FloppyEmu: Getting HD-20 Emulation to work

Late last night, I had a “Eureka!” moment while perusing through the contents of the microSD card that came included with my FloppyEmu.

In my original FloppyEmu post, I mentioned the HD-20 emulation mode, but couldn’t figure out to get it to work. However, after finding out how to get it to work, I felt quite dumb.

The FloppyEmu user’s guide gives detailed instructions on how to set the FloppyEmu into “hard disk” or HD-20 emulation mode, but made it seem like you had to create your own hard disk volume using a “blank disk image from Gryphel.” Fortunately, the FloppyEmu actually has a hard disk volume already installed and ready to go on that microSD card, with many of the same programs from the floppy emulation mode. (My guess is that since the FloppyEmu can also be purchased on its own without an included microSD card, the manual omits information about the contents of the included microSD card.)

To enable HD-20 emulation on the FloppyEmu, you must turn the computer on and press the “select” button. Then you’re able to switch to the hard disk emulation mode. You must restart the computer for it to work.

The FloppyEmu in “HD-20 Emulation” mode.

I originally tried this on my 1991 Macintosh Classic, where it automatically booted into the FloppyEmu volume (containing System 6.0.8) rather than the factory-original internal Quantum ProDrive LPS containing System 6.0.7.

With HD-20 emulation mode unlocked, I tried to transfer Lemmings over to the Classic. Originally, it did not work. There seem to be multiple hard disk volumes on the microSD card, so be sure to find the right one. (I believe it was originally labeled “Hard Disk 6.0.8” in the Finder.)

The two HD-20 hard disk images are circled. The one circled in red is the incorrect one, whereas the one circled in green is the one used by the FloppyEmu. The folders contain individual floppy disk images.

However, after using Mini vMac on my 2019 MacBook Pro to transfer the Lemmings files over to the correct hard disk volume on the microSD card, I was able to open Lemmings on the Classic. I went ahead and transferred the files from the FloppyEmu to the internal hard drive.

However, HD-20 emulation will rarely come in handy on the Classic since it already has a hard drive. Instead, HD-20 emulation will be a life-saver on my 1988 Macintosh SE which has a dual-floppy (800k) configuration.

The HD-20 emulation mode will not only allow me to easily transfer and store files with the SE, but will also allow me to “bypass” the limitations of only being able to use double-density disk images.

Booting the SE with HD-20 emulation mode turned on instantly revealed a difference: after spitting out the disk blanks, the SE displayed the “Happy Mac” and proceeded to boot into System 6.0.8 – without me needing to insert the double-density 6.0.8 boot floppy.

After it booted, I decided to play some games to see how well HD-20 emulation works. Good news: it works pretty well. In fact, I’d even go out on a limb and say that the FloppyEmu makes the SE faster than the newer Classic.

I decided to take a chance and try Lemmings on the SE. The box art for Lemmings says it requires at least 2 MB of memory to work, but the manual says different. By running Lemmings on the SE, I was able to debunk the box art – Lemmings seems to run quite comfortably in black and white on System 6.0.8 with only 1 MB of memory. (The SE only has 1 MB of system memory installed.)

Playing Lemmings on the 1988 Macintosh SE using the FloppyEmu

(While probably a topic for a future entry I plan on writing about games and apps for vintage Macs, getting Lemmings work on actual hardware was a big deal. I’ve always enjoyed playing the game in emulation on Basilisk II and DOSBox, but never had any actual hardware to play it on… until now. And even better, the music plays quite well!)

In fact, HD-20 emulation works so well that I was able to use it to type this very entry using Microsoft Word 4.0 on the Macintosh SE. While Word works fine, there are only three fonts to pick from (Chicago, Geneva, and Monaco) and it lacks paragraph styles. (In contrast, the Macintosh Classic has many more fonts to pick from and has paragraph styles in its installation of Word 4.0 – although it is also running from the internal hard drive and was likely installed back in the early ’90s when the computer was new.) The Word 4.0 version found on the FloppyEmu also lacks other features, like a word count and being able to export to other formats like MacWrite and RTF.

(In fact, it was hell getting this file converted into a RTF file, which my modern computer can read. It required installing the FloppyEmu on the Classic to transfer the Word 4.0 document to the Classic’s hard drive, then changing the FloppyEmu back into Macintosh Floppy mode. After a hard reboot, I was able to convert this file into an RTF file using Word 4.0 on the Classic’s hard drive. Even trying to convert to RTF using Word 4.0 on the Classic’s internal hard drive with the FloppyEmu in HD-20 emulation mode was unsuccessful. So I’m still going to use the Classic for writing.)

Me editing the text for this very post in Word 4.0 on the 1988 Macintosh SE. While Word runs fine, it is missing some features like additional fonts or a word count utility. A crucial feature for transferring the file into a format my modern computer can read is missing, making it unusable for writing content that will need to be opened on a modern computer.

HD-20 emulation works quite well on these vintage Macs. However, HD-20 emulation will not work on all vintage Macs. The FloppyEmu manual says it will only work on the 512ke, Plus, SE, Classic, Classic II, Portable, IIci, IIsi, and LC-I. However, you can get it to work with a 512k with some modification.

The FloppyEmu makes it easy to add an external “hard drive” to your vintage Mac, similar to what an actual HD-20 or other external hard drive back in the 1980s would have done. For a 512ke and Plus, it’s the only option – internal hard drive support was not added until the SE. (For models configured with an internal hard drive can support the SCSI-2-SD, which also emulates a hard drive although using the SCSI bus.)