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Living with Iomega's Zip

by Duncan Petrie

After using a Zip drive for many months, I am happy to report that it has exceeded my desires as an inexpensive, reliable, "super floppy." 

There are now several flavors of the Zip; the classical variants are: a parallel port (mine), an internal SCSI, an external SCSI and an internal IDE. Recently announced is the premium-priced Zip Plus; it has a power switch and the ability to run as a parallel port device or as a SCSI device (with a card). SCSI units offer the best speed; however, for those who lack SCSI on their system the IDE or parallel port are the least expensive options. 

The parallel port unit offsets (in my mind) the lack of speed with convenience; merely attach it to a computer's parallel port, install a single driver (GUEST.EXE) and "do it." For those loathe to open the system unit or who have a portable this is easy. EPP/ECP parallel port equipped computers can implement an accelerator to speed data transfer. 

The unit is light. Road warriors can obtain a smaller, lighter, power supply or a rechargeable battery. If you need to take work home; carry a Zip disk with data - not a portable - and work on your home machine. 

Why a Zip? In these days of program bloat try to use a floppy for programs (even some data or graphics files). Backups of an operating system are possible - more convenient than 70+ floppies and easier for a novice than tape. The supplied software utilities offer 1-step backup/restore, disk-to-disk copy, an application mover, a program cataloguer to speed retrieval and (some versions) a file synchronizer. Norton Utilities version 3 will implement an automatic boot disk creator utility (emergency boot disk) using a Zip. 

Yes, there are other choices: Syquest's Easy Flyer has more capacity but is less readily available. The Shark is more compact, requires no external power supply and has greater capacity but is more expensive. the Imation LS120 is more expensive. The cartridges for any of these are significantly more expensive than the Zip's (individually about $17 Cdn and less in quantity) and less widely distributed. The remainder of the offerings in removable storage are primarily high capacity devices (most hold 500+ MB) that are not in the same market: either capacity or price. 

Recently, Blue Sky Innovations (Check them out at: has offered ZppA and ZpA software that allows using the drive as a boot device (time-limited, trial versions are on the club BBS); other utilities present the Zip as a fixed hard drive to allow running recalcitrant applications from it. 

Yes, time marches on and Zip will be replaced; however, given the installed base (over 6 million and counting) I expect that it will "hang tough" for many years. 

Disclaimer: The author has no interest, financial or otherwise, directly or indirectly, in this company or its products.

Bottom Line:

Iomega Zip
Iomega Corporation<

Originally published: February, 1998

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