I have repaired a fair amount of drives, and every time I find myself loading a test or a diagnostic software from disk. This is a bit of a contradiction since the drive being tested, or repaired, might not even be able to load a program. I also have a variety of tools for different purposes and wanted to have everything in one place.

 

This is why i created a 1541 Diagnostic Cartridge.


 

The challenge was to get all these tools to fit into a 8K cart. I wanted to keep the hardware simple and a 16K cart would have overwritten the Basic interpreter.

Therefor I have optimized both code and visual on the tools to keep the size down. Some tools are old, others were written from scratch and a few I rewrote in machine code instead of basic. A couple of the tools are still in Basic, but optimized.

The cartridge is an 8K ROM at $8000-$9FFF

You can also use RESTORE to return to the menu.

You may need to send a “I0:” or turn the drive off/on before running further tests if an previous error has occurred.

 
Alignment
Occasionally I get questions about alignment and aligning the drive. There are some differences of opinion how to align a diskdrive, my personal view, and how I do it, is to use a special analogue disk and a dual trace oscilloscope. The analogue disk is a factory produced disk and has patterns written on specific tracks. An analogue alignment disk can not be duplicated.

1541 Diagnostic Cartridge Alignment Check. This program was distributed with a computer magazine and gives a quick drive alignment health instead of hooking up an oscilloscope. The program was completely disassembled, compacted (code and texts) and disk routines rewritten to share I/O routines just to fit onto the cart with the other tools.

The Alignment check program can (I, however, do not recommend doing it this way) be used to adjust the alignment but it will only be as accurate as the drive, or system, the disk was written with.

The two first columns should be identical, otherwise the alignment is off by a whole track(or more), most often this indicates an incorrectly positioned head stop. The third column indicates how well the drive can read data off each track, its alignment, and should be 100%, or atleast very close to. Fourth column is between tracks (or half tracks), this value can fluctuate a bit even on a well aligned drive. The 1541 allows for some tolerance and therefore some values can be within reasonable limits.

It is very seldom when you actually need to align a drive for proper functionality. If the drive works in daily usage and does not make noise or do continious re-reads or searches it is probably ok. If a drive fails to read disks, begin with cleaning the head and lubricate the rails. If this does not help, the R/W head might be damaged, quite often seen on the Mitsumi D500 mechanism. You can verify it by measuring the R/W head using an ohm-meter. Remember that a slightly misaligned drive is probably able to format and read its own formatted disk.

Most important, if it works, don’t fix it 😉

Recommended reading : Commodore Diskette Diagnostic Manual Version 2 (3140451-01) and Commodore 1541 Troubleshooting & Repair Guide (SAMS)

 

 
Update 2019.12: A few words about alignment.
Update 2019.12: TFW8B is selling their version of the cartridge.
Update 2017.09: The Cartridge is also available at the Protovision shop.
Update 2015.12: Upon request from their customers, The Shareware PLUS Commodore 64 & 128 Blog asked me if they could offer the 1541 diagnostic cartridge in their product sortiment.