Tips for Loading Programs Successfully on the Commodore 64 & 128
by Reid Swenson
Copyright 1999 to 2023
(Revised November 25, 2020)

A Commodore 128D computer

How to Load Programs on a Commodore 64 or 128
Commodore 64 troubleshooting and operating instructions
Note: The following tips can oftentimes help you to figure out why your programs are not loading properly. They are based on thirty seven years of helping customers solve problems with their Commodore software and equipment. These tips do not claim to be comprehensive in nature or always effective. The author disclaims all responsibility for any particular application of this information. It is offered as free practical advice based on experience. I always encourage seeking other opinions and possibly professional consultation when needed. Many software producers put intentional errors and other forms of 'copy protection' on their disks in order to make them difficult to successfully duplicate. If you are not using original copies of programs then the following tips may not help you. We encourage you to support the software industry by purchasing originals which are more likely to load successfully.

1. Read the program's instructions to see if there are any special loading procedures to follow.

2. For most commercial programs type: load"*",8,1 (always make sure to press the RETURN key after typing in a command). On many programs the ,1 on the end is not required. After the disk drive begins to load you may see the word READY. If this happens type the word RUN.

3. If the disk contains more than one major program you can usually find what the names of the other programs are by typing: load"$",8. Then you can type the word LIST to see the directory of all programs on the disk. If the list of programs scrolls too fast press the CTRL key to slow it down or the RUN/STOP key to stop the scrolling. Before trying to load a program type NEW and then press the RETURN. To load a program from the directory type: load"program",8,1 or load"program",8 (the word 'program' in this example represents the name of the program which you want to load). Make sure to type the name exactly as it appears in the directory. Some of the items listed in the directory may not be programs and may therefore not be able to be loaded. If strange looking characters are in the directory names, press the shift key and the Commodore logo key simultaneously to get in the right mode. Note: on some programs the directory has intentionally been deleted or made unusble by the programmers.

4. Some disks may have programs, extra features and/or data on the flip side of the disk. Since the Commodore 64 was primarily designed to use the 1541 disk drive (which was just a single sided drive) disks like this may need to be physically removed from the drive then flipped over and reinserted (upside down) into the disk drive to utilize the contents of the back side of the disk.

5. If the program does not seem to be loading turn everything off. If you are using a FAST LOADING cartridge please REMOVE IT and try loading the program again.

6.If you are loading a commercial game and you have a printer connected (even if the printer is turned off!) turn off everything and totally disconnect it from the back of the disk drive. Also, if you have anything else plugged in (other than a joystick, monitor, or television) disconnect it also. This includes telephone modems and extra disk drives!

7. If the program still won't load then turn everything off and then on again. If you are using a Commodore 128 make sure you are in the right mode. Most Commodore 128 programs only work in the 64 mode. You must hold down the Commodore logo key ( the key on the far left end of the bottom row) while you turn the computer on. You may also enter this mode by typing GO64 and then answering YES to the ARE YOU SURE? question. On the Commodore 1571 disk drive (the one for the 128) it is sometimes beneficial to gently push inward on the disk while you are twisting the lever down.

8. If you still aren't having any luck turn the computer off and then on again. This time look at the message at the top of the screen. The second line should say: 64K RAM SYSTEM 38911 BASIC BYTES FREE. Make sure that the number 38911 is correct. If any of the memory chips in your computer have failed there is a very good chance that you don't have enough memory to successfully load the program.

9. If you are still having problems REMOVE the disk from the drive. Now, without any disk in the drive type the following:
OPEN15,8,15 (Make sure to press the RETURN key after each line)
After you have typed the PRINT#15,"V" line the disk drive should turn on and make a ratcheting type sound for a few seconds and then turn off. Occasionally the read/write head has a hard time finding its way back to the directory track tand therefore will not load successfully. This procedure helps send the read/write head on the disk drive back to the directory track. Try to load your program again.

10. A very few commercial programs need to write to the disk while they are loading or playing. This is quite rare, but if your program is not loading or functioning properly you may want to try removing the write protect tab which is over the disk notch. Please do this only as a last resort especially if your equipment seems to be the problem. Having the write protect tab removed increases the chances that the disk could be accidently erased by a malfuntioning disk drive. If you try this and it still doesn't function properly you should replace the write-protect tab immediately before continiuing.

11. If your program still won't load and the disk drive seems to not be responding properly turn everything off again and make sure everything is connected well. Try plugging the drive cable into the other hole on the back of the drive.

If you are using an old-style TV or monitor that has a CRT picture tube instead of a flat screen try moving the drive further away from the T.V. or monitor which you are using in order to reduce magnetic fields which may be interfering with your disk drive. Note: It is usually best to not have the Commodore disk drives directly above or directly below the old style monitors or televisions, even if they are on a shelf. The magnetism from most old-style televisions and monitors tends to radiate in an outward direction from the center of the monitor. Therefore, because the read/write head is in a horizontal plane a Commodore drive directly above or below the monitor tends to have the electromagnetism from the screen hit the read/write head at a 90 degree angle which tends to induce interference into the read/write head. Conversely, if the drive is off to the side or in front of the screen the magnetic field from the monitor tends to not induce as much electromagnetic interference in the read/write head because they are in the same geometric plane. (Just like it is easier to hit a target with a rifle if the bullet is hitting the target at a 90 degree angle rather than if the target has fallen over flat and you can only try to hit the top of the target). If you must have the drive(s) located directly above or below the monitor it is best to have aluminum foil or another form of metal as a shield-- as long as the aluminum or metal shield doesn't block the ventilation ports. A wood shelf offers very little shielding from magnetism from a TV or monitor. It may help to stand the drive(s) on their side(s) if you must use the drive(s) directly above or below the screen in order to avoid having the magnetism hit the read/write head at a 90 degree angle.

If the drive spins constantly before you even try to load anything, or if you get a "DEVICE NOT PRESENT" message there is a fairly high possibility that you have an electronic problem with your disk drive and/or computer and may need qualified service. There are other electronic problems also with varying symptoms, but these are the most common.

12. If the red light on your disk drive blinks excessively during the time when the program fails to load it is a probable sign that either the disk is bad or the disk drive is out of alignment. If the red light blinks excessively while trying to load several different disks, it is a good sign your disk drive may need to be taken to a qualified service person to have the alignment checked. If it only happens with one or two different disks then it may be a sign that those particular disks are defective or problematic.

13. If you still are having problems and you have another Commodore 64, 128, disk drive, and/or power supply you may want to try swapping the various hardware pieces around to see if you have a hardware malfunction or compatibility problem. A weak or failing power supply for the Commodore computer can cause the disk drive to have difficulty loading-- especially if other devices (such as printer interfaces, modems, etc.) are taking their power from the computer. Also, slightly different chip versions in different Commodore computers and disk drives can sometimes be the cause of a small percentage of programs not successfully working on a particular system. Similarly, Commodore-compatible disk drives made by other manufactureres tend to vary somewhat in their actual compatibility and oftentimes won't load heavily protected programs.

14. You can often tell if a disk has been ruined by holding it up to the light and looking through the bottom slot on the disk to look for fingerprints, scratches, or other defects. Remember: the Commodore 64 disk drives write to the BOTTOM of the disk! Usually you can carefully insert two or three fingers inside the disk ring and by putting a slight outward pressure on the disk ring you can carefully rotate the disk around as you let the light reflect off of the surface while looking for defects.

15. TIPS FOR PROTECTING DISKS. Place a write protect tab over the notch of all program disks unless the program specifically needs the write protect removed to function properly. Do not eat food around your computer and disk drive. Do not touch the surface of the disk by allowing anything (especially fingers) around the slotted area of the disk jacket. Do not expose the disk to magnetism. Remember there is quite a bit of magnetism around the T.V. or monitor which you are using. Keep the disk in it's jacket when you not using it. Do not let younger children handle the disks. Keep them out of their reach when not being used. Basically, use good sense and you should be alright.

16. Summary. By following the above steps you might be able to save yourself unnecessary frustation, time and expense. By being able to learn how to successfully solve your own disk loading problems you can concentrate on having fun and being productive with your Commodore equipment. Unnecessary returns of software to dealers, mail order outlets, and manufacturers ultimately ends up in price increases which are always passed on to the customer on future purchases. A software broker recently reported to me that unnecessary returns were jeopardizing the very existance of many of the better software producers in the United States. Good Luck.

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