Iomega Zip

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Click Of Death

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.

Since the symptoms of Click Death are the result of cartridge damage induced by malfunctioning drives, you must be absolutely certain that your new Iomega drive is working correctly before you attempt to clean up whatever damage which was done by the previous Click Death drive. To verify that your drive is capable of doing more good than harm see the "Once You Have Replaced Your Drive(s)" paragraph just above this section.

Our findings, and those of many happy users, have shown that just running our freeware "Trouble In Paradise" (TIP) utility with a healthy drive on a troubled cartridge will often completely remove all signs of damage and restore the cartridge's sectors to full health! In other words, when used on a healthy drive, TIP is very effective at keeping cartridges in good health. During this process some previously damaged areas may be relocated by the drive, but this is to be expected and is completely normal behavior the first time through. After a full TIP pass over the cartridge, the cartridge should function without any further trouble.

In cases of severe previous damage, and especially when the data stored on the cartridge is important and must be recovered for use, a true data recovery tool should be used instead of TIP (since TIP does not work to recover unreadable data and can not prevent a sector's spontaneous relocation before all possible data has been retrieved). Our own commercial SpinRite 5.0 mass storage data recovery and maintenance utility is the best tool available for this purpose.

Method to fix

Here's all you'll need to perform the disection. Your drive, the zip disk, and a small (thin blade) screw driver. Remember . . . . by opening this up you are probably voiding any warranty or hope of coverage should you mess something up. Personally, if you do this right, they'll never know you were in the thing. It's that easy to do.

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Here you see how the thing comes apart. If you look at the unit length-wise you'll see two slots where it's silver --- right in the "halves" of the unit. Simply stick the screwdriver in there (don't marr it or pry -- that's a good tip-off you've been in it!) and then gently squeeze the unit. That will pop the top loose from it's mounting tab. I would do the left side (opposite the feet) and then the right -- the right only has one tab to pop.

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At this point you'll have the top off. If the zip disk is still in it, there is a little lever in the rear that will allow the unit to pop the disk out without the power. Be careful with the unit from this point on -- the top holds the mounting rails into the unit. Make careful note how the drive mechanism and those mounting rails are situated. If I accidently let mine slip down, I can put everything back together with no problems, but make sure you can do the same!

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Now we get into the interesting "theory" part. You'll see the spring and the lever. That controls the return of the head back into the unit. My "theory" is that the unit gets jostled and will lock the head too far back. Once it does this, it won't move the head back to properly read or write again. On my particular unit, fixing this arm position always revives the unit. Your mileage may vary on what happens.

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My first thing to do, is to move the little arm by itself. (Shown here). This will ensure that the head will then move forward again.

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Next, I slide my screwdriver into the head mechanism slot. Very gently I move it forward. It WILL NOT move all the way forward the length of the rail. The servo (or whatever controls it) still has control over it . . . . moving it forward too far will cause irrepairable damage. That will also nix any hope of getting it fixed out of warranty later.

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Personally, at this point I put my unit back together, because it's usually fixed. I would recommend very carefully testing it. It's a pain, but it saves popping the unit apart again. I hook up the cables and slide a diskette in the unit. (At this point, you might accidently slide those rails apart -- so proceed with caution!) I power the unit up and check to make sure it reads from my zip disk. 90% of the time it does, sometimes I have to "re-jiggle" the head.

Once you have verified everything you can button it back up and expect some more usage from your Zip drive. I personally believe the head mechanism is going beyond it's limit of travel and is catching. That might be causing the clicking noise when you attempt to read a zip disk. I'm thinking of adding a small spacer to keep the head just a teensy further bit forward. This problem will come back after some time -- that's why I'm looking at a permanent fix.

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