7.2 Choosing a High-Capacity Floppy Disk Drive
Use the following guidelines when choosing a high-capacity FDD:
- If you need to exchange data bidirectionally with other people or computers not on your network
Buy a drive compatible with the media in use. SuperDisk Drives and Zip Drives cannot read or write each other's media. SuperDisk Drives are common on recent Compaq computers, but are seldom seen elsewhere. Zip Drives are by far the most commonly used superfloppy, so installing one allows you to exchange data with more people. The Zip250 Drive can read and write both 100 and 250 MB media, and so offers the most flexibility. It also transfers data about twice as fast as the Zip100 Drive.
- If you need to send data to other people or computers, but will not receive data from them
Do not buy a superfloppy. Buy a CD-RW drive and a supply of inexpensive CD-R disks. Nearly everyone has a CD-ROM drive that can read the CDs you produce, and sending people a $0.50 CD-R disc is a lot less painful than sending them a $10 floppy.
- If you will use the drive to back up and/or archive data
Do not buy a superfloppy. They are unsuited to this purpose because they are slow and use costly and relatively unreliable media. If backup is your primary need, buy a tape drive. If you need to archive data permanently, buy a CD-RW drive and archive the data to CD-R disks. If you can afford only one drive, and if 650 MB is enough capacity to back up your important data, buy a 10X CD-RW drive and some CD-RW disks, which can be reused repeatedly.
Other than drives we install temporarily for testing purposes, we've used only two high-capacity FDDs regularly. We installed one Zip250 Drive on our network, which we used only to read Zip disks that people sent us. That drive died, and we didn't bother to replace it, because nowadays everyone sends us CDs. We also had an Imation LS-120 drive installed in one of our systems, but it died. We didn't bother to replace it, either, because no one had ever sent us an LS-120 disk. That's a small sample, certainly, but based on our experiences we see little point to having a high-capacity FDD at all. We actually get more use from the one 5.25" 1.2 MB FDD that we use occasionally to read antique 5.25" floppies. We now exclusively use tape drives for backup, and CD-RW drives for archiving data or sending it to others.
7.2.1 Choosing a Zip Drive
If, despite our discouragement, you decide to install a Zip Drive, keep the following in mind:
- Click of Death (COD)
Zip disks whose logical formatting is damaged cause the dreaded Click of Death. When this occurs, the drive repeatedly seeks unsuccessfully, making a characteristic COD clicking sound. This problem can usually be solved simply by using another disk. However, if the problem disk is physically damaged, it generates the same clicking sound but also physically damages any drive you attempt to read it in. When they experience COD, many people immediately either attempt to read the disk in another drive, which simply destroys that drive as well, or attempt to read another disk in the damaged drive, which simply destroys yet another disk. A damaged drive literally has its heads ripped loose and a damaged disk has its edge shredded. Using a good disk in a damaged drive destroys that disk, which will subsequently destroy any drive that attempts to access it. If you experience COD, always examine the disk carefully to determine if it is physically damaged before you do anything else. For details about COD, visit http://grc.com/tip/clickdeath.htm. This page describes the COD in full detail and has a link to a free utility that you can use to test Zip and Jaz Drives for this problem.
- Choose your interface carefully
Zip Drives are available in IDE, SCSI, parallel port, and USB interfaces. An external SCSI, parallel, or USB model provides the most flexibility. It can be carried from computer to computer along with the data e.g., to download a large service pack using the T1 at work and then carry the drive home to install the service pack and used to expand the disk storage available on older laptop systems with small hard drives.
The IDE/ATAPI version (Zip Insider) is fast, easy to install, and runs reliably. However, if you plan to use your Zip Drive for disaster recovery which is not the best choice anyway note that the Iomega IDE Zip Drives do not function under DOS. The SCSI and parallel drivers do, which means you can access data on a SCSI or parallel Zip Drive before Windows is reinstalled and running. We have had few problems when installing the ATAPI version as the Sole/Master on the Secondary ATA channel the usual configuration on a system that has an existing Primary/Master hard disk and a Primary/Slave CD-ROM drive. We have experienced occasional problems installing the ATAPI version as a Slave on the Primary channel with a Primary/Master hard disk. If this happens, installing the Zip as Secondary/Master usually solves the problem. We have experienced more problems when installing an ATAPI Zip Drive as either Master or Slave on the Secondary ATA channel with a CD-ROM drive jumpered to the opposite. Some systems do not function properly with the CD-ROM as Master and the Zip as Slave, but work fine with the Zip as Master and the CD-ROM as Slave. Others work properly with the drives jumpered conversely. Some systems don't work properly either way, and the only option is to swap drives around between the Primary and Secondary channels, or to substitute a different CD-ROM drive. Also note that ATAPI Zip Drives frequently conflict with CD writers, tape drives, and other ATAPI devices.
The SCSI version is fast and runs reliably. However, to use it you must install a SCSI adapter, which adds to the expense and complexity. Note that only the final device in a SCSI chain should be terminated, and SCSI Zip Drives are terminated by default on the assumption that they will be the only SCSI device installed. If you install a SCSI Zip Drive on an existing SCSI chain, turn off termination unless the Zip Drive is the final device on the chain. In that case, make sure to turn off termination on the device that was formerly the last device.
These are much slower than the other versions, but can be used on any computer with an available parallel port. We have occasionally encountered incompatibilities with the parallel versions, including failure to recognize the drive and inability to access the drive other than in Safe Mode under Windows 95/98. If this occurs, check BIOS Setup to determine how the parallel port is configured. Setting the port to EPP or EPP/ECP (depending on your BIOS) may resolve the problem, and will allow the Zip Drive to operate at the highest possible speed, although that is still much slower than the other versions. If the port is already configured correctly, removing and then reinstalling the drivers sometimes cures the problem.
Parallel Zip Drives may also be problematic under Windows NT. Some Windows NT systems bluescreen at boot if a parallel Zip Drive is attached. If this occurs, remove the Iomega parallel port SCSI driver, change the parallel port mode (some NT systems work properly only if configured for standard parallel port, while others seem to prefer EPP/ECP mode), and reinstall the Iomega parallel port SCSI driver.
Parallel Zip Drives may also cause conflicts with some printer drivers, notably those for HP inkjet printers. This problem is documented with workarounds on both the Iomega and HP web sites.
After a somewhat rocky start, particularly on Windows 2000 systems, we now consider the USB Zip Drive to be reasonably reliable under Windows 9X and Windows 2000, assuming that you install recent drivers. We haven't yet tested one on a Windows XP system, but expect that it will work properly there as well. USB Zip Drives, like other USB drives, may be less trouble-prone if connected to a root USB port rather than to a hub.
- Always eject the disk properly
Although the Zip Drive has an Eject button, using it risks damaging your data. Always eject the disk by selecting My Computer, highlighting the drive icon, and choosing Eject. Alternatively, use the Iomega icon on the desktop to eject the disk. If you have just written data to the disk, a period of several seconds must pass before Eject is enabled. During this period, data is being written to the disk, and using the Eject button on the drive may force an eject before the write is complete, which will trash your data.
- Check frequently for updated drivers
Many Zip Drive problems can be solved by using the most current drivers, which Iomega updates frequently. Numerous strange things happen with Zip Drives using older drivers, e.g., exiting Excel97 SR1 causes the Zip disk to eject under some circumstances when using older drivers. If your Zip Drive begins behaving strangely, update your driver to the latest version before taking any other troubleshooting steps.
- Keep the system simple
A Zip Drive usually works reliably on a system that has only a hard drive and a CD-ROM drive. On a system that also has a tape drive, CD writer, and/or DVD writer, installing a Zip Drive may cause conflicts. In particular, installing a Zip Drive may cause problems on a system with other components that use virtual drive volumes, such as a CD writer with packet-writing software or backup software that assigns a virtual drive volume to the tape drive.
7.2.2 Choosing a SuperDisk Drive
If, despite our discouragement, you decide to install a SuperDisk Drive, keep the following in mind:
- Choose the internal ATAPI model whenever possible
Our readers report many fewer problems with the internal ATAPI SuperDisk Drives than with USB, parallel port, and PC Card models. ATAPI models are supported natively by Windows 95B and later, and usually just work. The USB, parallel port, and PC Card models require drivers, and we've had reports of driver conflicts and other problems with them. The ATAPI model running under Windows 95A and earlier also requires drivers, so we expect similar conflicts might occur with that configuration.
- Choose the USB model if you have a notebook
The external USB drive can be transferred easily between a notebook and desktop system assuming, of course, that both systems have USB ports and a USB-aware OS allowing you to move data back and forth in relatively large chunks. The same might be true of the parallel port model, but we've never been pleased with any parallel port drive. The PC Card model is usable only on a notebook computer, unless you happen to have a PC Card interface on your desktop system. We've found that USB drives in general are less likely to cause problems if you connect them to a root USB port rather than to a USB hub, and we suspect that is also true for USB SuperDisk Drives.
- Verify that your BIOS supports the SuperDisk Drive
Although the SuperDisk Drive can be installed in nearly any computer by installing drivers for it, it works best in a computer whose BIOS natively supports it. BIOS support means that you can boot from the SuperDisk Drive, and generally also means you're less likely to have conflicts or other problems with the drive.
- Don't depend on the SuperDisk Drive for backups
Of the few people we know who've installed a SuperDisk Drive, most use it for backing up. That's a mistake, because the disks are both very expensive per byte stored, and relatively unreliable compared to alternatives. Although the drives themselves are inexpensive, the cost of disks quickly mounts to the point where you'd have spent less for a better backup solution, such as a CD writer or a tape drive. The SuperDisk Drive may make sense in special situations, such as routinely transferring moderate amounts of data between a work system and a home system. Even in such situations, however, we recommend using CD-RW drives with packet-writing software, which are much more flexible, store more data, and use much less expensive media.