Is Click Death
Contagious?
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Is Click Death Contagious?

There is an amazing amount of disagreement and mis-information surrounding this VERY IMPORTANT question. So, Steve invested quite a bit of time, energy, and effort researching the answer. After tracking down every rumor, and following up on every lead, he reached the following conclusion:

Click Death is almost, but not quite, never contagious.


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Strange Reports Directly from Iomega . . .

Iomega appears to be a source of what we consider to be mis-information about this issue. Their engineers and technical support employees have stated that "prolonged and repeated clicking" in a drive, induced by an Iomega drive trying to locate, read, or write data, can permanently damage that drive's heads!

This amazing (and we think unlikely) statement implies that inserting a Click Death cartridge -- which had been previously mis-written by some other Click Death drive -- into a perfectly healthy Iomega drive could kill the good drive!

If true, this is quite frightening. But it seems highly unlikely that since the drive was designed to retract and insert its heads to and from the cartridge, that this simple act -- no matter how many times it's performed -- should permanently damage the drive. Let's all hope that the newer Zip and Jaz drives are not that poorly designed and constructed!


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Why Click Death Seems to be Contagious

Many people who have actually NOT experienced Click of Death Contagion are led to believe that they have because of confusion surrounding the true nature of what's happening in the typical Click Death scenario.

So here's exactly what happens and why it can be very confusing:

The original source of Click Death is a drive which -- for one reason or another -- is no longer writing correctly to its cartridges. The heads might be dirty, it might have been poorly manufactured, the drive might have been mistakenly dropped, or it might just be very old and worn out. But for whatever reason, this particular drive has started mis-writing the data to its cartridges in such a way that it and other drives will not be able to easily find or read that data later.

The Iomega Zip and Jaz drive systems contain a tremendous amount of very effective fault-tolerant engineering and technology that allows them to tolerate and survive a substantial amount of abuse in the field. This means that non-transient persistent problems will tend to go unnoticed and unrecognized for quite some time.

But if any drive persists in mis-treating its cartridges, sooner or later "clicking" will be the result.

When this happens, since it's the drive and not the cartridge that's making all the noise and seems to be in some sort of serious trouble, most users will take their cartridge to another Zip drive to see if this second drive can read it. But since it's the CARTRIDGE which has now been damaged to a great extent by the original defective drive, this second drive will very likely be unable to read the cartridge ... and will make just as much clicking noise as the first drive!

... Which, of course, gives the mistaken appearance that this cartridge somehow carried the Click Death which afflicted the first drive and has similarly infected the second drive.

The truth is that this second drive can't read a damaged cartridge, and that its clicking is just its normal "retry" policy when it's having trouble locating, reading, or writing data to or from any cartridge.

Thus, nothing has been "spread" from the first drive to the second, and the only thing the two drives have in common is one damaged cartridge that neither of them can successfully access any longer. It's the FAULT of the first drive which did the damage, but now ANY DRIVE will click when trying to access that cartridge's data.

So as you can see, the confusing nature of the damage which results in clicking can understandably cause users to draw the wrong conclusions.


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Now for Some REALLY Bad News

There is one rare type of ABSOLUTELY AND INSTANTLY
FATAL CONTAGION that has been absolutely confirmed! . . .

PLEASE NOTE that the following is VERY RARE, and is ONLY
known to afflict Zip -- and NOT Jaz -- drives and cartridges.

The media inside a Zip cartridge is completely flexible like that of a floppy diskette. Jaz cartridges use a rigid media similar to a hard disk drive, but Zip drives use thin and flexible mylar-based magnetic disks.

In rare cases, when a Zip drive's heads are being loaded into the cartridge, they snag upon the outer edge of the mylar disk which is spinning at 2,941 revolutions per minute. The result is nothing short of a total catastrophe:

Either one or both of the drive's read/write heads are usually ripped from their mountings and left dangling by their electrical interconnection wires. But while this is happening the outer edge of the rapidly spinning mylar Zip disk is significantly torn and shredded.

The drive's built-in on-board brain doesn't know what has happened, so it unloads and reloads the heads many times as it's been instructed to do when it is unable to locate, read, or write the data inside a cartridge. And the user hears a repeating "Click ... Click ... Click" sound, followed by an error report from whatever software was trying to perform the data transfer.

Now Hold Onto Your Seats, Because Here
Comes an Even More Horrible Catastrophe!

The unwitting user, who is now naturally quite concerned about the cartridge's irretrievable data, finds some other Zip drive, perhaps another one that they own, or maybe one belonging to a friend or co-worker. And they innocently insert their cartridge which now contains a mangled, torn, and shredded mylar disk!

This INSTANTLY kills the second Zip drive as its heads are snagged and ripped off their mountings by the torn and frayed edge of the KILLER CARTRIDGE!! This really happens, and has happened to a number of Zip drive owners with whom we have been in contact.

The following eMail we received reports the death of three perfectly good Zip drives being serially killed by a single killer cartridge:

FYI -- I read your COD diary tonight after having quite a bad zip week so far. We have had three zip drives beheaded by one disk! You reported hearing about this happening, I've seen it today in spades.

I work in an biotech R&D lab in Rockville MD, we have been using zip drives for about two years without a problem. We scan much of the DNA work that we do for notebooks and presentations. Photoshop and Illustrator are used constantly.

Back to the problem, we have a new Mac G3 with a Scsi zip insider. Since the drive didn't appear to be working the person tried two other zip drives to access the data not knowing the disk was now bad.

The next day it appeared as though a virus had attacked our zip drives. It was not until I looked at the heads did I notice that they were knocked off and dangling by their wires, on all three drives! We inspected all of our disks, finding the culprit with major pieces of the disk material missing. A few other disks had nicks on the edges, possibly from trying to use the bad drives.

This gentleman was kind enough to send us one of the drives and cartridges for our inspection. You can see for yourself the results of this decapitating killer cartridge!:

This photo provides a side-view of the Zip Drive head assembly extended as it would be when inserted into a cartridge.

The two bright white wafers are the upper and lower read/write heads which should be firmly attached to the left ends of the upper and lower metal supports, but as you can clearly see they are floating free, dangling by their wires, and ready to shred any cartridge that comes along!

This is the disk that was shredded by the first drive, and which then instantly killed two other drives that received it.

You can see that a sliver of the disk's mylar was sliced cleanly away, and the magnified area provides a close-up of the "killer notch" that was created. Any drive that now encounters this disk will be quickly and violently "beheaded."

Click Here to Read Another Horror Story


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Catching a Serial Zip Killer Before it Kills Again:

It is obviously VERY IMPORTANT for you to carefully inspect the mylar disk inside of any clicking Zip cartridge BEFORE it is inserted into any other drive! You should similarly check anyone else's Zip disks if they report that they have been having trouble with their disks in their Zip drives before you allow them to try them in your drive!

Failure to do this could instantly kill any perfectly good Zip drive!

To inspect the outer edge of the mylar disk inside a Zip Cartridge, hold the cartridge in strong light, slide and hold the protective metal shutter open, then slowly rotate the cartridge's metal hub with your fingers. Take your time as you rotate the disk all the way around through at least 360 degrees.

Unfortunately, the view of the mylar disk is "edge on", which makes it surprisingly difficult to spot any missing mylar. We were surprised by how difficult it was to see the notch in the disk shown above even though we knew that the disk had a chunk missing from it!

So you'll need to look VERY carefully as you rotate the disk.

But with plenty of lighting it is possible to see and detect some mylar disk damage in this fashion, and it's certainly worth your time and trouble if it means preventing the sudden catastrophic death of a Zip drive.

Zip WarningAs you might expect, Iomega Corporation is very aware of this problem. So, to protect their replacement drives from instant death at the hands of their unwitting customers, they have recently started including this bright yellow warning notice in the packaging of replacement drives. (Click on the image to view it full size.)


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In Conclusion

So the bottom line on the Zip disk contagion question is that true contagion of Click Death is more illusion than reality, but that serious head damage inside a Zip drive CAN in rare circumstances create a serial killer Zip disk that will instantly "behead" any other Zip drive which receives it.



What IS the
Click Of Death?
How can I tell if
I have Click Death?
What can I do
to PREVENT IT?
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: Oct 03, 2003 at 21:17 (5,099.68 days ago)Viewed 5 times per day