Commodore 64 disks come in two varieties: GCR, which are the overwhelming majority; and MFM, only used on the 1571 and 1581. The latter were (as far as I can tell) standard IBM PC format disks, so use fe-readibm to read them (and then let me know if it worked.

The GCR disks are much more interesting. They could store 170kB on a single-sided disk (although later drives were double-sided), using a proprietary encoding and record scheme; like Apple Macintosh disks they stored varying numbers of sectors per track to make the most of the physical disk area, although unlike them they did it by changing the bitrate rather than adjusting the motor speed.

The drives were also intelligent and ran DOS on a CPU inside them. The computer itself knew nothing about file systems. You could even upload programs onto the drive and run them there, allowing all sorts of custom disk formats, although this was mostly used to compensate for the cripplingly slow connection to the computer of 300 bytes per second (!). (The drive itself could transfer data reasonably quickly.)

A standard 1541 disk has 35 tracks of 17 to 20 sectors, each 256 bytes long.

Reading discs

Just do:


You should end up with an c64.img which is 187136 bytes long (for a normal 1541 disk).

Big warning! The image may not work in an emulator. Commodore 64 disk images are complicated due to the way the tracks are different sizes and the odd sector size. FluxEngine chooses to store them in a simple 256 x 20 x 35 layout, with holes where missing sectors should be. This was easiest. If anyone can suggest a better way, please get in touch.

Useful references

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