What is needed
What is happening
Our first idea with this experiment was to have you take a floppy disk apart, and show you that the disk part (the bit that spins around, and that the information is written on) would stick to a magnet. So we took a couple of disks apart and found out that it wouldn't. This was a surprise; after all, the disk has to be magnetic, since information is stored on the disk by magnetizing a part of it. We think that this is because the material that the disks are made from is very hard to magnetize - and once it is magnetized one way, it tends to stay that way.
This makes sense; it would make disks less susceptible to damage. So we asked ourselves, "Just how resistant to damage is a typical floppy disk?" The answer: pretty darn resistant. Here's a sample. The disk below had a FreeHand graphic file on it. We stuck it to a cabinet in my office with a very strong magnet:
It was stuck on the cabinet pretty well. Anyway, we then popped the disk in the computer, and the darn thing was fine! The disk showed up on the desktop, and the file loaded up just fine.
A series of tests ensued in which we tried to find a magnet that would damage the disk. We only found one that would. It was a ceramic "super magnet" that is so strong that it cannot be pried off the cabinet with a penknife. When the disk was stuck to the cabinet with this magnet:
it would not load anymore, and Norton Disk Doctor couldn't fix it. We then tore open the disk and found, sure enough, that the disk inside would stick to this magnet.
The moral of the story is: if you have been worried about getting magnets near your disk, you can stop worrying so much. The materials in the disk are hard to magnetize, and once they are magnetized, they tend to stay that way. We bet that most people don't have magnets strong enough to do damage to typical floppy disks.
Of course, we could be wrong. So - don't try this experiment with a disk you care about! And let us know if you find out something interesting. (You can send us a message by clicking below.)