tu-clausthal.de/~ifmar/makedisk/index.pl
© 2002/2003 by Matthias Arndt <marndt@asmsoftware.de>

Introduction

Many people want to know how to keep their old Atari ST games and howto play them on their PC using an emulator.

This page is intended for persons who want to convert ST disks to disk image files for emulator use and to transfer those images back to disk to use them on a real ST.

Actually I'm tired of telling hundreds of people the same basic things via mail. That's why I decided to write this little tutorial page. Anyone who mails me for further informations on transfering his games will simply get the URL of this tutorial.

If you do not belong to one of groups mentioned below, you're out of luck. This tutorial is Atari specific.

  • Atari ST owners and users
  • Atari ST emulator users

I do not want to give step-by-step directions howto invoke Makedisk. Instead I give you the informations what tools you need and a few basics. This site now contains a search engine so just type a search query into the search field on top of the screen. You can even click on Print Version to get a simple black and white version of the current page suitable for printing. This Makedisk Tutorial page can now be accessed with the following URL: http://makedisk.atari.org/


Involved tools

Makedisk

This is the primary tool involved. It is DOS based. You can operate it from Windows 9x/ME but I do not recommend it. This is much slower and less reliable. For best performance, run it from plain DOS (use MSDOS Mode from Windows 9x/ME). I do not know if Makedisk runs with NT or XP - try it. If it fails, don't blame me. Currently Makedisk can be found on several sites on the net. Its primary location is down at the moment. Try the following sites to grab a copy:

If these should fail, try your favourite search engine and look for: Atari Makedisk. Most ST emulation addicts have a copy around so asking on one of the various Atari ST forums may help as well.

Imgbuild

This is a simple DOS based tool that was shipped with PaciFiST, the first usable ST emulator. It is out of date but it may work as well if you only want to image a few disks but it isn't that reliable afterall. A copy may be downloaded from the PaciFiST Website. Windows Floppy Disk Copy This is the first and currently only disk imaging program that runs on Windows. The people have different opinions about this one. Some say it is unreliable and slow. Other claim it works pretty good. I must admit I have only transferred one disk to image with this tool and it worked. Just try it out - it may suit your needs. A copy may be downloaded from the PaciFiST Website.

How to operate the tools involved?

Makedisk and Imgbuild

Both tools are command line oriented. Call them without any parameters for short online help. This one is for Makedisk to read a disk to image.

  1. insert the ST disk into the PC floppy drive
  2. Type
    makedisk /read diskname.st /auto
  3. Makedisk should fireup and create a image file out of the disks

To transfer the contents of an image file back to ST disk:

  1. insert a blank DD floppy disk into the PC floppy drive
  2. Type
    makedisk /write image.st /auto
  3. Makedisk should then write the contents of image.st to the disk
  4. next to Makedisks success insert the disk in your ST floppy drive and enjoy

For more advanced usage of Makedisk take a look at its help page by typing

makedisk

Windows Floppy Disk Copy

This is a Windows program and therefor damn easy to use. I won't help you with this one.


Software

Here you'll find a collection of useful software and involved tools.

PC based

Makedisk The primary tool to be used. (I'm not the author of Makedisk!) download (30K)
Windows Floppy Disc Copy A Windows based tool for writing images to disk. download (26K)
MSA Converter A Windows based tool for converting .MSA to .ST and vice versa. download (480K) MSA Converter Homepage
ST to MSA A DOS based tool for converting .ST to .MSA download (10K)
MSA to ST A DOS based tool for converting .MSA to .ST download (10K)


Frequently Asked Questions

What can I actually do with the procedures described here?

All of the following can be achieved with this tutorial:

  • play ST games on old disks with your emulator
  • transfer disk images used on ST emulators back to disk to use them on your real ST, enabling you to play games found on the internet on your real ST machine
  • make backups of your existing ST disks
  • exchange ST software on the net

What sort of disks can I transfer to images?

In general due to problems with the PC floppy controller you cannot transfer copy protected disks with Makedisk or other well known tools. This means you're out of luck if you want to create disk images from your original ST game disks using those. There are efforts underway at The Caps Project to change that. Although they are currently working on copying Amiga disks, there are efforts underway to use these techniques with Atari ST disks. It works fine with unprotected copies, PD disks and all those famous menu disks.

What are those .MSA and .ST files?

Those are file formats like .jpg and .gif for graphics. Instead of graphics, they store the content of Atari ST floppy disks eq. the data stored on the various disk sectors. The main difference between the two formats is that .MSA files pack the data which results in smaller image files in most cases. The .ST file format has the advantage that it is a direct image of the sectors on the original disks making implementation on emulators easy. Any emulator can use .ST files and most can use .MSA files as well. The .MSA file format is actually much older than ST emulation. MSA is short for Magic Shadow Archiver, a tool on the ST developed to transfer demo disks via modem. The MSA program can be found on most Atari ST related ftp sites like umich.edu or ftp://chapelie.rma.ac.be/atari/.