Windows & Other OS

How to read a Zip disk on a modern PC or Mac


Is your invaluable data kept in a Iomega Zip disk from the 1990s or 2000s? There are several easy ways to copy files from Zip disks to a modern PC or Mac. We will show you how.

The big caveat: copying is the easy part

Before you get too excited about transferring data from an old Zip disk to a modern computer, you should know that copying data successfully is only half the solution. Once the data is safe on your new machine, it can be trapped in an outdated file format that your modern applications cannot read or understand.

To actually read the data you copy, you will need to figure out how to use Virtual machines or emulators like DOSBox and old apps to convert your data into a format you can use, and that’s well beyond the scope of what we’re going to cover next.

First, evaluate the state of your Zip disks

If your Zip disks have been stored in a hot, humid attic or damp basement for 20 years, you may have trouble reading them. Mold can grow on the surface of the magnetic disk under the wrong conditions, putting your data at risk. If your drives show signs of extreme mold or water damage, but the data on them is very valuable, it may be worth a try. to put on in contact a data rescue service first. Attempting to read a very dirty disk can further corrupt the data on the disk or damage the Zip drive that is trying to read it.

The original 100MB Zip disks
If your Zip disks are clean and stored properly, reading them should be easy. Iomega

Otherwise, if your Zip disks are clean and undamaged, have been stored in a mostly air-conditioned space for all these years, chances are good that you will be able to read them. But first you will need a working Zip drive.

If all goes well, buy a Zip USB drive

To read data from a Zip disk, you need a Zip drive. Fortunately, there are old Zip USB drives that still work with modern PCs and Macs. If you don’t already have a Zip USB drive, you’ll need to borrow one from a friend or buy one yourself.

One Zip USB Iomega 100, 250, and 750 drive
The Zip USB Iomega 100, 250 and 750 drives work well with modern PCs and Macs. Iomega

Starting in December 2021, you can get a Zip USB drive on eBay for between $ 50 and $ 200, depending on the condition and type. Almost any Zip drive with a USB connection will work, including the 100MB, 250MB and 750MB models . Larger capacity drives can read smaller capacity disks (such as 100MB) easily. Just make sure you don’t buy a Zip drive with a parallel port or SCSI connection by accident. Those non-USB models will not work with modern PCs or Macs.

Once you have a Zip USB drive in hand, the way to proceed will depend on whether you are working from a Windows PC or a Mac. We will cover each scenario in a different section below. We’ll start with the Mac first because it has the most caveats.

How to Copy Data from Zip Disk to Mac

If you are trying to read old Mac format Zip disks with a recent Mac running an updated version of macOS, you will run into a major roadblock very quickly. This is because most Mac-formatted Zip drives use the now obsolete format HFS or HFS + file system that macOS cannot read today.

What is a File System , questions? It is a software method that determines how an operating system writes data to (and reads data from) a storage medium such as a disk or hard drive. The Macs current they use the APFS file system . But until Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard (2009), the Mac operating system supported writing to HFS and HFS + disks. So if you formatted a Zip disk with a Mac before 2009, chances are very high that it is in HFS or HFS + format.

Zip drive in an Apple Power Mac G3
Your Mac Zip disks are likely written in HFS format on a Mac PowerPC. Apple

To read HFS or HFS + Zip disks, you will need to be using a Mac with macOS 10.14 Mojave (2018) or earlier. If you don’t have one, you can try run an older version of macOS in a virtual machine and then link it to your Zip USB drive. But that is a very technical and difficult solution for most people.

More easily, you can buy a cheap used Intel Mac Mini that runs an older version of macOS and then copy the files to a modern machine via a USB or LAN key. That’s not as bad as it sounds: As of December 2021, you can get an early Intel Mac Mini (like a Core Solo or Core 2 Duo model) for around $ 50- $ 100. on eBay . They’re plentiful, so keep an eye out for a great deal on one that works.

A Mac Mini Core 2 Duo
A Core 2 Duo Mac Mini is a good low-cost machine that can serve as an intermediary between HFS-formatted Zip disks and a modern Mac. Apple

Once you’ve got your old Mac in hand, just plug your Zip USB drive into the Mac, open the drive’s icon that appears in Finder (or on your desktop), and drag your files to copy them. Once on the intermediary Mac, you can copy the files to a USB flash key or via LAN to your modern Mac.

Ironically, while recent versions of macOS don’t natively support legacy Mac-formatted Zip disks, they do support legacy MS-DOS and Windows disks. So if you have ZIP disks formatted for IBM PC or Windows, you can insert them into a Zip drive connected to your Mac and copy the files easily. Go figure!

How to Copy Data from Zip Disk to Windows

If you have Windows 10 or 11, it is very easy to copy data from Zip disk. First, plug your Zip USB drive into a spare USB port on your PC. Then insert a Zip disk and the drive will appear under “This PC” in File Explorer, usually labeled “USB Drive.”

Double-click the ZIP drive in File Explorer.

Double click on the Zip drive icon in File Explorer and you will see the contents of your Zip disk. May copy the files as you would any other disk or drive. For example, you can drag the file icons wherever you want them to go, or right-click and copy them then paste them in a destination.

Drag the files from the Zip drive to their destination destination.

Windows can read Zip disks formatted in FAT, FAT32, exFAT, or NTFS formats commonly used by MS-DOS and Windows for decades. Windows 10 or 11 cannot read Zip disks in Mac format unless you use a special utility called HFSExplorer , with mixed results. For Mac discs, it is better if read on an old Mac and then copy the files to your Windows PC via USB drive or LAN.

Problem solving

If you hear a lot of clicks on your Zip drive while trying to read a disk, you may have a bad Zip drive or a bad disk. If this happens, try reading other Zip disks, ideally those that were stored in a different condition. It may be the only bad disk. If none of them work, either all disks are bad (less likely) or the drive is faulty (more likely). In that case, buy another Zip USB drive on eBay and give it a try.

If you don’t have any more Zip disks to test your drive, you can also buy a blank Zip disk on eBay and try to format it, then read and write to it. If that works, then the disk you were originally trying to read is the problem.

When all else fails, contact a data recovery service

If your data is extremely valuable, a data recovery or rescue service it might be worth it. A data recovery service is a company that specializes in recovering data from damaged or outdated computer media. Such a service can be very expensive, so if it’s just a 1995 JPEG cat that you want to recover from a Zip disk (or a floppy disk ), it may not be worth it.

We cannot recommend a particular recovery service, but we do search in Google a » Zip disk data rescue service «, You will find potential services to consider. Remember to shop around, compare prices, and also look for reviews (if available), before mailing in your priceless records. One last tip: If you ship your Zip disks by mail, be sure to insure the package for any amount, as they are less likely to be lost in transit. Carrier employees may be liable for damage to insured items, so they treat them with more care. Good luck!

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