Digital Forensics

Digital forensics is the use of specialized technology to read and save the contents of drives and disks from the (albeit, recent) past. Old forms of digital storage like floppy disks or outmoded software applications and environments like Microsoft Bob are obsolete now, and it is difficult to find computers or programs that work with them. Tools like FRED and the Catweasel have been created for just this purpose.

Librarians, primarily archivists working with special collections, use FRED and other technology to recover digital content from extinct media formats. Digital forensics is increasingly a part of regular archival activity, especially now that notables often donate their hard drives or floppy disks along with (or even instead of) actual pieces of paper.


One of the digital preservation tools we use is called FRED, the Forensic Recovery of Evidence Device. It is like something you would see on CSI, except without sunglasses, crime scenes, guns, cars, DNA, etc. With FRED we can read, analyze, and recover files from 3.5” floppy disks, 5.25” floppy disks, compact flash memory cards, Zip disks, and more.


The Catweasel is a special floppy disk controller (a chip and some circuitry on a board) that is able to communicate with old disk formats when used with FRED. Remember the Amiga or the Commodore 64? Apple IIe or Atari? The Catweasel  can be used to read all of these formats. FRED runs the various disk drives, and the Catweasel lets us look at and preserve information from the content on a disk.