KarbosGuide.com. Module 4d.

Other drives

Here we look at other drive types not previously mentioned:

  • Super floppies
  • Zip
  • LS 120
  • Sony HIFD
  • MO-drives
  • Next page
  • Previous page

  • Super floppies

    With the increasing performance in magnetic hard disks you may expect a similar development in the production of the floppy drives. However,it took many years to get alternatives to the 1.44 MB floppy disk. Now we have three drives to choose from, all using special 3½ inch media.

    All of them perform very well and are stable and pretty fast:

    Drive Capacity Comments
    Iomega Zip 100 MB 10 million sold units makes it the most compatible drive
    LS120 120 MB Read and write on 1.44 MB floppies as well
    Sony HiFD 200 MB Read and write on 1.44 MB floppies as well

    Use the Zip, the LS120 or the HiFD in new PCs - they are cheap and good for backup. You also find portable PC Card versions of these drives.

    The Zip drive

    The Zip drive uses a kind of diskette, which can hold 100 MB. In my opinion, the Zip drive works excellently. They are stable, inexpensive, and easy to work with. The drives are not the fastest.

    I and many others have used Zip drives since they came on the market. This provides us with a common standard to move large files and to make back-ups. For example, you can use this drive to install Windows 95/98 on a computer without a CDROM and avoid having to insert numerous floppy disks.

    The 100 MB Zip disk is borderline size. However, compared to the work I had to do previously, compressing files with PKZIP onto multiple diskettes, these are very practical.

    Two types of interface

    The Zip drive exists in different versions:

  • Internal and external
  • For SCSI and to floppy/parallel port

    The SCSI model is by far the fastest. That is really good. If your SCSI controller is installed with Windows 95/98, you just have to install the drive with two screws and two cables and you are in business.

    The parallel port version is good, because it can be connected to any PC. I have a boot diskette, which includes a driver plus the program GUEST.EXE. I connect the drive to a parallel port, and boot with the diskette. Then it is ready to run.

    I have the quite fast SCSI version installed in my stationary PC. I use the somewhat slower parallel port version "in the field."

    My latest information is that almost 20 million Zip drives have been sold (October '98) and that they sell 1 mill. a month. This speaks for itself and makes it a de facto standard.

    The BIOS manufacturers AMI and Phoenix include the floppy version of the drive in their programs as a boot device. That will eliminate the need for other drivers, and you will be able to boot from the Zip disk.


    Since 1993, we have heard about the LS120 drive and now it is available. It is a 120 MB standard designed by the company Imation. LS120 is supposed to replace the regular floppy drives. At the same time, they read the traditional 3½" floppy diskettes (DD and HD) much faster than the ordinary floppy drives.

    The LS120 ought to have become the new floppy standard, but it has come too late with all the installed Zip drives.

    The drives, coming from Imation, use EIDE interface, and they are comparable to the Zip drives.

    However the SCSI-version of Zip is several times faster than the LS120 drive.


    Sony has a super diskette drive called HiFD (High Floppy Disk) holding 200 MB on a 3½" floppy disk.

    Like the LS120, the HiFD disk drives can read and write old 1.44 MB floppy disks in addition to the new high density disks. However, it should be a lot faster than the LS120 drive.

  • 3.6 MB/s maximum transfer rate (read)
  • 1.2 MB/s maximum transfer rate (write)
  • 3,600 rpm rotational speed with dual discrete gap head (flying head type) and a high speed head actuator with VCM (voice coil motor)
  • Recording Capacity: 200 MB (formatted), 240 MB (unformatted).
  • Disk Diameter: 86 mm
  • Track Density: 2822 TPI (111 t/mm)

    The HiFD drive is the best performing of the three super floppies mentioned in this article. However, compatibility is often more important than performance. In that case Zip is the winner.

    MO drives

    Magnetic Optic drives represent an exciting technology. The medium is magnetic, yet very different from a hard disk. You can only write to it, when it is heated to about 300 degrees Celsius (The Curie point)

    This heating is done with a laser beam. The advantage is that the laser beam can heat a very minute area precisely. In this manner the rather unprecise magnetic head, can write in extremely small spots. Thus, writing is done with a laser guided magnet. The laser beam reads the media. It can detect the polarization of the micro magnets on the media.

    MO disks are fast, inexpensive, and extremely stable. They are regarded as almost wear proof. They can be written over and over again forever, without signs of wear. The data life span is said to be at least 30 years. There are many MO drive variations, but all are very expensive. The only mainstream use of the MO-technology is found in Sony's recordable MiniDisc.

    All other drives are very expensive (>$2000). For example:

    Sony SMO-F551 MO Drive

  • Continuous/Composites (ISO/IEC 15286) format
  • Direct overwrite magneto optical drive with 5.25-inch double sided disk
  • 5.2 GB (2,048 Bytes/sector), 4.8 GB (1,024 Bytes/sector), 4.1 GB (512 Bytes/sector)
  • 3,600 rpm/ 3,300 rpm

    Maxoptix T6-5200


    Near-field recording

    A new magneto optical technology with flying heads and solid immersion optical lenses is called near-field recording. It promises 20 GB high density magnetic storage on 5.25" plastic media. Check www.terastor.com for further information.

  • Next page
  • Previous page

    Learn more

    Module 4e about tape streamers (which not are drives).

    Module 5c about the SCSI interface

    Module 6a about the file systems.

  • [Main page]
    [Karbo's Dictionary]
    [The Software Guides]

    Copyright (c) 1996-2005 by Michael B. Karbo. www.karbosguide.com.