Ottawa PC Users' Group, Inc.
 Software Reviews


Zip Revisited
Product Review by Duncan Petrie

The February 1998 issue carried a review of Iomega's Zip drive. This article will update that information, add the latest (I hope) news and discuss the infamous "Click of Death." 

New items

Iomega's latest additions to the family are the internal IDE and the Zip Plus. The internal drive can now be purchased by end users. Some local dealers offer it for less than $100: a far cry from its competitors. Initially, it was an OEM only product: to get one you had to purchase it as part of a system from a supporting dealer. 

Still, to use it as a boot disk, it requires either BIOS support or the ZpA utility from www.blueskyinnovations.com. If you have a recently constructed computer, have a look in the BIOS for possible Zip support. Norton Utilities (www.symantec.com) offers, in conjunction with Iomega, an alternate means to create a system boot disk. Norton Zip Rescue is a free download (Prenzr.exe) from Iomega's ftp site. 

Parallel and/or SCSI?

The Zip Plus was intended to connect to either a parallel port or a SCSI host adapter. After a lot of problems, Iomega rewrote the operating instructions; basically, use the supplied data cable without exception or accessories. Details are available from Iomega's web site: www.iomega.com

Iomega's file transfer site, ftp://ftp.iomega.com/pub/english, offers the latest drivers and utilities. Here, files are free - download charges excepted. This site has posted a series of new versions of Zip drivers and utilities for Windows 9x and NT. Most of these files are dated 2 Sept 98 and include: Ioware9x.exe (tools), Backup.exe (1-Step Backup and Restore) and Copy9x.exe (Copy Machine). The previously mentioned Norton Zip Rescue is also available from this archive. 

Audio, Jaz, etc.

Download RecordIt (Recordit.exe) to record CD-ROM tracks or your voice (using a microphone) directly to a Zip disk. This site also supports other Iomega products (for example, Jaz and Ditto drives) under a variety of operating systems, including: DOS, Windows 3.1, Windows 9x, Windows NT, OS/2, and MacIntosh. It appears that cross-platform users can now obtain driver and utility support for all platforms at no additional cost. 

For users of 1-Step-Backup prior to the 2 September release, be certain that you have installed the upgrade patch file (1stepup.exe) before you attempt to use this utility. 

Zip (and Jaz) afficionados must visit the "unofficial, alternate Iomega Zip and Jaz site": www.juip.com. Here you will find current information for Zip, Jaz and Ditto tape drives. Many drivers and tools are archived here: not only for PCs but also for Macs. These programs are the same as those provided by Iomega. Recently, the site has added support for the Syquest SparQ and SyJet drives: again, both PC and Mac. For those who want to use their Iomega drive with both platforms this site may offer another location to obtain the drivers for the second platform. Iomega, until recently, charged for a Zip disk loaded with the drivers for the second platform or a replacement Zip disk with the tools for your operating system if you unfortunately deleted your sole copy.

The invaluable resource at this site is the message boards (for all the products identified above - PC and Mac). Post a description of your problem and you will receive a pertinent response: often within an hour. Compared to Iomega, this is a "steal" - you must always have your credit card at the ready to get help from Iomega. 

Click of Death

Iomega's infamous "Click of Death (CoD)" has produced widespread publicity for Iomega - all of it negative. This annoyance (to put it mildly, I am sure, if you are affected) is discussed in considerable detail at www.juip.com

Another site is the "unofficial Click of Death" web site at www.thirdeyesp.com/jatin/iomega. This site also offers a message board; however, it is interested solely in CoD issues. You can also listen to a recording of the CoD sound. 

Steve Gibson (of Spinrite fame - a disk drive utility that diagnoses and repairs faults) has a website at www.spinrite.com that provides a wealth of technical information to answer: "How does a Zip drive work?" He has researched the CoD extensively and has posted the results of his research into this problem on his website. Without reprinting the data, he has made two important observations. First, the rate of return (due to CoD) is very significantly higher with the more recent production runs. This suggests that quality control, from ramping up production to meet the demand, has suffered. Second, the CoD is not the problem, per se; it is the symptom. The sound is made by the drive heads attempting to locate the tracks that are required for drive initialization. The problem is not the click; instead, it is the defect with the media that initiates the futile hunt. 

There is some immediate good news and a promise of light at the end of the tunnel. Gibson has offered a freeware utility (TiP.exe) that checks the health - or lack - of Zip and Jaz media and the drives themselves. This program is non- destructive of data and runs in Windows 95/98 or Windows NT 3.5/4/5. The testing performed is more comprehensive than the utilities presently installed on your system provide (accessed through My Computer... right-click the Zip drive icon... select Properties... Tools). This file is also available for download from the PUB II files area. 

Ultimately, Gibson intends to produce a utility (not free) that will detect and return to service the majority of CoD disks. Incidently, this utility will be useful on many brands of high capacity, removable media hardware. There will remain, however, a small residual of drives that do have actual mechanical problems: these cannot be repaired (at least not with this software). 


Bottom Line:

Hardware from Iomega Corporation
Web site: http://www.iomega.com


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