Zip Drives

At the time, the storage capacity was incredible.

The Zip drive is a portable computer storage system created to help improve the capacity for files from a single computer or network. The company Iomega developed and then released the first zip drive in 1994.

The original zip drive stored up to 100 MB of memory, compared to the floppy disk’s paltry 1.4 MB of memory during that time period. The moveable floppy disk storage devices later went to 250 MB, and finally 750 MB.

The Zip drive is a “super floppy” disk drive that has all of the 3 1⁄2 inch floppy drive’s convenience, but with much greater capacity options and with performance that is much improved over a standard floppy drive. However, Zip disk housings are much thicker than those of floppy disks.

There were parallel, SCSI[1], USB, and IDE[2] Zip drives available on the market at one stage. This meant that regardless of what type of computer you had you’d be able to find a Zip drive with a compatible interface. This meant that both Mac and PC users tended to love the Zip drive.


Parallel port external Zip drives are actually SCSI drives with an integrated Parallel-to-SCSI controller, meaning a true SCSI bus implementation but without the electrical buffering circuits necessary for connecting other external devices. Early Zip 100 drives use an AIC 7110 SCSI controller and later parallel drives (Zip Plus and Zip 250) used what was known as Iomega MatchMaker.[5][6] The drives are identified by the operating system as “IMG VP0” and “IMG VP1” respectively.

Driver Support
  • DOS (requires a minimum of an 80286 or processor)
  • Microsoft Windows family (Parallel drives not supported on Windows 7 and above)
  • Some Linux / BSD etc. (not universal)
  • Oracle Solaris 8, 9, 10, 11
  • IBM OS/2
  • Macintosh System 6.x,(See NB 1) 7.1–7.5, and Mac OS 7.6–9.2
  • Mac OS X
  • RISC OS Requires !zip drivers.
  • AmigaOS 3.5 or higher
  • IRIX 6.4 or higher (SCSI only)

The drive was initially sold for just under US$200 with one cartridge included, and additional 100 MB cartridges for US$20. Suppliers such as Dell, Gateway, and Apple Inc. included internal Zip drives in their machines.

The Commodore-Amiga, Atari ST, Apple II, and “old world” Macintosh communities often use drives with the SCSI interface prevalent on those platforms. They have also found a small niche in the music production community, as SCSI-compatible Zip drives can be used with vintage samplers and keyboards of the 1990s.

  1. Small Computer System Interface (SCSI) is a set of standards for physically connecting and transferring data between computers and peripheral devices. The SCSI standards define commands, protocols, and electrical, optical, and logical interfaces. The SCSI standard defines command sets for specific peripheral device types; the presence of “unknown” as one of these types means that in theory it can be used as an interface to almost any device, but the standard is highly pragmatic and addressed toward commercial requirements. The initial Parallel SCSI was most commonly used for hard disk drives and tape drives, but it can connect a wide range of other devices, including scanners and CD drives, although not all controllers can handle all devices. [Back]
  2. IDE (Integrated Drive Electronics) is an electronic interface standard that defines the connection between a bus on a computer’s motherboard and the computer’s disk storage devices. The IDE interface was originally based on the IBM PC Industry Standard Architecture 16-bit bus standard, but it has since been implemented in computers that use other bus standards. In November 1990, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standardized the IDE technology, referring to it as Advanced Technology Attachment (ATA). The ATA standard is maintained by the T13 Committee of the International Committee on Information Technology Standards, an ANSI-accredited forum for creating technology standards. [Back]


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Author: Doyle

I was born in Atlanta, moved to Alpharetta at 4, lived there for 53 years and moved to Decatur in 2016. I've worked at such places as Richway, North Fulton Medical Center, Management Science America (Computer Tech/Project Manager) and Stacy's Compounding Pharmacy (Pharmacy Tech).

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