Dell is to begin abandoning the floppy drive in its computers starting February 2003 - five years after Apple dropped the storage solution.

Dell is to stop listing the floppy drive as a default entry on its top-end consumer desktop, the Dimension 8250, starting later in February. To get one, you'll have to ask for it.

"We want to introduce customers to the alternatives and let them choose," says Shannon Baxley, manager for Dimension product marketing. Dell thinks that most customers, forced to choose, will go with something more useful - specifically, thumb drives.

The company plans to slowly phase out floppy drives on other models in future too.

The floppy drive has been functionally obsolete for some time - most of the files people share are simply too large to fit on its meager 1.44MB capacity.

"Most people can't recall the last time they used their floppy. Customers were telling us they don't use it," says John New, senior manager for Dimension product planning. Most people are, however, afraid not to have one. He says: "It's mostly just a comfort factor. They think, 'I might need it.'"