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Steve Gibson's
Click Death Q&A
(Frequently Asked Questions)
Frequently Asked Questions . . .

This site is really terrific! But I think that I need some more help with some specific questions and there doesn't seem to be anyone home at Iomega. (And I don't think I'd believe anything they told me anyway.) So is there any way for me to get help and questions answered on specific Iomega Zip and Jaz (and even Ditto drive) problems? (I know that's really not your job!)

YES! There is a very wonderful newsgroup on the Internet where many very experienced guru's hang out and really enjoy answering all sorts of specific questions and problems that people have with Iomega devices. Just point your news reader at (with two z's on jaz) and you'll find a wealth of information and help.

Any questions you ask there will be expertly answered within a few hours!

Under Windows NT 4.0 and Windows 2000, neither of your utilities (ID or TIP) seem to be able to "see" my ZIP or Jaz drives. What gives?

This is a very common problem caused by the fact that only Windows 3.1, Windows 95 and Windows 98 include built-in ASPI drivers. ASPI drivers are required to "connect" the Iomega ATAPI and SCSI drives to the ASPI SCSI programming interface used by our utilities.

 If you are using an Adaptec brand SCSI controller you may download compatible ASPI drivers directly from the Adaptec Website. The file to be downloaded from that page is: ASPI32.EXE.

 If you are using some other brand SCSI controller, or your drive has an ATAPI rather than a SCSI interface without any SCSI controller, you may contact our technical support department to learn about the latest solutions.

I checked out your information on the Zip Drives Click of Death. But most of the information and other newsgroup and web site postings seems to speak mostly about this being a problem with the disks.

Yes, We've seen that on the newsgroups, and their confusion is understandable. The disks start out fine but are actually damaged (many times permanently) by drives that are writing incorrectly. People's confusion occurs because one drive might mis-write to the disk, but not re-read that mis-written region right away, so the disk seems to be fine. Then they take that disk to a DIFFERENT good drive which will now have a problem READING that mis-written disk . . . and thus they believe that the DISK is the problem, when in fact a bad DRIVE did the damage to the disk.

And what's worse, once a drive has mis-written the cartridge's proprietary Z-Tracks, which are used by the drive to manage the condition of the cartridge, the entire cartridge will go "offline" and become totally inaccessible on ANY drive. Thus, again, the APPEARANCE is that the disk is bad -- and in a sense now it is -- but the disk was permanently damaged by a bad drive.

Whenever I use the Iomega utilities to do a long or short format, it fails at around 690r 70omplete. What's going on?

This is a very common characteristic of a cartridge that's been killed by a Click of Death drive. It indicates that all four of the cartridge's Z-tracks have been killed. (Note that you can confirm this with TIP which gives you a direct read-out of any cartridge's Z-track condition.) The 69ompletion appearance is just a weird side effect of when the drive realizes that the disk's Z-tracks can not be read or written. The cartridge will require replacement since there's no way for Z-tracks to be reconstituted in the field, and the drive that killed them should also be identified and replaced by Iomega.

I had a Zip cart that began to exhibit problems. I figured it was a bad sector, so I attempted to reformat it. No go. I figured that I'd really reformat it. I have an Amiga that comes with a default tool to format and partition hard disks (HDToolbox). The disk did not improve with that treatment. Apparently, I may have reformatted a sacred area of the disk. With that not working, I attempted to bulk-erase the disk. Still no success.

So... two questions... Can a program request that the Zip drive format sacred areas of the disk? Does bulk-erasing erase sacred data?

There are two "sacred" types of data on a Zip disk. The first is the positioning servo information that's sort of like magnetic grooves on the disk which the heads follow in order to locate the data that's stored in the tracks. The second "sacred" area are the four redundant copies of the Z-tracks, which contain the user's password, and "sector accounting" information that's used to allow the cartridge to tolerate a tremendous amount of abuse in the field.

But NEITHER of these "sacred areas" are accessible by ANY software utilities operating in the field. The servo information is written by a "servo writer" at the Iomega factory, and the Z-tracks are written by a room full of specially modified Zip drives, also at Iomega. The consumer drives shipped by Iomega have no way to access the Z-tracks, and fundamentally no way to alter the head positioning servo information.

I got the ZIP Click of Death, and proceeded to try to recover the cartridge on three different ZIP Drives. All 3 clicked on the cartridge. Are they now all unsafe?

No, those drives are NOT necessarily now unsafe ... and this is important: The drive that CAUSED the Click of Death, damaged the low-level formatting of the disk cartridge, so NO DRIVES will now be able to read the cartridge's data. Those other drives are probably fine since it's not their fault that they can't read a cartridge that was damaged by the first drive. The SINGLE exception to this occurs in RARE cases where a very bad drive actually chews up the outer edge of a cartridge so that when it's inserted into another drive, THAT drive's heads are caught on the frayed edge and are instantly destroyed. But this is VERY rare.

I've heard that the Zip cartridges made by Fuji are the most reliable. What's been your experience with the reliability of the various Zip cartridge brands?

The truth is that, regardless of the cartridge's brand name, ALL ZIP CARTRIDGES are only made by Iomega. The branding is just marketing to expose the cartridges to more retail outlets. Thus there's absolutely no difference in the reliability of one "brand" of Zip cartridge versus another.

I have one of the original internal IDE Zip drives. It works okay for now, but after reading your pages I'd like to be able to use TIP to keep an eye on it. But TIP says that I don't have any Iomega drives. What's wrong?

Unfortunately TIP can ONLY operate on the newer ATAPI IDE drives and it can't "see" your non-ATAPI IDE drive. The original IDE drive doesn't provide the commands that all of the other Zip and Jaz drive models do, so there's just absolutely no way for TIP to operate with it. I'm very sorry, and if there was something I could do I would have already done it.

In the "Iomega System Knowledge" page, Steve writes about the "lack of effective head cleaning". Somewhere on one of the other COD pages I looked at a month or two ago there were some people claiming to have been helped by doing some head cleaning. Do you yet have specific advice as to how and what to clean? I have all the "right" cleaning materials for VCRs and tape heads, and would be willing to do some cleaning, if I was sure it wouldn't make matters worse. If periodic cleaning by the user will help, some detailed advice should be developed.

Due to several factors of the Zip drive, effective cleaning can't easily be accomplished. Commercial Zip drive cleaning kits do not exist for a number of reasons: Since the disk is spinning at nearly 3,000 RPM -- rather than at a floppy disk's comparatively leisurely 360 RPM -- any cleaning fluid would be instantly spun off the disk onto the inner walls and the interior of the Zip drive head positioning mechanism. Also, since the drive uses active head positioning servo feedback, it would go insane if you tried to feed it a non-magnetic cleaning disk.

This means that the only way for the drive's head to be cleaned is by voiding any warranties, cracking the case open, and manually cleaning the heads. This process is similarly hazardous to cleaning the teeth of a saber tooth tiger, and is NOT for the typical user. Thus we STRONGLY discourage the idea. It is a pity that Iomega didn't anticipate the need for cleaning, and create the ability for a special cartridge to be used -- at a slower motor speed and with the full knowledge of the drive -- but they didn't, so we're stuck with dirty heads.

I have a disk that was clicking and TIP did say there might be a problem. I reformatted the disk and everything is OK now on this disk using your program. All my other disks check out okay too. Does this sound like the drive or that one disk?

Since only that one disk had trouble, it's most likely that some non-reoccurring event zapped that one disk. For example, perhaps it was left in the drive by mistake when the drive's power was turned off (a big no-no for Zip but okay with Jaz) But now that you have TIP you can re-run it across your disks from time to time to keep an eye on them, and by extension, on the health of your drive. A drive that's beginning to suffer from Click Death will start degrading all of the disks it touches, so seeing that would indicate a serious drive-based problems. Most serious COD sufferers people report that most or all of their disks are in trouble when they run TIP! Your drive is probably still in good shape ... but keep an eye on it!

I am using TIP on my PCs at work and it has helped me determine the health of my PC-formatted ZIP disks and my external ZIP drives. The TIP program contains a note from Steve describing a statement about Iomega agreeing to replace defective drives, even if they're out of warranty. Nobody here believes me. I am not authorized to spend our money to find out. Can you tell me how this is going, and what information Iomega needs to replace a bad drive?

No problem. Please see our web site at page: How Can I Cure Click Death? which discusses this issue at length and provides three successful customer samples. It also contains a link to a page of additional examples that will be updated periodically: Iomega Customer Return Reports

I'm a consultant working with a company whose customers (lots of them) seem to be suffering from COD. This is nasty. The earlier pages in this site mention ZIP and JAZ together, as if there is a possibility of COD occurring on either product. But the anatomy section gives me pause ... wondering why you're discussing ZIP and not JAZ. For the record, does COD occur on JAZ? ... with a frequency comparable to ZIP?

Oh yes, absolutely! Our sense is that Jaz COD hits with less frequency, but lately we've been hearing so many reports of Jaz COD that we're beginning to wonder. The total Jaz population has historically been much lower than Zip, but even so it seems to be well stocked with failing drives.

Does TIP operate on SCSI JAZ drives? (I've only seen mention of ATAPI ZIP's.)

Yes, absolutely. TIP runs on all Iomega drives, both Zip and Jaz, with the single exception of the oldest internal Zip drive which was a non-ATAPI IDE-only. Other than that TIP operates universally.

Our platform is ONLY DOS, and never Windows. Is there a version of TIP available for DOS?

TIP is exclusively 32-bit Windows, meaning Windows 95/98/NT4. It does not operate within a DOS-only environment. We're sorry that we don't have a version for DOS, but we needed to decide which ONE platform we would support (it's FREEWARE after all) and Windows, being the overwhelming majority platform in the PC community, won hands down. Could you use one machine, perhaps a Windows laptop for example, as the external Zip or Jaz drive testing machine?

Can you tell me, off the top of your head, whether Norton Disk Doctor will recover semi-lost JAZ data? ... just thought I'd ask :)

I understand your question, and the honest answer is "probably not." Norton Disk Doctor (NDD) concentrates its efforts upon the "structural" health and rebuilding of the FAT file system, whereas our SpinRite product operates primarily beneath the file system at a deeper level, working to recover physically damaged data ... which is, of course, what Iomega Click Death is all about.

Is it normal for a Zip disk with a few clicks to have TIP report problems (2pare sectors consumed, 3 unrecoverable errors under summary) but have SpinRite running at level 4 give the disk a clean bill of health? I can understand Iomega's format not seeing any problem, but am surprised SpinRite didn't see it either. I just purchased SpinRite and am testing it first on Zip Disks, so am still a beginner with it.

That's a GREAT question, and an important one. Yes, it's completely possible and even to be expected. All modern mass storage systems manage their defective sectors to hide them from the OUTSIDE world, and always appear to be perfect. You can think of it as "inside the drive" and "outside the drive".

SpinRite operates OUTSIDE the drive to recover data and preserve and maintain the condition of the drive as far as the OUTSIDE world is concerned. It shows the drive when it has defective sectors so that the drive can repair these problems INSIDE the drive -- while always presenting a "defect free" appearance to the outside world -- include to SpinRite. On the other hand, the "Trouble In Paradise" (TIP) utility was specifically written for Iomega drives to penetrate INSIDE and report what's really going on INSIDE.

Thus SpinRite and TIP present two different views of Iomega drive products. TIP sees into the hidden INNER workings of cartridges inserted into a Zip or Jaz drive -- which is valuable for early detection of drive failure. While SpinRite exercises the drive from the OUTSIDE to preserve and prevent data loss -- which is what you want for long term data reliability. For more information about this INNER and OUTER drive behavior, and how drive's present a "false perfect picture" of their condition, please see our explanation of Surface Defect Detection.

How do I properly use SpinRite as a preventative maintenance tool with zip disks? Do I run it through ALL levels of the tests?

1. First insert a cartridge that TIP has successfully scanned. This way you can see how many, if any, defective sectors have already been taken out of service and spares allocated by the drive.

2. With the Zip cartridge already inserted in the drive, start SpinRite 5.0 and run it at Level 4. This performs an extensive (and time consuming) deep test of the cartridge's recording surfaces. SpinRite is far more ruthless about identifying and removing defective sectors from use on Zip disks than any other available tool, including TIP.

3. After running SpinRite, you might want to run TIP again if you're curious to see whether SpinRite may have helped the drive to further weed out and identify additional defective sectors. SpinRite won't report these sectors since it cooperates with modern drives to allow them to remove defective sectors from use.

Having done this, you will then have the highest possible reliability attainable with your new drive and tested cartridges. Then, from time to time, perform another quick scan with TIP to make sure that new defective sectors are not piling up excessively. If they are, trouble may be developing inside the Iomega drive.

I tested both of my ZIP drives with TIP, one requiring a second test, and both gave a clean bill of health. Recently, however, on my newer drive - a ZIP Plus - I encountered three "clicks of death" on one cartridge while performing a backup. I decided to re-run TIP on that cartridge.

I got a PERFECT result from TIP - no errors of any kind - but at one point during the test, about 15 to 20 clicks of death could be heard from the drive. These were unmistakable, LOUD clicks that sounded just like heads been retracted and re-inserted. What gives? Why should so many rapid-fire clicks of death produce NO errors?

The Iomga drives "click" when, after some number of retries (typically 15) the drive has failed to read, write, or locate some data on the cartridge. The heads are then retracted from the cartridge and immediately reinserted for one last shot at the operation. When this strategy works the drive completed the operation WITHOUT reporting any error.

In other words, some clicking can be part of the "normal" operational behavior for a Zip and Jaz drive (the sound is much softer on Jaz cartridges) and does not always or necessarily mean that your drive has the "Click of Death." The term "Click of Death" only applies when the drive is unable to read, write, or locate the cartridge's data even after performing this last-ditch "clicking" operation. If the drive doesn't return with an error, then TIP presumes -- as should you -- that things are "okay enough."

Can I use TIP on cartridges that are formatted for other platforms (e.g. Mac, Linux, Nextstep)? Though I do have a windows machine, it is the least used of my platforms . . . so I have disks that need to be scanned with other formatting, and I want to make sure that TIP it won't damage them.

Yes, Absolutely. I deliberately made TIP compatible with any file systems so that it could be used under Windows to test non-Windows formats.

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: Oct 06, 2003 at 14:29 (7,586.51 days ago)Viewed 7 times per day