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Need data off about 30 mac zip disks...

BSide

New Member
Joined
Aug 12, 2022
Messages
2
I finally found a stash of zip disks my wife stored stuff on back in the day. I also have a firewire zip drive, which I believe I previously used to read some other zip disks years ago. However, I can't seem to find my FW400 > FW800 adapter to plug the thing into my "oldest" Macs (a 2012 mini, a 2012 Mac Pro). So i took it out of the case and hooked it up to both machines via a USB>ATA adapter (the drive in the case is just ATA). It is recognized in both machines, but neither machine recognizes the disk contents. I'm running Big Sur on one of the Pro so I don't expect it to be able to read HFS/HFS+, but I believe Mojave (on the mini) should be able to? I am unsure if it's the USB>ATA adapter, or the drive, or the discs :( I also tried hfsutils on linux, that didn't work either.

Does someone have a working mac + zip drive, or just zip drive w/FW800 cable, that I could borrow (rent?) for a few hours to try and copy the data off these disks? Or suggestions about what I might be missing here. Very possible there's something wrong with the drive.

Thanks for any pointers!
BSide - SF Bay Area
 

BSide

New Member
Joined
Aug 12, 2022
Messages
2
Oh, this is a good idea, hadn't thought of trying that. I ended up ordering a 400>800 cable from amazon to see if that helps; I could swear I used this zip drive with an adapter to read disks in the past. If that doesn't work then I will definitely seek out another Zip drive, as that seems the next most likely culprit (assuming not all the disks were just scrambled at one point, which feels unlikely).

As part of the experimentation trying to get things to work last night I went so far as to try SheepShaver (contemplating that the disks might be HFS not HFS+ and perhaps pre-OSX would fare better) which was kind of fun and nostalgic, but not actually helpful as there's no way to connect external devices to it, which I should have guessed to start with.
 

bolex

Experienced Member
Joined
Feb 6, 2021
Messages
243
Location
Utah
It might be worth just buying a working USB Zip drive. I have a USB 250 Zip drive that I've used to read very old zip 100MB disks. It works just fine on my Windows 10 system.
 

GiGaBiTe

Veteran Member
Joined
Apr 30, 2015
Messages
2,813
Location
Austin, Texas
Oh, this is a good idea, hadn't thought of trying that. I ended up ordering a 400>800 cable from amazon to see if that helps; I could swear I used this zip drive with an adapter to read disks in the past. If that doesn't work then I will definitely seek out another Zip drive, as that seems the next most likely culprit (assuming not all the disks were just scrambled at one point, which feels unlikely).

Zip drives and later disks had notoriously high failure rates. The mylar film could fray or crack, and/or the magnetic film could flake off. Damaged Zip disks were notorious for damaging the heads on the drives, and in some cases, could rip the heads out of the drives. The "click of death" Zip drives got so bad that a class action lawsuit was filed over them.

Also, swapping a Zip disk from a Mac to a PC and back can clobber all of the data. Mac OS uses resource forks to store data, and Windows has no concept of it. Just the action of reading the Zip disk in a Windows PC can completely clobber everything on the disk.

Zip drives were great for moving around large amounts of data at the time, but they were not at all reliable, especially for long term data storage.

As part of the experimentation trying to get things to work last night I went so far as to try SheepShaver (contemplating that the disks might be HFS not HFS+ and perhaps pre-OSX would fare better) which was kind of fun and nostalgic, but not actually helpful as there's no way to connect external devices to it, which I should have guessed to start with.

Basilisk II, a 680x0 Mac emulator can attach external storage devices. You'd probably have much better luck running System 7.5 or 8.1 on Basilisk II than Sheepshaver.
 
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