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Zap It to a Zip

If you need backup storage, these portable drives could be just the thing.

November 16, 2000|JEFF LEVY | jefflevykfi@hotmail.com

Zip drives are ideal for backing up valuable information in your computer--giving users the ability to save as much as 250 megabytes on a single disk and take it with them. Zip's manufacturer, Iomega, sells drives that connect to your computer several ways.

An internal ATAPI Zip drive slides into an open bay and connects to the computer's hard drive controller. The benefits here are that the drive doesn't require any desk space and it works faster than external printer-port Zip drives. Those ordering a new computer can request an internal Zip drive. Otherwise, you have to open your computer, mount the Zip drive in the case and connect power and data cables.

Small Computer System Interface, or SCSI, Zip drives are faster and can be installed either in the computer case or as an external accessory. The downside is that you need to install an adapter card in your computer. The card can add a couple of hundred dollars to the price of the project.

Another Zip drive connects to your printer port using a special cable that allows both the drive and the printer to work on a single port.

The only benefit to having an external printer port Zip drive is that it can easily be connected to other computers. The downsides are that this is the slowest of the drives, and some popular printers--notably those made by Hewlett-Packard--don't function when connected to your computer through a Zip drive.

A new Zip drive model connects to your computer through the Universal Serial Bus, or USB, port.

The beauty here is that you simply load the software supplied on a CD-ROM, plug in the drive, restart the computer and you're in business. It's that easy. The USB Zip drive is faster than both the internal and the printer-port external drive.

Iomega also makes a PCMCIA-based Zip drive that connects to a special slot on a notebook computer.

The benefit here is that the drive can be used on any PCMCIA slot-equipped notebook computer. The downside is that you can use the drive with a desktop computer only if that computer also has a PCMCIA slot.

Iomega provides these drives in several storage capacities. The basic Zip drive uses disks that store about 100 MB. The other available Zip drive uses a disk that can hold 250 MB. This model can still read and write to 100 MB disks, but not the other way around.

High-capacity units called Jaz drives store as much as 2 gigabytes and come in internal and external models.

Which model is right for you?

If you simply want to back up work such as word processing and spreadsheet files, the 100 MB or 250 MB models do the job. If you want to back up huge amounts of data or lots of programs, the Jaz drive might be your best choice.

Internal Zip drives start under $100, whereas external units run a little higher. Expect to pay an additional $50 to $60 for the 250 MB drives. Jaz drives run about $350.

*

Jeff Levy hosts the "On Computers" radio talk show from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on KFI-AM (640).

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