Iomega's Zip Drive... Still a good solution for mobile data
Easy Going Storage
If your last computer purchase was a 486, you probably have considered a Zip Drive or other form of external storage for your computer at one time or another. A gigabyte or less just doesn't seem to cut it anymore, and the thought of spending 300 dollars or more on a new hard disk (let alone risking your computer's livelihood to install it) just seems to give you an uncontrollable twitch.
Sound familiar? Iomega's ZIP Drive attempts to solve these problems by providing a large storage device that is as easy to operate as your current 3.5" floppy disk drive, and it succeeds marvelously.
Fairly easy. You plug the AC Adapter into the wall, and then connect the parallel port cable to your computer. The drive has a second port on the back to plug in your current printer or scanner, and has sculpted words on the back so you know which cable goes where. From there, you run the install file on the provided 3.5" floppy disk, and follow the instructions. Interestingly enough, all of the tools and programs that can be installed come in the included ZIP disk, instead of a CD-ROM.
If you want to get a computer to recognize the ZIP drive without installing the software, you only need to use the "guest" program on the floppy disk. For the most part, however, you will need to restart your computer before running the program.
On some Windows 95 OSR2 or Windows 98 computers I have also found that the disk is not always needed - sometimes Windows will detect the drive by itself.
How does it work
Once your computer has booted up, and the software has been ran to tell the computer what is hooked up to the parallel port, Windows (or DOS,NT,3.1) gives it a drive letter, and it functions exactly like a floppy drive. When data is going to or from the disk a yellow light will flash. If your disk is full you simply need to press the button (or right click, eject, if you want) and swap in a new disk. It can't get much easier that this.
Iomega bundled in a generous package of utilities, including a parallel port accelerator, help files, a search program, a system backup program, and a Windows application mover. However, the drive was built to be portable, so whether you want to install those programs is up to you.
Compared to a floppy disk, the ZIP drive is a speed demon, shoving small files onto disk remarkably fast. It is not nearly as fast as a Hard Disk, however, so transferring 20+ megabyte files will still give you enough time to drink a cup of coffee. There is also an internal model which supports Hard Disk like speed at a lower cost, but sacrifices portability.
The average home user won't find this necessary, but anybody who needs to transport large files from one place to another will find this invaluable. With the exception of the 3.5" floppy disk, no other external storage device is as widely used in North America as the ZIP drive, so you can't go wrong to buy one.
Pros: Easy portability between PCs, acts just like a floppy drive, can be stood on side.
Cons: Flimsy plastic window, no power button, slow compared to hard disk.
Price: $100 (Street) www.iomega.com
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