Monday, March 16, 2009

Geek Tip

Last week, I ran into a problem at work that I feel is probably going to start plaguing people more and more as we attempt to use legacy software on newer systems.  You've probably noticed that fewer and fewer PC manufacturers are offering floppy drives as a standard feature on their systems.  In fact, some PC makers aren't even offering a disk drive as an option in certain models.  For legacy software that expects a floppy drive, this can be a real issue.

I ran into this very problem last week.  We've got a training program that requires a floppy drive for the storage of information.  Each person who takes the training is required to have their own floppy disk to store testing and training data.  Of course, the new computers we purchased don't come with floppy drives.

In order to solve the problem in a simple fashion, and not have to rely on old media and technology (the floppy drive itself), I came up with a solution that seems to work pretty well.  It's a DOS trick that's been lost to newer technology, but does the trick in this case.  It is the "subst" command.

The "subst" command allows you to assign a drive letter to any directory attached to your computer.  The command structure is simply "subst <drive letter> <destination directory>".  So, if you wanted to make a piece of legacy software think you've got a floppy drive, but actually store the data in a directory on your C: drive called "data", you'd type "subst a: c:\data".  In our case, we wanted to store the data on a USB memory stick with the drive letter of F:.  I used the command "subst a: f:\".

You don't have to toss out your legacy software quite yet.  Certain tricks can be used to keep things going.  The "subst" command is just one example.

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