A good support tech has many admirable qualities, including intelligence, alacrity, patience, and tenacity. It was this last quality in particular that saved a TechRepublic employee from tossing out a perfectly good Zip drive.

During his struggle to figure out the problem with the drive, he displayed yet another admirable support tech quality: a willingness to reach out for help.

Here’s the tale of the tenacious tech, the problem Zip drive, and the company that went above and beyond.

A little background information

Before CD burners and CDs became so inexpensive, the Zip disk was the most inexpensive and convenient way to carry large amounts of data around.

Even though Iomega has expanded its product lines to include a variety of storage devices, the company built its reputation with its Zip and Jaz drives. Iomega’s product line now includes PocketZip, Microdrive, and a variety of CD burners.

The Zip drive comes in two basic varieties: 100-MB and 250-MB. Each of these models is offered with various connection types, such as USB, SCSI, ATAPI, and parallel.

The problem appears

Figure A
The Iomega 100-MB Zip drive and power supply

The problem drive was about a year and a half old when our coworker stuck a disk in the Iomega parallel port, 100-MB Zip drive he had hooked up to a Windows 2000 Pro machine at home. (See Figure A.)

The disk spun, some clicking noises came from the drive, and then his system froze. Sometimes he could recover his system using Task Manager.

Eventually, when he powered up his machine, the Zip drive would not be assigned a drive letter, and when he stuck a disk in the Zip drive, both the green power light and the amber read/write light would glow continuously. The only way he could get the disk to eject was to push a straightened paper clip into the manual eject hole in the Zip drive.

At one point, he had to use the Windows 2000 repair disk to fix his system when all the drive letters were lost during his investigation into why the Zip drive wasn’t working properly.

His immediate thought was that he had a malfunctioning Zip drive, and, as it was past its one-year warranty, he thought the best thing would be to simply toss it away.

Being stubborn pays off
Even though he was disappointed at what he thought was a poor-quality product, this TechRepublic employee couldn’t give up on the Zip drive without one last attempt to find a fix.

On Iomega’s Web site, he went to Technical Support, explained the problem, and asked if he could return the drive. Iomega’s Tech Support asked him to call them so they could hear the clicks that he described in his e-mail.

When he got on the phone with the support technician, he was asked to connect the Zip drive back up to his computer so the tech could hear the clicking.

“No way this is going to touch my system again,” he told the technician, explaining how he had to repair the system once and he didn’t want to have to do that again.

The technician then asked him if he would mind plugging the Zip drive’s power supply in, without connecting it to the computer. The TechRepublic employee said he would do whatever he could, short of connecting it to his computer again.

He was instructed by the technician to insert a disk, and when he did, both the green power light and the amber read/write light stayed on.

That was enough for the Iomega support technician. “I think you’ve got a bad power supply,” he told our coworker, adding that he would send a new one to him despite the fact that the drive was past its warranty.

Two days later, the new power supply showed up. The TechRepublic employee, in a fit of uncharacteristic optimism, plugged the Zip drive back into his computer and the new power supply into the Zip drive and his power strip, and turned everything on.

His Zip drive worked perfectly. Problem solved.

Don’t waste time! Check the power supply!

How common a problem is the power supply with Zip drives? If you had the same problem, what did you do to diagnose and solve it? Tell us what you think in the discussion below or send us a note.