As mentioned, Zip drives can be a great means data transfer/storage, given their ubiquity, and ease of interfacing (parallel, SCSI, USB, Firewire) with systems both old and new. While I have and use CompactFlash with all of my older systems, and generally rely on that as a means of data transport, I've recently begun adding SCSI-based Zip and Jaz drives into the fold as well. Personally, I'm a bigger proponent of the the Winchester-based, more-capable Jaz format, but it's a bit more troublesome to interface with newer systems.
Regarding the "click-of-death" phenomenon, one of the single best resources of information available on the Internet is the research by Steve Gibson, of SpinRite fame:
While Steve lists a number of vague reasons for its occurrence, I'd like to offer my own opinion for at least the intermittent, non-catastrophic variety of "clicking" behavior:
- Media defects and degeneration
- A low tolerance for these defects by earlier Zip drives
Let me provide a case-in-point...
I have three Zip drives of different dates of manufacture: 1997, 1999, and 2000 (the latter being a Zip 250). Up until just recently, I had a single, 100MB Zip disk, of Taiwanese manufacture, and of 1998 vintage. This disk has been rigorously used, and has presented no problems in any of the mentioned drives. To its discredit, this disk happens to be powder blue in color, which just wouldn't do at all.
With a subsequent purchase of ten new disks, whose magnetic medium was manufactured by Belgium-based Sentinel in 2001, I got my first experience with the "clicking" phenomenon. While the two newer drives seem to tolerate these disks well enough, my oldest drive encountered write errors with every single one of them.
Next, I decided to simply try more of what had worked - Taiwanese disks. I bought and received a new three-pack of these, whose magnetic medium was produced by Taiwanese-based MegaMedia in 1996, and again encountered write errors with the oldest drive (but not nearly to the extent experienced with the Belgium-produced disks). Several low-level format attempts later, these disks now appear to work fine in all drives.
Now, up to this point, I'd been using only "Iomega" disks, intentionally avoiding third-party products. This was mostly due to anecdotal accounts, as well as the fact that Steve Gibson, in his Q&A on the matter, states that the media is all the same. Well, guess what? It's not. In fact, Iomega themselves contracted-out the magnetic media production of their own branded disks to at least four different companies.
Of the third-party producers, FujiFilm used (and still uses) a proprietary manufacturing process for their magnetic media known as "ATOMM." Tech and marketing-speak aside, I've now extensively tested two of the FujiFilm disks, whose magnetic media was produced in Japan in 1996, and they perform flawlessly in all of the drives. Guess which Zip disks I'll be using from now on?