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Gotek Flash Floppy Drive Emulator Review – Part of my Amstrad CPC Retro Restore

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What are Gotek drives?

In this video we take a look at the Gotek Flash Floppy Drive Emulator. Gotek drives are essentially floppy disk drive emulators. Instead of using physical floppy discs, the disk images are stored on a USB memory stick as files. These images can be accessed by the Gotek and read and written to just as you would with a real drive. They are compatible with many computers including the Amstrad CPC, Spectrum, MSX, Atari and Amiga series.

This video shows an overview of the Zaxon flash floppy for the Amstrad CPC 6128 and Spectrum as well as two types of standard Gotek in a plastic case to use externally and on an Amiga mount for internal installation. The review covers how to set up, update the Gotek firmware and usage. It also shows the HxC compatibility mode for Atari ST and Amstrad CPC 6128 as well as standard usage.

Gotek Review Video

Items used in this video:
Hauppauge Capture Card
OSSC – https://videogameperfection.com/products/open-source-scan-converter/
HDMI Splitter 1 in 2 Out – https://amzn.to/3q1kqZx
RCA Composite CVBS AV to HDMI Video Audio Converter Adapter Mini Box – https://amzn.to/2NONAht
15.6 inch HD Portable Monitor – https://amzn.to/3r3ZD8T

Gotek Review (Text)

Gotek drives are essentially floppy disk drive emulators. Instead of using physical floppy discs, the disk images are stored on a USB memory stick as files. These images can be accessed by the Gotek and read and written to just as you would with a real drive. They are compatible with many computers including the Amstrad CPC, Spectrum, MSX, Atari and Amiga series. 

You can buy a Gotek in a plain plastic case for use with any devices externally. Or you can buy them without the case and alternatively have an internal mount designed for the computer, such as this one which I plan to use on an Amiga in a future video.

As a note, the Amstrad and Spectrum have different data and power cable requirements which is important to remember as connecting the power cable as you normally would will result in 12 volts going to 5 volt and potentially damaging the Gotek and/or USB stick.

There are two options to resolve this. One is to simply buy a cable adaptor which goes between the original cables and a Gotek. I use one of these on my Spectrum +3. This allows you to use any standard Gotek.

The other option is a specifically made device which has the correct data and power headers on the board. This allows you to connect it directly to the original cables. On my Amstrad CPC I use this option with Zaxon’s floppy emulator. It comes with everything you need, including a mount to attach it to your Amstrad or Spectrum.

Let’s take a closer look at the Goteks. As mentioned there are some differences in the parts used but generally they perform the same function. 

On the front you have a visual display which will show the status of the Gotek. Some models will have a LCD counter type display, some have an OLED which shows more detail. So for example when browsing files it will show the current file, and when accessing the disk it will show what it is doing. 

There will be a USB port which you can attach a USB memory stick to. I have tried up to 32MB which works fine and should be more than enough for most collections as disk images are generally small..

Next will be some kind of input control. This can be two buttons and/or a pushable rotary dial. The Zaxon uses a rotary dial, my Amiga one uses two buttons, and my general Gotek uses both. The buttons can be fiddly to use and it can take a while to navigate when it’s installed inside the computer. The rotary dial is much faster to use. But depending on which computer you are using the Gotek with, you may not need to use these often which I will get to further in the video.

The great thing about the Gotek is that you can quite easily mod it yourself to add the rotary dial if yours does not have one. It is literally the dial and some wires which cost a few pounds. These connect to the respective jumpers on the board. Likewise if you want to add a speaker to mimic the disk drive operation noise. All you need is a piezo speaker and some Dupont cables to add it yourself, and again it costs a couple of pounds.

All of my Goteks use the Flash Floppy software which is free to download and use. The Gotek will likely have a version preinstalled and it is very easy to update to the latest firmware. Simply copy the update file to the USB stick and plug it back into the USB port. Then either hold the two buttons or rotary dial down, then and power on the computer. Once you see the notification, release the buttons and it will update to the latest version. A piece of cake!

You can navigate the files on the USB stick with the two buttons or the rotary dial. As you can see, the rotary dial is much faster to move between files. You then select and mount the disk image and you can then access it from the attached computer, just like a physical floppy disk.

There is however one other way that you can navigate and load disk images. With Amstrad, Atari and Amiga computers there is a HxC Compatibility mode. This mode allows you to load software on to the computer to access the USB stick. From here you can navigate the stick and assign file images to ‘slots’ which means you can add your most used images for fast navigation in the future.

But the nice trick here is that you can quickly load any file by pressing the respective softwares key to instantly mount that image file and depending on the system, to boot it or at least have it loaded in ready to use.

If you have a lot of files on your USB stick, it is overall faster using this way if you are using an Amstrad, Atari or Amiga. Unfortunately software for other computers are not supported this way.

So that’s a general overview of the Gotek floppy drive emulator. Personally I think you should have one on any system that it supports. Floppy disks can deteriorate over time and result  in corrupted disks. And the drives themselves can suffer from wear and tear, especially the drive belts if not replaced.

As this video is aimed towards the Amstrad, I will show some more of the usage on it. 

Here I am showing the HxC compatibility mode. Unlike the Atari ST for example, the CPC does not automatically boot discs. So you do need to mount an image and then manually run the program.

On the CPC you type in CAT which shows a list of files and then you load the program.

It takes a few seconds to load the Hxc Floppy Emulator Manager..

From here you can navigate the contents of the USB stick and add disk images to the slots.

I will add a few on here quickly just to show.

When you exit the software. You don’t have full access to the files, only the slots added previously. You can change between the slots with the dial and mount an image.

And again type CAT to see the disk contents and run the program.

As the disk drive emulates a real floppy drive, the access speeds will be the same as the original speeds. At least it is faster than loading by cassette tape 🙂

When not using the HxC compatibility mode, you will have full access to the USB stick contents and can navigate through folders and files. Then as before simply select an image and it will mount it ready to use.

The Gotek has great compatibility with floppy disc images. With the Amstrad at least I have not run into any issues where using it was an issue. There are probably a few discs that use tricks when loading, but I have not come across any so far.