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What IS the
"Click Of Death"?
"Click Of Death", "Click Death", and "COD"

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Click Of Death, Click Death, and COD are names describing the first symptom of a set of serious data threatening problems being encountered with increasing frequency among users of Iomega's Zip and Jaz removable media mass storage systems.

Without any warning a Click Of Death drive begins emitting a series of audible and distinctive clicking sounds, either when a cartridge is first inserted or when attempting to read or write data to or from a previously inserted cartridge.

The word "Death" appears in the names for this problem since that's exactly what occurs in real life: Minutes, hours, or days after the clicking is first heard, the drive -- and usually one or more of the user's cartridges -- suddenly dies without warning. And since people tend to rely heavily upon their Zip and Jaz cartridges for the storage of their important data, this typically results in spontaneous, catastrophic, irreversible, loss of all their data.

The uncertain nature of this problem, coupled with the catastrophic loss of so much user data, and the fact that a COD drive starts damaging its own cartridges -- which in turn appear to be "infected" with Click Death -- has generated a great deal of superstition and mythology, not to mention anger, on the part of Iomega's users.

Iomega Corporation's reaction to this very real problem has been difficult to understand, since they've been largely unwilling to acknowledge and accept any responsibility for this very real defect in many of their products. As you can see when you browse the typical Click of Death web sites on the Internet, Iomega's policy of denial has fueled the fire and greatly upset their users more than anything ... even to the point of causing their users to file class action lawsuits.

Iomega's customers are understandably unhappy because they feel that more warning should have somehow been provided to them, and that Iomega should be taking some reasonable responsibility for this sudden death problem. But so far it hasn't.

Steve's approach as a scientist, engineer, and software developer was different. Getting angry and trying to hurt Iomega wasn't going to help Iomega's users. A response to the problem was what was needed, and it was clear that Iomega's users would need to seek a solution from somewhere else. Therefore we decided to research, develop, and provide such a solution.

Steve extensively researched and explored the problem to determine what could be done to cure and/or prevent it, and then created the freeware software program, "Trouble In Paradise", which is highly effective in predicting and preventing user data loss from the onset of Iomega Click Death.

These pages are designed to provide Iomega's customers and users of Zip and Jaz drive products with a thorough understanding of the problem, a reliable set of tools and preventive measures, and some avenues for recourse in the event that an Iomega customer needs to return a diagnosed-defective drive and/or cartridges to Iomega.

A Bit of History

Shortly after the release of version 5.0 of SpinRite -- which for the first time could run on device-driven and SCSI-like drives such as Iomega's Zip and Jaz -- we first encountered the term Click Of Death. Our SpinRite users were reporting that whatever the Click Of Death was, SpinRite 5.0 was somehow able to fix it.

Well, unfortunately, this turned out to be untrue. SpinRite 5.0 was able to perform its well known disk drive repair, data recovery and maintenance work on these Iomega drives. So it was turning out to be useful to our customers for repairing and recovering from the aftermath of Click Death. But since Click Death itself is caused by a failure of the Iomega drive hardware, it is definitely not curable by software. (SpinRite is, however, the most effective tool to use after you've replaced a defective Click Death drive to re-write and revive your existing cartridges.)

But our user's claims that SpinRite cured Click Death brought the problem to Steve's attention shortly after the release of SpinRite 5.0, and started him wondering whether he could create something special for Iomega users. The answer to that question turned out to be decidedly YES, and the first of Steve's two programs "Trouble In Paradise" (just 46k bytes) is now available for free download from this site.

It might be worth noting that not everyone is of the (true) understanding of the true genesis of Steve's Trouble In Paradise utility. Here's a note an amused friend of ours received from Iomega's "technical support":

I don't know how much you know about trouble in paradise, so before it can cause more damage to drives I'd like to give you (the company) a little background info about the program and it's creator. I am a tech support agent for the Iomega Company. The creator was a tech rep for us at one point some time ago that was terminated. He was quite upset about the reason for his termination so he wrote a program and distributed it as a test for clicking zip drives. The program spins the disk in the drive at such a high rate that it overheats the head and dislodges the magnetic material on it, causing the drive to start to make that "clicking" sound. Granted, it is completely up to you what you do with this information, but please take what I have to say into consideration when you decide wether or not to distribute that program in the future. If you do not want to take my word for it, give us a call at: 1-888-4-IOMEGA and ask exactly what that program does.
Thank you for any consideration

Sheesh! The question is not how much YOU know about "Trouble in Paradise", but how much Iomega would apparently prefer that you DIDN'T KNOW about the low quality of their products! (And just for the record, NOTHING in the note above is true. There is NO 'programmatic' control available over the speed of the disks spinning inside the Iomega products. Software couldn't change their speed if it wanted to. And it's not Steve's intent to IN ANY WAY damage Iomega equipment. Quite the opposite is, in fact, the truth.)

The second program, with development to follow the release of TIP, will be an inexpensive utility of interest to all users of Iomega removable media products -- whether they've had trouble or not -- since it will allow them to monitor the condition of their entire collection of removable media throughout the life of their data.

To be informed of the completion of Steve's second program for Iomega users, simply add yourself to the GRC Corporate News Blog by clicking the link.

The Cause of the Clicking

Iomega Zip and Jaz drives cause Click Of Death by incorrectly writing to their removable media. This miswriting can damage the user's data, the factory-written low-level formatting, the head's positioning servo information, and the proprietary "Z-Tracks" that are used internally to manage and maintain the Zip and Jaz drive's cartridge data.

The clicking sound itself is nothing more than the sound of the heads being retracted from the cartridge into the drive then immediately reinserted. This deliberate strategy is employed by the drive when it is having trouble locating, reading, or writing any of the cartridge's data. This removal and reinsertion of the heads recalibrates the head positioning mechanism, "scrubs" the heads to remove excessive oxide deposits, and eliminates electrostatic charge build-up on the heads.

It is VERY IMPORTANT for you to understand that the clicking sound itself is NOT the problem. The clicking is just an audible indication of a drive that is having trouble accessing the data on a cartridge.

So for example, if a cartridge that was clicking in one drive is inserted into another where it also clicks, this DOES NOT MEAN that this second drive has now been somehow infected by Click Death. It only means that the damage that was done to the cartridge -- probably BY the first drive -- has now made the cartridge unreadable by any other drive, which will also "click" as it tries to access the damaged cartridge's data.

Incidents of Click Death have been linked to bad external power supplies, loose power connectors, excessive magnetic oxide build-up on the drive's heads, magnetic and radio interference from nearby sources, media damage from excessive wear or mistreatment, and a seemingly endless array of internal electrical and mechanical problems from causes ranging from excessively rough handling of portable drives through defective original manufacturing.

Why is this Happening all of a Sudden?

An unbiased appraisal of recent evidence compiled from many user's experiences as related directly to us by eMail, on the newsgroup, and on many other Click Death web sites, strongly indicates that Iomega is no longer reliably producing drives with the same durability and reliability that they once were.

The appearance is that recently manufactured Iomega products are experiencing a significantly higher incidence of problems -- both immediately after purchase and after relatively short term use in the field -- than the older versions of the Zip and Jaz drive products which established their reputation for quality and reliability.

Steve Gibson's Click Of Death FAQ page contains many of Steve's interactions with Iomega's customers. Though these experiences are anecdotal in nature, reading them one gets the clear sense that something must have gone very wrong as Iomega attempted to scale up their Zip and Jaz drive manufacturing in order to meet the huge demand for what were originally very reliable drives.

Steve Discusses Click Death on Television

Steve appeared on the Ziff-Davis Television Network (ZDTV)/TechTV   "Screen Savers" program to discuss and explain the Iomega Click of Death problem. During the second half of the show, Iomega's General Manager of the Zip Aftermarket Business, David Hellier, joined the show by telephone to present his company's view of the Click Death problem. If you're curious to hear the audio track for the entire program, including David Hellier's contribution, the following links provide it: (audio only)

 The Audio Track of the ENTIRE Show -- lower quality (700k RealMedia)
 The Audio Track of the ENTIRE Show -- higher quality (4.1 Mb RealMedia)

What IS the
Click Of Death?
How can I tell if
I have Click Death?
What can I do
Is it contagious? How can I cure it? How does SpinRite
figure into this?
What else has been
written about this?
The anatomy
of a Zip drive
Steve Gibson's
Click Death Q&A
Can you notify me of important news? So what's next?

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Last Edit: May 04, 2013 at 18:12 (4,088.40 days ago)Viewed 35 times per day