floppy disks Archives - Alex's Piano Service

Nalbantov Floppy Disk Drive Upgrades

I’ve recently started recommending customers with worn-out floppy disk drives upgrade them to so-called “Floppy Disk Emulators.” There are a couple of these on the market, but it looks like the easiest to use and most reliable is the Nalbantov USB Floppy Disk Emulator. I use these regularly in Yamaha Disklaviers, but they can also be installed in keyboards. I install these quite regularly. If you do order from Nalbantov directly, make sure to use the AlexPiano for a 5% discount on orders from Nalbantov.

Why Upgrade?

There are several reasons why you might want to replace an old floppy disk drive with a USB floppy disk emulator, including:

  1. Increased reliability: USB floppy disk emulators are more reliable than traditional floppy disk drives, as they have no moving parts and are less susceptible to mechanical failure. Most customers reach out to me after their floppy disk drive has failed.
  2. Compatibility: USB floppy disk emulators are compatible with modern computers, which may not have floppy disk drives built-in or may no longer support floppy disks.
  3. Speed: USB floppy disk emulators transfer data faster than traditional floppy disk drives, making it easier and quicker to transfer large amounts of data.
  4. Convenience: USB floppy disk emulators can be easily connected and disconnected, making it easier to transfer data between different computers or to store data.
  5. Cost-effectiveness: USB floppy disk emulators are often more cost-effective than purchasing a new floppy disk drive or repairing an old one.

I’ve found some floppy disk drives now cost more than the replacement USB emulators, especially if they’ve had minimal use. And hardly anybody knows how to actually repair a floppy drive—that’s a nearly lost art.


After the Nalbantov is installed, you can use a single USB stick to represent up to 1000 floppy disks. Because it’s a floppy disk emulator, the Disklavier actually believes you’re inserting a different floppy disk. As you switch between virtual “disks” by pressing the arrows, you’ll see the display on the Disklavier behave as though you’ve inserted a new disk. Of course, if you have more than 1000 floppy disks, you can invest in another USB stick, although I haven’t run into this particular situation yet!

The USB stick that comes with the Nalbantov is a standard, full-size USB stick. This protrudes rather far, and I’ve now run into multiple circumstances where the drive has been damaged by an incautious pianist. See my post on the Best USB Stick for Nalbantovs. Hint: It’s the SanDisk Ultra Fit.


Some customers opt to install the Nalbantov unit themselves. Depending on the design, this is quite doable, although I don’t recommend attempting it with most Yamaha MX100II Disklaviers (see below). It is a very easy installation on, for instance, the DKC5R and the DKC500RW, just to pick a couple.

With some generations of Disklavier (most notably some MX100II uprights), the floppy disk drives are mounted behind a shaped plastic piece. In these cases, you’ll need to cut away the old plastic facing (a pair of flush-cut nippers is helpful here), install the new drive, and put some kind of buffer around it. I’ve experimented with a few different choices for something functional and attractive. Purchasing neoprene strips is a cheap solution.

New solution: There is also a drop-in replacement bezel and floppy drive mount available for purchase, which were made by another Nalbantov client. These are much prettier and easier to use, but come with a price tag.

My solution/old solution: I have a 3D model in STL format of a floppy bezel that’s sized to fit around a Nalbantov. You can 3D print this yourself, or I can mail you one. I adhere it to the replacement Nalbantov with a bit of hot glue, and then slide the whole assembly in. However, you’ll need to improvise a way to actually mount the floppy drive. I use mounting assemblies from old Yamaha slim floppy drives, but these appear to now be discontinued.

For backing up your current Disklavier floppy disks to a format that can be stored on your USB stick, see my article on Backing up Disklavier Floppy Disks. They can then be moved onto a virtual “disk” with Nalbantov’s proprietary tool.

Disklavier Floppy Disk Backups, ESEQ and MIDI Formats

Some of my customers choose to upgrade their older Disklavier’s floppy drive to a Nalbantov USB drive, and want to know how to copy songs from their old Disklavier floppy disks so they can put them on USB. Some of them just want to be able to back up their disks so they can make new ones later. And some are interested in writing altogether new songs to their floppies so they can finally listen to something new!

This post is intended to help you read from, write to, or replace Yamaha Disklavier floppy disks.

If you want your floppy disks files saved on a more modern media, you can also mail your floppy disks to me (please reach out to me at [email protected] or through my Contact page). Nalbantov also has a disk transfer service, and they can be very useful if you encounter particularly challenging disks. Make sure to use the AlexPiano for a 5% discount on orders from Nalbantov.

If you’re adding new music to a floppy disk and have an older Disklaviers (including the popular MX100B), you’ll need to make sure the files are in Yamaha’s proprietary ESEQ format. Using the tools below, you can convert MIDI files to ESEQ so that it will speak your Disklavier’s native language!

Obtaining Files from your Yamaha Disks

Yamaha floppy disks are a great source of songs that you know will be formatted correctly for your piano. However, floppy disks often don’t age well, and are very susceptible to sunlight and magnetic fields. (This is one more reason to back them up!)

Disklavier floppy disks cannot be natively read by your computer, which makes them difficult to back up. They use a very primitive form of copy protection.

There are several tools that will allow you to read them: I use the Player Piano Floppy Backup Utility 1.4, created by Mark Fontana. It’s freeware, but he requests donations. You can download it from him, or you can download ppfbu_v1.4_setup.exe from my MEGA drive. It can read and save directly in ESEQ format, even if the disk it’s reading from is in MIDI. It appears to run acceptably on Mac / Linux using emulators.

There are other tools out there. Most notably, there was a Hack-a-Day project by Tom Nardi that uses a Python script to copy the data off the floppies. His disklav.py tool is available on GitHub.

The Player Piano Floppy Backup Utility v1.4

Obtaining even More ESEQ Files from the Internet

In addition to the originals you might have, you can sometimes find these on eBay or at local music stores. Older disks on eBay are seldom tested, so there’s some risk of receiving junk disks.

There are several large online repositories in both ESEQ and MIDI formats. Some of these are of dubious legality. One legitimate resource is http://www.kuhmann.com/Yamaha.htm, which is also quite a large repository. I have a copy of their entire database on my MEGA drive. (I worry a lot about these older resources disappearing!)

Converting MIDI files to ESEQ

If you want to use MIDI files with your older Disklavier, you can, but you have to convert them to ESEQ first. There’s software to do this conversion. You can either get it from http://www.carolrpt.com/MIDItools.htm or you can download the whole DKVUTILS suite from my MEGA drive.

Once you download DKVUTILS.ZIP from my site or theirs, you’ll need to extract it. The program that converts MIDI files to ESEQ files is MID2ESEQ.EXE. This program runs only on Windows, and does not seem to run with emulators. Reach out to me and I can assist with conversion.

Using MID2ESEQ, just drag and drop MIDI files into the window.

If you have a Yamaha that’s capable of playing ESEQ only, you might also need to create a PIANODIR.FIL index. I have instructions here on creating a PIANODIR.FIL index.

Note: If you are using a Nalbantov, any USB stick you use MUST be formatted either FAT16 or FAT32. Please also note that the filenames should be strictly eight characters long, have no spaces, and be entirely uppercase, including the FIL extension BEFORE creating the PIANODIR.FIL file. If you don’t do this, some pianos will be unable to read the files.

You can also source files from Yamaha’s website, although this is the most expensive option. Many of their MIDI files have multiple instruments (or even limited piano), and are more designed for their keyboards and other MIDI devices. However, they do have an entire category of Piano Solos, and these are what you’ll want to search for when selecting files. When you download these, you get their associated MIDI files, which are comfortably sized for floppy disk purposes.

MIDI files that have only one track are called Type 0 files. MIDI files with multiple parts are Type 1. Occasionally, the piano will be spread between two tracks. In that case, you’ll find the resulting ESEQ has only half the notes it should. You can convert Type 1 to Type 0 files using the tool gn1to0.exe that’s also stored on my MEGA drive. This is a slightly cumbersome tool, but will either run on Windows or on Linux/Mac using Wine.

Using conversion software to merge all the MIDI tracks.

Potential ESEQ Problems

Earlier Disklaviers can be finicky about their ESEQ files. Sometimes, they’ll work without any trouble, even without a PIANODIR.FIL file. However, particularly in earlier Disklaviers (such as the DK5R), you’ll need to be more careful with the naming conventions, and you’ll definitely need that PIANODIR.FIL.

Just to reiterate, if you’re using a USB stick, it must be formatted FAT16 or FAT32. If you’re using an actual floppy disk, it must be a 2DD disk formatted to 720 KB. If you’re unfamiliar, Nalbantov supplies a video on how to format your USB stick.

I’m very grateful for the research of Mike Isreal (in the comments below), who did experimentation with his own Disklavier. Before creating a PIANODIR.FIL for your disk, make certain that all filenames are precisely eight characters long, and that both the filename and extension are in all-caps. The filename must contain no spaces.

It appears you can also ommit the .FIL extension (at least in some cases). According to Nalbantov, there might be cases where a fully lower-case filename and extension are called for, although I have not run into that particular case yet.

Some of this is caused by the choosiness of the Disklavier itself, but it seems likely to me that a lot of the free tools we’re relying on probably add their own complications. If you are experiencing any trouble, please reach out to me for assistance. You can also Categories Disklaviers Tags , , , 10 Comments