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Zip disks were introduced to the consumer market by the Iomega corporation in 1994.  They represented a significant increase in storage capacity over the existing 3.5" floppy disk and were produced with capacities of 100 MB, 250 MB, and 750 MB.  While Zip disks resemble 3.5" floppies, with similar dimensions and a sliding metal shutter, they are noticeably thicker than the earlier media.  These media were popular in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but consumers eventually moved on to writable optical media and USB drives. 

Identifying Disk Types

Properly identifying the capacity of a Zip disk is important because a larger capacity disk (i.e., a Zip250 or Zip750) will not be able to be read by the Born Digital Preservation Lab's Zip100 drive.

The capacity of a given Zip disk will be noted on the label; seen below are a  Zip100 disk (note that this example is Mac formatted): 

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and a Zip250 disk:

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Please note that the BDPL currently does not a drive that is capable of reading larger capacity Zip disks (i.e., 250 and 750 MB).  If such disks are sent to the BDPL, they should be marked as 'failed' with a note in the BDPL Ingest Tool interface explaining that we lack the appropriate equipment.  The BDPL manager will follow up with the collecting unit to determine if they wish to send the larger capacity disk(s) to a vendor.


While the Zip disk casing is comprised of a heavier-duty plastic than what is used in a 3.5" or 5.25" floppy disk, the same general precautions should be taken with this media type:

  • Avoid ANY magnetic fields.
  • Excessive light exposure may damage plastic jackets.
  • Avoid excessive humidity. If mold is detected on a Zip disk, we will need to contact the collecting unit to determine appropriate steps to clean the disks.
  • Never open or remove the protective "door" or shutter on a 3.5" floppy.


The BDPL currently has a Zip100 drive, which is only able to read Zip100 disks:

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Please note that the Zip drive has a dedicated power cord (stored alongside the Zip drive in the BDPL) and the USB cable has a type B end that plugs into the drive (and a standard type A connector that connects into the Tableau write blocker).

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USB type B connector.  Retrieved from

Write Protection

Neither Zip disks nor the Zip drive have any write-protection mechanism.  To avoid inadvertently changing file system metadata during the ingest process, it will be necessary to connect the Zip drive to the Tableau T8u Forensic USB 3.0 Bridge (pictured below with the Zip drive).

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To use:

  • With the Tableau T8u turned off, plug in the USB device into the appropriate port.
  • Connect the Tableau T8u to the workstation with the blue USB 3.0 cable.
  • Attach the DC power cable to the Tableau T8u and then plug into an outlet.
  • Connect the power cord to the Zip drive and connect the drive to the T8u via the USB cable.
  • Insert the Zip disk into the drive.
  • Power on the T8u:
    • The lights on the right side of the forensic bridge will indicate the power, connection to the device and workstation, and indicate that write-blocking is activated.
    • The device will appear in the Windows File Manager.
    • When data on the device is read, the 'Activity' light will glow red.