How Does a Zip Drive Work?

By Laura Stuart

Zip Drive Basics

A zip drive is a portable storage system that is used to transport files from one computer to another. You slip it into a computer port, copy the files, remove the drive and slip it into another computer port. Because the drive is removable, the file-storage space is limited and falls into a medium range for drive capacities. A zip drive is a combination of read/write technology. There are two parts to the head of a zip drive that interface with the computer to transport data. Inside the disk is a quick spin cartridge-like part that is similar to the flexible part of a floppy disk. That is where the code is written for storage. Unlike the floppy, the zip drive uses a 9cm micromaterial, which is much smaller and has a larger capacity due to technological innovations. A zip drive is faster than a floppy, but it cannot be compared to the hard drive that is built into the interior of a computer tower and connected to the motherboard. If you were to compare zip drives to a hard drive in the interior of a computer, you would find the hard drive to be about four times faster.

Zip Drive Capability

When Iomega introduced the zip drive, the company also introduced an innovative, high-quality, magnetic coating used on the disk to increase conductivity and transfer speed from disk to disk. That magnetic coating, which is the main point of differentiation between a zip-disk makeup and a floppy-disk makeup. The coating also makes the read/write part at the front of the drive 10 times smaller than a floppy disk. The part or read/write mechanism at the front of the drive compresses data codes into thousands of tracks per inch on the drive medium surface. The data stored on zip drives are also subdivided into sectors on the tracks to utilize all of the available disk space. The zip drive works by compressing the data, transferring the data through the read/write head of the disk, tracking the data, subdividing the data on the tracks to eliminate space, storing the information and transferring it to the next computer.

Compatibility and Zip Drives

Zip drives need to be around the same speed as the port they are slid into; otherwise, your computer will give you a warning message that the performance of your drive will be decreased because of the discontinuity. If this message pops up at the bottom right-hand corner of your computer, don't be alarmed. The drive will still work; it will just process the information and data at a slower rate, because the hard drive is faster than the zip drive or the zip drive is faster than the hard drive. An example: If your zip drive is a 250 MB drive and you are trying to copy data to a 100 MB drive, it is going to perform the medium transfer much more slowly than if you are trying to copy data from a 100 MB drive to a 100 MB drive.