With an external hard drive and a CD/DVD-writer, I don’t really need a ZIP drive anymore, but it was a lifesaver back when I bought it. CD-writers were rare, slow, and expensive then, and anyway, I could fit the entire contents of my older PC’s hard drive onto one ZIP disk. I was able to get rid of stacks and stacks of floppies, and I could move larger files between my older and my newer machine (though not, alas, between my Mac and my PC; I still had to rely on floppies for that).
After all this time, and purchasing a new AC adapter so that I could use it when I moved back to the US from Britain, the ZIP drive has been a habit. I’ve kept my Quicken backups on it, and some of my other data backups, even though I’m also backing everything up to the XHD.
So when the Click of Death started, my problem was not the current data but the rows of ZIP disks sitting on a media shelf. I probably wouldn’t need what was on most of them, but I didn’t want to lose it, and without a working ZIP drive I wasn’t going to be able to put it onto CD or DVD. The Click of Death (a phenomenon whose symptom is an endless clicking noise from the drive) is a fatal hardware problem and means that the drive rather than the removable disk is damaged—beyond repair.
Fortunately, the same geek friend who was able to provide a Windows 98 laptop for a week while Keramat was in the shop happened to have a ZIP parallel drive sitting around, so I’m now in the process of transferring the contents of those disks (which contain a lot of the work I did when I was in academia, as well as some thoroughly obsolete programs and 10 years’ worth of e-mail correspondence with the Ur-Guru) onto a DVD via my hard drive, then erasing the disks so I can send them off to recycle. (All in the midst of installing a replacement computer and trying to nurse the fatally wounded Keramat along until the new machines are set up.)
And what should appear this week in PC Magazine but an article entitled “The Museum of Obsolete Disks, or Why I Hate Iomega.” The author’s problem is not the Click of Death (which also has websites dedicated to it, and special software to help repair ZIP disks that were damaged by a bad drive) but the fact that Iomega creates all these extremely useful but completely proprietary removable drives. The ZIP, JAZ, and now REV drives have all gotten great reviews from computer magazines—but they have one fatal flaw, which is that only someone else with an Iomega drive can read them. Unlike external hard drives, CDs, DVDs, and even floppy diskettes, Iomega’s disks are not part of the pretty-much universal media standards for PCs, Macs, and even Linux machines.
I don’t hate Iomega, myself. I’ve gotten more years of good use out of this ZIP drive than I probably will from my external hard drive, given the rate at which hard drives fail. But I probably won’t buy any more of their products, even though I’ll keep visiting their website for the useful information they collect about people’s backup and restore habits.
And if you want to see some real obsolescence, check out the Obsolete Computer Museum.