Full Introduction to Zip Drive Including Its Market [MiniTool Wiki]

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Nowadays, there are a large number of storage devices that you can choose to store your data, such as jump drive and WD5000LPVX HDD. And this post from MiniTool will tell you what Zip drive is.

The Overview of Zip Drive

To begin with, what is a Zip drive? Actually, it is a removable floppy disk storage system and it first appeared in late 1994, which was released by Iomega. Zip disks were considered as medium-to-high-capacity at the time of release, initially starting at 100 MB, 250 MB, and 750 MB.

This format became the most popular product among superfloppy disk products and gained a niche in the portable storage market in the late 1990s. But later, because USB ports on computers were ubiquitous, and USB flash drive provided more storage capacity, USB flash drives became the most popular rewritable storage media. In the early 2000s, the Zip drive was no longer favored by mass portable storage.

Zip drives are superfloppy disk drives that possess all the conveniences of a 312-inch floppy drive, and compared with standard floppy drives, the Zip drives have larger capacity options and significantly improved performance. However, the shell of a Zip disk is much thicker than that of a floppy disk.

In the Zip drive, the head flies in a manner similar to an HDD. Linear actuators take advantage of voice coil actuation technology associated with modern hard disk drives. The Zip drive reduces its overall costs by adopting smaller media (about 9 cm (312-inch) microfloppy, but more ruggedized.

The maximum data transfer rate of the original Zip drive is about 1.4 megabytes/second (compared to 8x CD-R; although some connection methods are slower, down to approximately 50 kB/second for maximum-compatibility parallel “nibble” mode).

The Interfaces of Zip Drive

Zip drives were produced through a variety of interfaces, including:

  • IDE True ATA is used by very early ATA internal Zip drives, and it is mainly sold to OEMs; these drives have software compatibility issues in that they do not support the ATAPI command set.
  • ATAPI is used by all Zip generations.
  • USB 1.1 is used by 100 MB and 250 MB Zip drive generation.
  • USB 2.0 is used by 750 MB Zip drive generation and it is backward compatible with USB 1.1 systems.
  • IEEE 1284 (Parallel Port) with Printer passthrough is used by 100 MB and 250 MB Zip drive generations.
  • IEEE 1394 (FireWire) is used by 250 MB and 750 MB Zip drive generations.
  • SCSI is used by 100 MB & 250 MB Zip drive generations, and both internal & external editions; (external editions are limited to ID 5 and 6).
  • “Plus” is used by ZIP 100 MB external drive with SCSI and IEEE 1284 connections (SCSI ID is limited to ID 5 and 6).

The Compatibility of Zip Drive

Higher-capacity Zip disks have to be used in drives with at least the same capacity. Higher-capacity drives can read lower-capacity media. Compared to 100 MB drive, a 250 MB Zip drive writes much more slowly to a 100 MB Zip drive, and Iomega software cannot perform a “long” (thorough) format on a 100 MB disk.

But Iomega software can be formatted normally in Windows and the advantage of it is that long formats can format 100MB disks with a slightly higher capacity. 250MB disks can be formatted to the same size in the same way. The 750 MB drive has read-only support for 100 MB disks.

The retroreflective spot differs between a 100 MB Zip disk and a 250 MB Zip disk, so if you insert a larger disk into a smaller capacity drive, the disk will immediately eject again without trying to access the disk. The 750 MB disk has no reflection points.

The Market of Zip Drive

Since its introduction in 1994, Zip drives initially sold well due to its low price and high (temporary) capacity. The drive originally cost less than $200, including a cartridge, and an additional 100 MB for $20.

From 1999 to 2003, sales of Zip drives and disks steadily declined. Compared to the cost of new CD-R and CD-RW disks at the time, the cost per megabyte of Zip disks was relatively high. The growth of hard drives to multi-gigabyte capacities has made it less economical to use Zip disks for backups.

Tip: If you want to make backups of your files, then it is highly recommended to use MiniTool ShadowMaker - a piece of professional backup software.
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