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Iomega Zip 100

Anyone into sampling or hard disk recording appreciates the need for a low‑cost, high‑capacity, archivable storage medium — and that's exactly what Iomega's Zip 100 drive delivers. Paul White gives it a spin...

Long gone are the days when your largest samples would fit onto a 1.44Mb high‑density floppy disk with room to spare — nowadays, even an unexpanded sampler has 2Mb of RAM, while a fully expanded model might have as much as 64Mb, or even more (that's a lot of floppies!). The same can be said of hard disk audio recording — where do you back up your files if you want to re‑use your hard drive?

Iomega's incredibly compact Zip 100 drive would appear to offer the ideal solution, and at a far lower cost than using SyQuest drives or similar devices. For little more than the price of an external floppy drive, the Zip 100 can pack up to 100Mb onto a single disk (cartridge) that's little bigger than a conventional 3.5‑inch floppy, and though its access time is a little slower than that of a regular hard drive, it's still fast enough to treat as a conventional hard drive for backup purposes. The blue plastic drive casing itself may be mounted flat, or on its edge to save space (see photo), and power comes from a plug‑in adaptor.


Being a Mac user, I opted to test the SCSI model which comes with driver software for both Macs and PCs. The installation sequence is initiated from the supplied floppy, and the remaining software comes on the 100Mb Zip Tools cartridge included with the drive. Along with the driver software, you also get a 'restricted' version of Virtual Disk which, essentially, maintains a catalogue of your removable drive files on your internal hard disk, plus a couple of demo games. The same cartridge is employed whether you're a Mac or PC user, but as soon as you execute the install procedure, the disk format is locked to match your computer. In other words, if you install the driver on a PC, you can't then install it onto a Mac as well, unless you buy a second Zip Tools disk.

I don't know about you, but my dilemma isn't whether or notto buy a Zip drive — only how many!

In practice, installation is very straightforward and from then on you can treat the Zip drive just like a large, fast floppy. There are a couple of things you need to be aware of, though:

  • The drive's SCSI address can only be set to 5 or 6 (so check for possible conflicts if you use many other SCSI devices).
  • There's an active termination switch on the Zip drive's rear panel, and if the drive is at the end of your SCSI chain, the termination should be switched on.

Once everything is up and running, inserting a disk causes its icon to appear on the desktop in the conventional manner. Unlike a floppy, there is no write‑protect tab — write‑protecting is done via the Zip Tools software, and there's also provision to create a password to prevent unauthorised access to your files.

As you might not always want to use the drive with your own computer, a simplified 'Guest' driver is supplied on the install floppy. If you carry a copy of this around, you can plug the Zip 100 into any Mac and read or write to it as normal but without the fancy password or disk management facilities. When you drag your disk icon to the trash to unmount it, the Zip drive door opens and out pops the disk, in true Mac style.

Zip + Sampler

To use the Zip 100 drive with any SCSI sampler, it is necessary only to format the disk from within the sampler's own utility menu — you don't need to worry about drivers. I tried the Zip 100 drive with my Akai S2000 and it operated without a hitch. I also copied the operating system software onto the Zip drive, which makes booting up somewhat faster.


Considering its low price and high storage capacity, the Zip 100 would seem ideal for sample storage and the backing up of short to medium‑length audio files, as well as for general data use. A higher capacity drive using 1Gb cartridges (known as the Jazz drive) will be available from Iomega in the near future, but for most musical applications, storing data in separate 100Mb chunks is actually more convenient. Blank 100Mb cartridge prices are respectable, too — between £11 and £16 each, depending on quantity. I don't know about you, but my dilemma isn't whether or not to buy a Zip drive — only how many!


  • Low cost, high capacity storage.
  • Lightweight and portable.
  • Easy to use.
  • Works with SCSI samplers.
  • Works with Macs or PCs.


  • Unlikely to be fast enough for most direct‑to‑disk audio applications.
  • You need to buy an additional Install cartridge if you wish to use all the features of the drive on both Macs and PCs. However, the included Guest software on floppy should satisfy most users.


An ideal means of backing up samples and short to medium‑length audio files, as well as general computer data.