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So I am trying to manually eject a Zip disk from a Zip drive. This is not a OEM Zip drive, but one made specifically for a Pentium laptop. I went to the dollar store and bought a pack of paper clips, as I probably havent had or seen a paperclip in years. Unfortunately, the paperclip would just bend under the pressure of trying to push in the eject mechanism. It could just be the dollar store paperclips are made out of inferior metal than "quality" paperclips. However, I dont want to go shopping for paperclips. Even if I find one that works, I will more than likely lose it (or the entire pack) and not be able to find one when I need it again. I have several sets of micro-screwdrivers, but while a few are thin enough, they arent long enough to reach the eject mechanism.

So my questions is, is there a tool out there that is thin enough, long enough, and strong enough for ejecting Zip disks (and CDs, etc)? I would like something that is larger than a paperclip - something I can put in a toolbox and not lose. Any ideas?

Edit: Surprisingly, there are no "zip-drive" or "tool" tags

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  • 3
    I think this is more about finding a modern long thin durable metal bar than it's use on retrocomputing. That said, many CD drives were sold with a fancy metal tool to open them instead of using paperclips.
    – Justme
    Jun 13, 2023 at 16:15
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    Your local hardware store likely has spring steel wire in various diameters and lengths.
    – Jon Custer
    Jun 13, 2023 at 16:19
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    Paperclips - ah the old tool of choice. For Zip drive eject, CD/DVD (still today!) eject and for serial port ("real" serial ports - e.g., RS232 and similar, not this newfangled USB stuff) troubleshooting. For serial ports doesn't matter much, but for eject, there are two (maybe more, but 2 mainly) sizes of paperclips - regular and jumbo. You might well need jumbo for this, though I finally tossed my last Zip drives a few months ago, so can't say for sure. Jun 13, 2023 at 17:11
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    Got any "sim tray tools" that might be floating in a junk draw? They are pretty sturdy, although might not be long enough depending on the Zip.
    – Coxy
    Jun 14, 2023 at 0:07
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    @Coxy Sim card ejector tool is definitely not long enough
    – Keltari
    Jun 14, 2023 at 17:04

8 Answers 8

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The problem is almost certainly the quality of the dollar store paperclip. If you buy a box of paperclips from a stationary store, you are more likely to get paperclips made from thicker and stronger metal that will work.

From this comment:

there are two (maybe more, but 2 mainly) sizes of paperclips - regular and jumbo. You might well need jumbo for this. - @manassehkatz-Moving 2 Codidact

To keep from losing your chosen paperclip, and to make it easy to find in your toolbox, use cord or wire to attach it to something such as a small board or piece of cardboard. You can label the board or cardboard if desired.

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  • Also, get larger than the standard paperclip size. They are made with thicker metal.
    – Glen Yates
    Jun 13, 2023 at 18:28
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    You won't buy a single paperclip unless it's one of those giant ones. Instead of trying to tether one paperclip, put the pack in a drawer. If you have a toolbox, throw in a few paperclips. Jun 13, 2023 at 19:50
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    @WeatherVane I suggested buying a box of paperclips, not a single one (as you note, you can't generally buy single paperclips). A small box of paperclips is inexpensive. Jun 14, 2023 at 4:04
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    I keep a "good" paperclip and two bandaids in my wallet at all times.
    – Criggie
    Jun 14, 2023 at 23:48
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    @Criggie - no P38 can opener? - If memory serves me right, jumbos are too big.
    – Mazura
    Jun 15, 2023 at 21:32
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A very thin Allen key. I've got a .05" one in my toolkit which was originally there for aligning Shugart floppy discs and by now is used almost entirely for misbehaving DVD drives etc.

I'd caution against sewing needles, thin twist drills and so on since they're often tempered "hard" rather than "tough" and having one break can be unpleasant.

Off-topic observation: the blue Zip drives are identical in colour to one model of SGI computer. I don't know whether this was a coincidence, or was due to a large order being cancelled when they were found to have reliability problems.

Somewhat later observation: I might be wrong here, but I have a vague recollection that at least some of the Zip drives we had didn't have an eject hole but instead had a very small wire loop at the front which needed to be pulled with a spring hook or a pair of needle-nose pliers. I can't find this on any photos, so it might be specific to the fairly early SCSI-connected drives we were using.

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  • Do you mean the SGI O2? A lot of the other SGI models were closer to mauve/purple, apart from the 540 (the Octane was more of a Teal). However the IOmega ZIP 650 looks purple. Jun 14, 2023 at 17:42
  • Can't remember TBH, but I had one and out of curiosity slipped a standard (SCSI?) Zip drive (i.e. not a CD) into the blanked 3.5" position and any colour mismatch was undetectable. One thing I didn't do was check the colour against a RAL swatch (a bit like Pantone, but specifically for plastics) since if it had turned out to be non-standard it would have been significant indication of a (failed) attempt at collaboration. Jun 14, 2023 at 20:39
  • 0.05" isn't "very thin" for a hex key, or at least not if you've used 0.7mm! but that or a 1mm should be good here
    – Chris H
    Jun 15, 2023 at 8:48
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    I assure you that I've used /much/ smaller tools than that. However apart from its provenance the interesting thing about this particular tool is its length, which is about 7" rather than the inch or so you'd expect for something that thin. Jun 15, 2023 at 10:42
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    I'm not sure that knitting needles ("knitting pins" to some I believe) exist that thin. Crochet hooks definitely go down to at least 0.5mm but looking at my repair kit tend to be tapered, also I don't know how tough they are since they're not intended to handle more than a single thread at a time. Jun 15, 2023 at 13:40
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Sewing needles are made of harder steel than paperclips.

Buy a pack of assorted sizes, ideally with small eyes. Stab the largest size that fits into a cork (along the axis of a wine cork would work well) or large eraser to use as a handle, so you're not inserting the sharp end into the drive. There's no need to push on it like you're pushing a pin into a board, just grip it in your hand in case you push far too hard and manage to get a long needle right through and out the other side.

For big holes, you can also use the handle part of a foldback binder clip, though you may need to straighten it with pliers. I think I did that when I had a zip drive, but possibly using a rather small clip

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    This one sounds honestly quite dangerous. You're going to push the needle right through your cork/rubber "handle", sooner or later, probably sooner. And that's going to be a trip straight to hospital. Jun 14, 2023 at 15:06
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    @ConnieMnemonic how often do you expect to use it? And hospital for a little prick in the finger? Although I was envisaging gripping the cork, not pressing against the end (hence "handle"; I would have said you were using the cork as a pin head if you're pressing against the opposite end), so I need to edit that in
    – Chris H
    Jun 14, 2023 at 15:10
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    This is not dangerous. Most of the wine and beer corks that I have seen are about the length of a sewing needle, so at the very least you’d know before it pokes through. However you’d probably know well before that because the needle would no longer travel enough to reset the pin first. As for the potential consequences, just be sure to invite all the fairy godmothers to your kids baptism and you’re good. Jun 14, 2023 at 15:34
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    @WayneConrad a few strokes of a file will blunt a needle nicely, that's true. Then you could use it either way round
    – Chris H
    Jun 14, 2023 at 15:37
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    @WayneConrad Diagonal cutters intended for copper would definitely be damaged. Ones with a "piano wire" rating might not be damaged. The cut pieces with sharp pointy ends are likely to try to fly apart at high speed. Jun 15, 2023 at 19:23
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SIM card eject tool. You can get quite nice ones with a cover to keep the tip from being damaged.

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    As noted in this comment, it probably isn't long enough Jun 15, 2023 at 7:54
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    @Greenonline I don't remember the zip drive eject being that long, but it was a long time ago. I asked for some clarification about how long the OP thinks they need for this. Jun 15, 2023 at 12:43
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While I bought it as a sim removal tool, there's watch band removal tools - which are essentially a pin on a knurled handle. I got one off aliexpress years ago

enter image description here

and it looks like this. You can get the pin with different diameters and they're a lot sturdier than 'regular' sim card tools or paperclips

The pokey bit is about 1.5cm and the handle is about 4cm on mine.

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  • How long are the tips? It would be useful to state that in the answer. As noted in this comment, they might not be long enough. That said, they do look very nice. Jun 15, 2023 at 16:16
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    Updated with that information. And yeah, they are very nice, and useful for a whole bunch of other things too :D Jun 16, 2023 at 1:42
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Sewing awl handle, plus potentially sewing awl needle. I don't know the technical name for the type of fastener, but you put the needle in and spin to tighten down like a drill chuck, so you could change out the needle for a quality paperclip or something. The needles that come with it will are possibly OK for this task since sewing awls are usually used for leather or other tough material where you may need to put a lot of force to get the needle through the material, but you might want to file the end otherwise the point can damage the plastic pin that you push to release the drive. Also, as a bonus, the needle might come with a specified gauge so you can decide if a given needle will fit before you purchase. Just watch out for ones where the needle is tapered since it will probably not fit far enough in.

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1mm drill bit. Just be careful not to snap it.

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The tool is the "CD drive ejector pin", the trouble is that you can hardly find it today. It came routinely with better quality drives back then, I still have one in my desk tray, although I haven't used it in ages, of course. Much sturdier than a paperclip, actually, it would require quite some force to bend it.

Having said that, there are three contemporary tools, all easily and readily available, that can do the same.

  1. Desoldering needle. Just Google it, you'll get ample results. Even a full set is very cheap, but you only need one that fits. Comes with a nice, colored handle, just like a real tool. :-)

  2. A simple and ubiquitous hypodermic needle. Just grind off the point to make it blunt (no need for special tools, you can remove the sharp point even with sandpaper and a little bit of elbow grease).

  3. Sewing machine needle (not sewing needle but sewing machine, specifically, those have a thicker stem that makes it much easier to handle in this case). Again, grind off the sharp point.

Actually, either of the first two would be the best. If you want the handle, just buy a cheap desoldering needle set. If you want a quick but sturdy workaround, get a hypodermic in the nearest pharmacy. The sewing machine one might be brittle, as other have noted, I never really tried. But the first two are hollow, rather strong for their size, stainless steel and would probably outlast any intended use.

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  • You can get blunt ended needles, although maybe not from a high street pharmacy.
    – nekomatic
    Jul 5, 2023 at 10:06

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