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The floppy disk drive on my Yamaha SY99 has been broken for over a decade. As a result I am unable to save anything I do (new sounds or new music) and, once I turn the synth off, the data is gone. Nobody uses floppy disks anymore, anyway.

I have seen kits being sold online to replace the floppy disk drive unit with a USB drive, such as this one or this one but I am concerned replacing it is not a straightforward job. I'm not sure about the reliability of the product either.

Is there a workaround, such as connecting the synth to a PC (e.g. via MIDI cables) with some software that can bridge the gap and let me save/load data, or is purchasing the USB drive kit my only hope?

  • Of course you could replace the floppy disk drive, but the midi solution (s. my answer) is much more comfortable. – Albrecht Hügli Jun 21 at 9:03
  • @AlbrechtHügli I could, then the other problem is, I don't believe anybody even makes floppy disks anymore, let alone the 720k ones, which were the ones used by the SY99. Quite a few of the old ones with all my data on aren't even readable by a PC anymore. – Vance Jun 21 at 12:37
  • Transferring stuff back and forth over MIDI, vs. using a USB stick or memory card like a hard drive in the machine itself ... why do you even consider the PC+MIDI option? People have been replacing floppy drives in industrial machines and old computers with Gotek and HxC etc for a long time, it should be pretty straight-forward. Have someone do it for you if you're afraid of opening the case. :) – piiperi Reinstate Monica Jun 21 at 19:57
  • @piiperiReinstateMonica as I said above, it's about concern that the product is unreliable also. – Vance Jun 21 at 21:19
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    More unreliable than a floppy? ;-) – Tobia Tesan Jun 21 at 23:12
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Is there a workaround, such as connecting the synth to a PC (e.g. via MIDI cables) with some software that can bridge the gap and let me save/load data?

Yes. You can save your patches and settings by a midi-cable (midi-in-> USB) on your pc or laptop, e.g. Roland USB - midi interface exchange UM-ONE.

enter image description here https://www.roland.com/global/products/um-one/

With a free midi software you can also save your entire songs inclusive your settings on your PC.

Edit:

Here's another solution:

Solution with borrowed floppy drive This person had a similar problem. And he was able to copy the Sys-ex data by a borrowed floppy drive. Btw. Diskettes you can still get easily secondhand (e.g. I have hundreds unused, but not thrown away!)

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    Maybe this tool could help: yamahamusicians.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=6823 – Albrecht Hügli Jun 21 at 9:24
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    Maybe so. tbh, it's been over 20 years since I last messed with MIDI data in earnest. I used to work with the head of the entire Yamaha software division.. the guy who wrote [or oversaw] all the in-house editors etc. His chops were significantly better than mine ;) – Tetsujin Jun 21 at 9:28
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    Be careful with those cables. Some of the cheaper ones (especially a very popular one that comes up if you search for a USB MIDI cable on Amazon and is sold under a few different brands) mangle SysEx data (which doesn't matter in most cases but is very important here). Personally if you don't need the extra functionality that MIDI offers I'd go with the option of replacing the floppy disk drive. – Micheal Johnson Jun 21 at 20:36
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    The cheap ones can barely transmit notes, let alone SysEx data. Get one from a known Instrument manufacturer, Roland, Yamaha, Emu, Korg etc. They are guaranteed to be good. – Tetsujin Jun 22 at 7:14
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    @Vance Not exactly. It's not like a cheap USB cable. Without getting too technical, USB ports cannot understand MIDI information and MIDI ports cannot understand USB, so a "MIDI to USB" cable has to contain a microchip inside (usually hidden in one of the connectors or in a "box" in the middle of the cable) that "converts" the information from one format to the other. – Micheal Johnson Jun 23 at 9:23
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Correction: MIDI was never designed initially to transmit sample data, but it was added later as an SDS standard. [This is something I've never worked with, but apparently the SY99 can sample dump over MIDI.]
http://www.4front-tech.com/pguide/midi/midi8.html
If you go that route, maybe something like this SY manager would be useful - http://www.fm-alive.com/pages/SYM.aspx

Otherwise, if you go with the USB kit, I'd ask the kit maker for their instruction sheet/pdf to see what kind of a task it would be.

Note: I've never taken this precise model apart, so this is a generic answer.

Most Yamaha keyboards, certainly of that age, are pretty simple to strip, so long as you've got long screwdrivers [they do tend to put screws in long barrels] I'd recommend an electric driver with long bits, as they never were tempted to put too few screws in anything ;) The casing is unlikely to also be clipped together, it will probably be screws only.
Generally, you're unlikely to find odd springs that suddenly leap out at you, everything will be set pretty tidily within the case.

I'd imagine, if the kit makers did their job right, that the drive swap will be relatively simple, once you've got the 473 screws out.

Edit:
I found a service manual at https://www.manualslib.com/manual/998630/Yamaha-Sy99.html?page=15#manual - you're lucky, a mere 24 screws holding the bottom casing on ;-)

enter image description here

BTW, a quick Google shows lots of these things on Amazon for $150 or so, but according to https://yamahamusicians.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=7440 there's one you can get for about 35.
eg https://www.amazon.co.uk/Gotek-SFRM72-FU-DL-Floppy-Emulator-Electronic/dp/B01B1G51P0

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  • Thx for the extensive reply and your comments about quality cables, if that does not work I'll look into this as well. – Vance Jun 22 at 7:59
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adding to the excellent previous answers, a different alternative is to try to repair the floppy drive. The problem with floppies, 99% of the time is in the rubber belt from the motor drive to the disk's rotation axle. As the rubber ages it looses flexibility and gets slack or even broken. Same problem as with old cassette tape decks, vinyl players and even CD players.

If that is indeed the problem, repairing is a straight forward business. There's businesses in Ebay that sell rubber belts to all types of machines. A quick search on ebay returned, for example, this one.

If you're able to open the machine, replacing the belt is a matter of patience and handyness, but not very difficult.

I've done that operation myself a few years ago, only to find the the original belt did not even appear to be damaged, it was just out of place. I replaced it anyway, since I had ordered a new belt and there's no telling when the rubber in the old one would start to crackle. But if you have the patience you may even try to open the machince and see what is happening with the drive before even spending any money.

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  • That would be a viable option only if 720k floppy disks were still widely available as a storage device which, unfortunately, they are not. – Vance Jun 22 at 11:44
  • The OP's issue was with the unit not working, not lack of supllies. Anyway, you're, floppies are quite hard to come by these days. I was lucky enough a couple of years ago to have a friend who was scrapping his old accounting archive which was still in floppies, believe it or not. – José David Jun 23 at 13:09

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