Aug 2000                                                                                                     

Web Master Wanderings
By Curt Potsic, Space Coast PC Users Group

Home Page

Current Issue

The Space Coast PC Journal 

SCPCUG Web Master Curt Potsic

Have you heard of the "Click Of Death" (COD)? If you are a Zip drive owner I would strongly advise you learn all about it as quickly as possible because the COD may be waiting to steal your data when you least expect it. I had heard about the COD back in 1998 but did not pay much attention to the stories.Zip Drive After all there were many, many Zip drives in use. Surely Iomega must have solved the problem. So imagine my surprise in April 2000 when out of a clear blue my 100 MB Zip drive started clicking away and having great difficulty reading the directory contents on one of my data backup disks. I had only used this disk twice before and it had worked fine. I inserted another disk with previously recorded data and again my Zip drive started clicking away. After the clicking sounds, the directories for each disk eventually did come up but I could not now write to either disk. I know I had not write protected these disks. What to do? I was not about to risk losing anymore Zip disks. I called my friend Tony Schulz and drove over to his house. Tony had just bought a new 250 MB USB Zip drive. His drive could also read and write to 100 MB Zip disks. We tried my disks. Tony's drive also had difficulty coming up with the disk directories but it did not exhibit the clicking sounds. We managed to copy my data to his hard drive but we could not write to my Zip disks. Yet Iomega's software said my disks were not write protected. The only option left was to reformat the disks. After reformatting, Tony's drive could write to and read my disks with no problem. This whole experience certainly gave me a sinking feeling. To think that the Zip drive format that I had depended upon for archiving my precious data and backing up files was in fact not dependable.

Next I turned to the Internet and a search to find out more about the COD. I will not go into detail here but just point you in the direction of several sites that have done an excellent job of providing all of the necessary information.

If you own a Jaz or Zip drive you need to check Coping With Zip And Jaz Drives at This site has a lot of great information on things like Drive Configuration, Software/Driver Issues, General Usage Tips, and Special Questions & Troubleshooting ( It was on this Special Questions page I found the question "My Zip drive is clicking! Or what is Click of Death?" The answer was to go to Steve Gibson's Zip & Jaz Drive Click of Death Research Resource Page ( You may remember Steve Gibson's name from SCPCUG member Ed Hughes' article on Internet Security "Safeguarding Your Internet Connection" (

Steve Gibson has put together a detailed report covering many pages on this "Click Of Death" problem. There is a lot of reading here but well worth it. Steve has pages devoted to answering the questions "What is the Click Of Death?", "How can I tell if I have the Click Of Death?", "What can I do to prevent it?", "Is it contagious?", and "How can I cure it?" In "The anatomy of a Zip drive", Steve gives you a look inside a Zip drive with an explanation of how the internal parts work. If that's not enough, there is a page devoted to answering Frequently Asked Questions about the Click Of Death. All of this is must reading for any Zip or Jaz drive owner.

"Trouble In Paradise" (available at is a Freeware program written by Steve Gibson for Zip or Jaz drives. This 52 KB download will help warn of impending data loss and/or drive failure. Wish I had known about this program before my Zip drive failed.

You may be wondering what Iomega has to say about the COD. Not much! The COD by name is never mentioned. I found one page under Iomega Support that mentioned Zip drive clicking ( Iomega seems to be keeping a very low profile on the COD. If you want to find out what is going on in the real world try the newsgroups and If you want to go back further than the current messages use ( as I had suggested last month. is at[ST_rn=fs]/group/ and is at[ST_rn=fs]/group/ There are a lot of sad stories out there. Some people are on their third and fourth Zip drives.

So what is the bottom line. Well it seems Iomega "may" replace a drive, even if it is beyond it's one year warranty, if you can prove to them you have the COD problem. This will take a bit of persuasive talking on your part. Steve Gibson's site has all of the info on what you need to know and say. It appears that Iomega will also replace some Zip disks that have experienced the COD.

Now here is the sad part of this story with respect to my 100 MB internal Zip drive. I purchased an OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) version. (OEM is actually a misleading term. An OEM company is really a customizer. They buy in bulk from the original manufacturer and then market a customized version under their own name.) The OEM Zip drive I purchased has NEC Corporation's name on it and came with the standard one year warranty. I bought it on the Internet for $65 plus $9 shipping in Feb 1999. The retail Iomega version was selling in the stores at the time for $100. Sounded like a great deal! My drive was made in Oct 1998 and I installed it in Feb 1999. So it was used for approximately 14 months (just out of the one year warranty) and probably has less than 25 hours of actual run time on it. I used it to archive data files from my scanner, photos and graphics, wav and midi files, etc. I also used it to backup some critical data files like the SCPCUG website, my personal website, and my browser bookmarks, addressbook, and saved messages.

Since my Zip drive does not have Iomega's name on it they will not replace it. The same applies for disks that have been the victim of the COD. Iomega will only replace disks with their name on it although they make the disks for everyone. I have chalked this whole experience up to another one of life's lessons. I will also never purchase another Zip drive as I feel there must be an underlying design problem which Iomega has yet to solve. Reading the newsgroups mentioned above clearly shows these drives are still failing with the COD.

So while pondering what to do for archiving and backup, another seemingly great deal came about. Office Depot ( was offering CD-RW drivethe Smart and Friendly ( 4x4x24x CD SpeedWriter RW Internal CD-Recorder for $130. That sounded like a good deal since the Smart and Friendly web site was offering a reconditioned version of the same model for $179 and Office Depot was claiming I was getting an instant cash rebate of $70 off of their normal price. A bit of clarification may be in order for those not familiar with the meaning of 4x4x24x. That means this CD-Recorder will write at 4x speed (600 Kbytes/sec), will rewrite at 4x speed (600 Kbytes/sec) and will read (or playback) CDs at 24x speed (3600 Kbytes/sec). If you are interested in the history of CD-R (recordable) and CD-RW (rewritable) recording checkout an article written by Hugh Bennet titled Call It Erasable, Call It Rewritable at Although this September 1996 article is a bit dated it contains excellent information. And if you have any questions at all on CD-R and CD-RW recording go to Andy McFadden's CD-Recordable FAQ at This is a very comprehensive and well organized site.

Meanwhile, back to my Smart and Friendly CD SpeedWriter. According to the box "more than $1100 of software and accessories" are included. I don't know how accurate that dollar figure is but the list of included software is impressive. In addition to Adaptec's Easy CD Creator Standard Edition ( that most, if not all, CD-Recorders come with, the bundled software included PowerQuest's Drive Image (, Sonic Foundry's CD Architect and Sound Forge XP (, Diamond Cut's Audio Restoration Tools 32 (, MediaPath's CD-Quickshare with MediaAgent32 (, and ECI's Disc Inspector Pro ( Besides Easy CD Creator, I'm not sure yet how much of this software I'll actually use. Some of it seems quite sophisticated and tailored toward the professional but it's nice to know I have it just in case a need arises.

So now I am saving my files on CD-R and CD-RW disks. It is a lot cheaper than buying 100 MB Zip disks at approximately $8 each. I can fit 650 MB of data on a CD-R disk that costs about 40 cents when purchased in bulk as 50 blank disks on a spindle. I am very pleased with my Smart and Friendly CD-Recorder. It does a great job of recording data CDs and I have also used it to make custom audio CDs to play in my car CD player. There is just one thing that could ruin my day again. I have seen recently on the Internet several references to Smart and Friendly having financial problems and speculation ranging from the company trying to reorganize under Chapter 11 to it may be out of business. Since it is a privately held company, information is not readily available. Their website is up but makes no mention of the company's present financial status. So the question arises as to what this means with respect to my one year warranty. Guess I'll keep my fingers crossed that my CD-Recorder keeps on working.

Note: Web Master Wanderings articles contain links to external web sites. Web addresses are constantly changing. There is no guarantee that the information links provided in this article will remain unbroken or up-to-date beyond the date that this article is originally published.