Applied Engineering AE HD+ Floppy Drive

This article is adapted from a posting by Adam Takessian to the Vintage Macs email list.

I would like very much to help other compact Mac users to know more about the AE HD+, because before I bought mine, the information on the Web was extremely limited, scattered across several different pages, sometimes inaccurate, and overall mysteriously misleading.

After so much talk on the Classic Macs list about the Applied Engineering AE HD+, I finally got one at an Apple Mac Users Group flea market – $5 near mint, original box, manual, install disk and registration card. Thank you Apple Mac Users Groups!

I’ve heard of the AE HD+ selling for as much as $125, and I saw another vendor at the same flea market selling it for $75. I’ve also heard of Que Computers selling it for $99; however, when I called Que last fall, no one there knew anything about the AE HD+, and I was asked to call back three days in a row to talk to a variety of people who all worked different shifts and none had a clue.

The AE HD+ can read, write, and format 1.4 MB floppies on 800 KB floppy based compact Macs (the 512Ke, Plus, and pre-FDHD SE). The Mac II requires an optional (not included) AE floppy interface to use the HD+, since the Mac II case does not have a built-in external floppy connector.

It’s very convenient to be able to read, write, and format Mac and PC 1.4 MB floppies on my Mac Plus. Now I can easily transfer files via floppy from a PC to my Mac Plus, as well as use 1.4 MB Mac disk images.

I have had no compatibility problems with the AE HD+ extension with System 6.0.7 or System 7.5.5.

But the AE HD+ is not exactly what I expected. A major drawback is that the AE HD+ cannot be the startup disk; not as a 1.4 MB floppy and not even as an 800 KB floppy. Forget having a 1.4 MB 100% genuine Apple authorized System 7 startup floppy. You can’t startup an 800 KB floppy-based Mac with the AE HD+. The ROM chips on the Mac’s motherboard only recognize 800 KB floppy drives as the startup drive. And since the AE HD+ extension is not in ROM, the Mac just sits there with a flashing question mark looking for a startup disk in an 800 KB drive.

The other drawback with the AE HD+, contrary to other comments I’ve read, is that the AE HD+ does not function as an 800 KB floppy without the AE HD+ extension. You’ve got to have the AE HD+ extension to use the drive even as an 800 KB floppy drive. To use the AE HD+ you must startup off another drive that contains the AE HD+ extension, then you can use the AE HD+ to read, write, and format – that’s it.

If you’ve already got an external 800 KB floppy, you probably won’t want to discard it, because there are times when you’re working solely off floppies, that even the 32 KB AE HD+ extension will be one extension too many in your startup floppy System Folder – and without that extension, you won’t be able to use the AE HD+.

For $5, it’s an okay deal for compact Mac fans. But just to be able to read, write, and format a 1.4 MB floppy for anything more than $30 in my opinion is not cost effective. At the same Apple Mac Users Group flea market the Mac LC was going for $5, Mac IIcx for $10, and 13″ Apple RGB for $25. At those prices you could overcome all the limitations of an 800 KB floppy Mac and solve the problems of lack of Color QuickDraw at the same time and save up to $100 — and keep your compact Mac and have a newer Mac as well and set up an AppleTalk network!

For the Control Panel, visit The Mac Driver Museum, Disk, CD-ROM Drivers, Applied Engineering AE HD+ v1.2 (78 KB file, 800 KB disk image)