The zip disk is manufactured by Iomega and it is often called an Iomega Zip disk. It is a 3.5 inch removable floppy diskette but differs in some significant ways from standard floppies and therefore is discussed separately on this website.
The disk is housed in a rigid plastic jacket with a metal sliding gate just like a standard 3.5 inch floppy diskette, but the jacket is thicker and of better quality.
Like other floppy disks, the structure consists of a base of polyester plastic that is slightly thicker than a standard floppy, but of course is still flexible. The polyester base is coated on both sides with a polymeric binder that contains the magnetic oxide.
This binder-oxide coating is of better quality and with a smaller oxide particle size than standard floppies. This allows for a greater storage capacity than a standard 3.5 inch floppy disk because the read/write heads can be smaller and thus more tracks can be packed on the disk of the same size.
The Iomega disks come in capacities of 100 MB (introduced in 1995), 250 MB (introduced in 1998), and 750 MB (introduced in 2002), which are significantly higher than the regular 3.5 inch floppy disk. In fact, the 750 MB provides more storage capacity than a CD (700 MB). With such high capacities, these disks are an option for the storage of large digital files such as high quality digital images, audio, and video, and therefore can potentially be used for digital scrapbooking storage media, if one chooses to do so. However, for the most part, other options are more economical and better suited for the long term storage of digital files.
This diskette cannot be read in a standard 3.5 inch drive but instead requires its own Iomega zip drive. The drives can be internal drives, like the floppy drives that typically come with computers or they may be external drives.
Note that not all Iomega zip drives read all Iomega zip disks. The 100 MB drive can only read and write 100 MB disks. The 250 MB drive can read and write both 250 and 100 MB disks, whereas the 750 MB Iomega zip drive can read all three capacity disks, but only write the 750 and 250 MB disks. The read and write speeds of these Iomega disks are faster than the standard floppies, but still nowhere near the speeds of hard disk drives. A similarity with hard drives is that the read/write heads float over the surface of the disk and do not make contact with the disk surface as is the case with standard floppy disks.
Zip Disk Reliability versus Other Disks
It is believed that these zip disks are more reliable than standard floppy disks although a major recall has occurred in the past due to disk failures. They still can be damaged from dust, dirt, and debris, and therefore use and storage areas should be kept clean. See the floppy disk storage page for more information. A common reported problem is users placing a regular 3.5 inch floppy disk in an Iomega zip drive which can damage the drive.