LDBS disk image format v0.3

John Elliott, 14 March 2017


LDBS is a disk image format originally designed for internal use in LibDsk, with the intended use case being for archiving FM / MFM floppy disks. This specification is provided for comment and suggestions, in case the format proves useful in other situations.

The suggested file extension is .ldbs.

The reference implementation for this version of LDBS is ldbs.c / ldbs.h, supplied with LibDsk v1.5.4.

The file structure is defined at two levels: a generic block store, and the specific block types used to specify a disk image.

Rationale: Why a new disk image format? As mentioned above, it was designed for use as an intermediate format in LibDsk. The aim is to have feature parity with CPCEMU extended .DSK, but in a more extensible format with greater support for in-place rewrites. It is not, for example, possible to reformat a track from 8 to 9 512-byte sectors in an EDSK file, without rewriting all subsequent tracks.

Change history

0.3 (8 March 2017)
0.2 (3 March 2017)
0.1 (16 March 2016)
Original version.

Data storage: Block Store

All 16-bit and 32-bit values are stored in Intel format (low byte first).

File offsets and block lengths are 32 bit little-endian doublewords. To avoid signed / unsigned issues, they should not exceed 2^31.


All LDBS files begin with a 20-byte header:

0x00004 bytesLDBS magic number: 0x4C 0x42 0x53 0x01 ('LBS\01')
0x00044 bytesFile type. For a disk image this is 0x44 0x53 0x4B 0x02 ('DSK\02'). If it is 0x44 0x53 0x4B 0x01 ('DSK\01') then it is in LDBS 0.2 or earlier format. Such disc images are not likely to be in wide circulation and I don't think you need to bother implementing support for them. The supplied ldbs_v2 utility can convert disc images in the earlier format to the current version.
0x0008offsetOffset of first block in 'used' linked list. Zero means there are no used data blocks.
0x000CoffsetOffset of first block in 'free' linked list. Zero means there are no free data blocks.
0x0010offsetOffset of track directory. Zero means there is no track directory.

If the offsets at 0x0008 / 0x000C / 0x0010 are non-zero, they must be file offsets of valid data blocks. It is an error for them to point to any other location in the file.

Within the block store layer the track directory is optional, but a valid LDBS disk image must have a track directory.

Although the block store layer is currently only defined as containing a disk image, it would be usable as a container for other file formats; this would be indicated by a different value at offset 0x0004. The use of the block store for other file formats is not covered further by this document.

Data blocks

The header is followed by one or more data blocks (a file with no data blocks is structurally valid, but would not contain a track directory). There is no constraint on the order of blocks in a file; a track header does not have to be stored together with its associated sectors, for example.

For an LDBS disc image, is recommended that a given data block should not exceed 64k in size.

There are no alignment requirements; blocks can begin at any file offset.

Each data block has its own 20-byte header:

0x00004 bytesBlock signature: 0x4C 0x44 0x42 0x01 ('LDB\01')
0x00044 bytesBlock type. 4-byte value as defined below. 0x00 0x00 0x00 0x00 indicates a free block, other values indicate a used block.
0x0008lengthLength of block on disk (not including this 20-byte header)
0x000ClengthLength of block contents, less than or equal to length of block on disk. Should be set to zero for a free block.
0x0010offsetOffset of next block in used / free linked list. Zero if this is the last block in the list.

The header is followed immediately by the block data.

If a block is recorded in the track directory (see below) its block type is used to identify it, and so must be unique within the file. The block type is not required to be unique for blocks not recorded in the directory.

If the offset at 0x0010 is non-zero, it must point to another valid data block.

If the length of the block on disk is greater than the length of the block contents, an implementation is encouraged to fill the remainder with zero bytes, but is not obliged to. Similarly a free block should be filled with zeroes, but is not required to be.

Data blocks can be enumerated either by stepping through the file in linear order, or by following the used / free linked lists.

It is an error for there to be a 'free' block on the 'used' linked list, or a 'used' block on the 'free' linked list.


Typical operations performed at block level are:

Note that there is no requirement to coalesce adjacent free blocks, or to split a block if the size requested is less than its current size on disk.

Data storage: Disc image

Track directory

A disk image must contain a track directory block. The intention is that an implementation will use the track directory to locate data rather than performing linear searches of the file or walking its linked lists.

The format of the track directory is:

0x000020 bytesLDBS block header. Type field contains 0x44 0x49 0x52 0x01 ('DIR\01')
0x001416-bit wordNumber of directory entries
0x00168 bytes per entryDirectory entries

The format of a directory entry is one of Txxx, INFO, CREA, DPB or GEOM, or a custom block type (beginning with a lowercase 'a'-'z'). In each case, this is the block type of the corresponding block in the store.

0x00001 byte0x54 ('T')
0x00012 bytesCylinder number
0x00031 byteHead number
0x0004offsetOffset of track header block

Reference to a track header. There is one of these for each track in the disk image.

0x00004 bytes'INFO'
0x0004offsetOffset of comment block

Reference to a comment block. There is at most one of these in the disk image file.

0x00004 bytes'CREA'
0x0004offsetOffset of creator block

Reference to a creator block. There is at most one of these in the disk image file.

0x00004 bytes'GEOM'
0x0004offsetOffset of geometry block

Reference to a geometry block. There is at most one of these in the disk image file.

0x00004 bytes'DPB '
0x0004offsetOffset of DPB block

Reference to a CP/M Disk Parameter Block block. There is at most one of these in the disk image file. It will only be present on disks containing a CP/M filesystem.

Custom block types

Other block types than the ones listed here may be defined in later versions of this spec; implementations should ignore unknown block types. It may, for example, be useful at some point to create a 'BOOT' block type containing the keystrokes necessary to boot a disk, or a 'PICT' block containing a picture of the disk.

All future block types defined by this spec will start with a capital letter, 'A'-'Z'. Block types beginning with a lowercase letter 'a'-'z' can be used for private purposes — there is, of course, no guarantee that someone else won't pick the same block type for their own use.

You should avoid storing file offsets in your custom blocks. There is nothing stopping an LDBS implementation from rearranging blocks in a file so they end up at different offsets (for example, to remove unused space). However, such an implementation won't be aware of offsets held in custom blocks, and so won't update them. This isn't just a theoretical danger: ldbs_clone() reverses the order of blocks when duplicating an LDBS file.

The LibDsk TeleDisk, CopyQM and QRST drivers use custom blocks to hold details from the original file headers which aren't used by other disk image formats. These are, respectively, 'utd0', 'ucqm', and 'uqrs'.

Track header

0x000020 bytesLDBS block header. Type field contains 0x54 cyl cyl head , corresponding to directory entry.
0x00142 bytes[LDBS 0.3] Length of fixed track header in bytes (= offset of first sector header less 0x0014). Currently 0x000C, but you should not rely on this; future extensions may require extra bytes to be added to the track header.
0x00162 bytes[LDBS 0.3] Length of each sector entry in bytes. Currently 0x0010, but you should not rely on this; future extensions may require extra bytes to be added to the sector header.
0x00182 bytesNumber of sector entries in the track header.
0x001A1 byteData rate when track was recorded:
0 => unknown
1 => Single density (125 kbit/s or 150 kbit/s FM) or double density (250 kbit/s or 300 kbit/s MFM)
2 => High density (500 kbit/s MFM, or [unlikely] 250 kbit/s FM)
3 => Extended density (1000 kbit/s MFM, or [unlikely] 500 kbit/s FM)

Note: The 250 kbit/s and 300 kbit/s rates (and their FM equivalents) are combined because the same disc may appear to use either rate, depending whether it is read in a 360k drive or a 1.2Mb drive.

0x001B1 byteRecording mode used for the track:
0 => unknown
1 => FM
2 => MFM
0x001C1 byteFormat gap length
0x001D1 byteDefault filler byte
0x001E2 bytes[LDBS 0.3] Approximate length of track (including address marks and gaps) in bytes. For some timing-based copy protection schemes. Zero if this value was not captured when the disc was imaged.
0x0020[LDBS 0.3] Future versions may add extra bytes here. See offset 0x0014
See offset 0x0014See offset 0x0016 [LDBS 0.3] Sector headers

Each sector descriptor is formed:

0x00001 byteSector ID: Cylinder
0x00011 byteSector ID: Head
0x00021 byteSector ID: Sector
0x00031 byteSector ID: Size (0 => 128, 1 => 256, 2 => 512 ... 7 => 8192)
0x00041 byte8272 status 1. The following bits may be set if the archiver encountered errors reading this sector:
Bit 7: End of cylinder
Bit 5: Data error in ID or data field
Bit 2: No data
Bit 0: Missing address mark in ID or data field
0x00051 byte8272 status 2. The following bits may be set if the archiver encountered errors reading this sector, or if the sector has a deleted data control mark:
Bit 6: Control mark (sector marked as deleted data)
Bit 5: Data error in data field
Bit 0: Missing address mark in data field
0x00061 byteNumber of copies held. Some copy-protection systems use a 'weak' sector which returns different values each time it is read. This is simulated by holding multiple copies of the sector, and returning a random one each time it is read. If this is zero, the sector is treated as blank (ie, entirely filled with the byte at 0x0007).
0x00071 byteFiller byte if sector is blank
0x0008offsetOffset of sector data block for this sector. If number of copies is zero, this must be zero too.
0x000C2 bytesNumber of trailing bytes. If nonzero, then the specified number of CRC and gap bytes follow each copy of the sector itself.
0x000E2 bytesApproximate offset of sector within track. This is used for some timing-based copy protection schemes. If this value was not captured it will be zero for all sectors on the track.
0x0010[LDBS 0.3] Future versions may add extra bytes here. See offset 0x0016 of track header.

Sector data

0x000020 bytesLDBS block header. Type field contains 0x53 cylinder head sector. Note that cylinder and head are the sector's actual physical location on the disk, which may not be the same as the values in its ID header.
0x0014As specified in descriptor

The sector data. In normal circumstances the length should match the descriptor in the track header: ((128 << id_psh) + trailing bytes) * number of copies. However implementations should be prepared to handle the data being either shorter or longer than the expected size; this may arise if the LDBS file was converted from a disc image file with the same anomaly.

Since the track directory does not record the locations of individual sectors, the block type field is not required to be unique. If an LDBS file contained more than 256 cylinders, for example, sectors on cylinder 256 would have the same block type as those on cylinder 0. Similarly if a track contained several copies of the same sector, all these copies would have the same block type.

Comment block

The comment block is optional, and contains a human-readable comment describing the disk image.

0x000020 bytesLDBS block header. Type field contains 0x49 0x4E 0x46 0x4F ('INFO')
0x0014As specified in header Disk comment. Lines should be separated with DOS-style newlines ('\r\n').

On character sets: If possible, stick to ASCII. Failing that, UTF-8.

Creator block

The creator block is optional, and contains human-readable text naming the utility that created the disk image.

0x000020 bytesLDBS block header. Type field contains 0x43 0x52 0x45 0x41 ('CREA')
0x0014As specified in header Creator, ASCII, no newlines.

DPB block

The DPB block is optional, and contains a CP/M Plus Disk Parameter Block describing the filesystem.

0x000020 bytesLDBS block header. Type field contains 0x44 0x50 0x42 0x20 ('DPB ')
0x001417 bytesCP/M DPB

Rationale: CP/M filesystems are not self-describing. If the disk image was generated by an emulator or utility that is aware of the CP/M filesystem, it may be helpful to record the filesystem parameters used. This is also necessary for round-trip compatibility with the YAZE YDSK format.

Geometry block

The geometry block is optional. It contains the drive geometry used by LibDsk when it last formatted a track in the disk image. On a 'straightforward' disk image where all tracks have the same format, this will give the geometry of the entire file.

0x000020 bytesLDBS block header. Type field contains 0x47 0x45 0x4F 0x4D ('GEOM')
0x0014Byte Sidedness: the order in which to process tracks.
0 => Single sided, or alternating sides. Track n is cylinder 
                             (n / heads) head (n % heads).

1 => Out and back. Tracks go (head 0) 0,1,2,3,...,37,38,39 then
                             (head 1) 39,38,37,...2,1,0 

2 => Out and out.  Tracks go (head 0) 0,1,2,3,...,37,38,39 then
                             (head 1) 0,1,2,3,...,37,38,39

3 => Extended surface.  As SIDES_ALT, but sectors on head 1 identify
                           as head 0, with numbers in sequence 
                           eg: Head 0 has sectors 1-9, head 1 has 10-18 
0x0015Word Number of cylinders
0x0017Byte Number of heads
0x0018Byte Number of sectors per track
0x0019Byte First physical sector number
0x001AWord Bytes per sector
0x001CByte Data rate: 0 => 500 kbit/s, 1 => 300 kbit/s, 2 => 250 kbit/s, 3 => 1 mbit/s
0x001DByte Read/write gap
0x001EByte Format gap
0x001FByte Recording mode: 0 => MFM, 1=> FM
0x0020Byte Complement flag, 1 if bytes are stored complemented
0x0021Byte Disable multitrack read/writes
0x0022Byte Do not skip deleted data

Note that the representation of the data rate and recording mode isn't the same as in a track header.

Rationale: If the imaged disk contains no superblock or other means to specify its own format, this can be used to suggest a geometry for accessing it.


The only form of compression is omitting sectors that are blank or unreadable (by setting the 'copies' field in the sector header to 0). Should it prove necessary to compress LDBS disk images further, this should be done using an external utility such as gzip (LibDsk can transparently decompress gzipped disk images).

Reference Implementation

ldbs.h / ldbs.c in LibDsk 1.5.4 contain an X11-licensed reference implementation of LDBS. A few sample utilities are also supplied:

The relevant files can also be downloaded separately.

Some example LDBS files can be downloaded here.