The Zip drive is a medium-capacity removable disk storage system, introduced by Iomega in late 1994. Originally, Zip disks had a capacity of 100 MB, but later versions increased this to first 250 MB and then 750 MB.
The format became the most popular of the super-floppy type products but never reached the status of a quasi-standard to replace the 3.5-inch floppy disk. Later, rewritable CDs largely replaced Zip drives, and the internal and external CD writers known as Zip-650 or Zip-CD were sold under the Zip brand.
This resulted in a disk that has all of the 9 cm (3½") floppy's convenience, but holds much more data, with performance that is much quicker than a standard floppy drive (though not directly competitive with hard drives). The original Zip drive had a data transfer rate of about 1 megabyte/second and a seek time of 28 milliseconds on average, compared to a standard 1.44 MB floppy's 500 kbit/s (62.5 kB/s) transfer rate and several-hundred millisecond average seek time. Today's average 7200 RPM desktop hard drives have average seek times of around 8.5–9 ms.
Early generation Zip drives were in direct competition with the SuperDisk or LS-120 drives, which held 20% more data and could also read standard 3½" 1.44 MB diskettes, but they had a lower data transfer rate due to lower rotational speed. The rivalry was over before the dawn of the USB era.
Zip drives are available in multiple interfaces including
NB1: 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 used an AIC 7110 SCSI controller and later parallel drives (Zip Plus and Zip 250) used what was known as Iomega MatchMaker.
NB2: Early external SCSI-based Zip drives often came with an included SCSI adapter known as Zip Zoom. The Zip Zoom is a rebadged ISA Adaptec SCSI host controller. Also, orignally sold separately was a PCMCIA-to-SCSI adapter for laptop compatibility, also a rebadged Adaptec.
| Also known as IEEE 1284, Parallel Port|
Also known as IEEE 1394 interface
The retroreflective spot differs on the three media sizes such that if a larger disk is inserted in a smaller capacity drive, the disk is immediately ejected again without any attempt being made to access the disk.
Sales of Zip drives and disks declined steadily from 1999 to 2003. In September 1998, a class action suit was brought against Iomega over a type of Zip disk failure dubbed the click of death. Zip disks also had a relatively high cost per megabyte compared to the falling costs of CD-R and DVD±RW.
The growth of hard drives to multi-gigabyte capacity made backing up with Zip disks less economical. Furthermore, the advent of inexpensive recordable CD and DVD drives for computers, as well as USB flash drives, pushed the Zip drive out of the mainstream market. However, the advantages of magnetic media over optical media and flash memory, in terms of long-term file storage stability and high erase/rewrite cycles, still affords them a niche in the data storage arena. In such applications, Zip competes primarily with USB external hard drives and the Hi-MD version of Sony's MiniDisc, which stores up to 1GB on a disk that is smaller and less expensive than a 100 MB Zip disk.
In 2006, PC World rated the Zip drive as the 15th worst technology product of all time. However, in 2007, PC World rated the Zip drive as the 23rd best technology product of all time.
The company also released their own CD-R and CD-RW media under the same ZipCD name. However, the ZipCD drives would burn to any blank CD-R or CD-RW media.
Each Zip Drive sold included a sheet of yellow stickers used to label Zip disks with their contents. Some of the stickers were labeled with phrases such as "i am Confidential Stuff" or "i am offsite Backup"; however, each sheet also included one sticker with the phrase "i am the walrus" (a reference to the Beatles song I Am The Walrus). Each sticker started with the words "i am" in lower case with the "i" being shown as the Iomega logo. Other labels included the "i am not worthy" and the "i am full of great ideas" stickers.