I came across my old Zip drive and some Zip disks. I am curious what is on the disks, but my Windows system won't run them. Back in the day I thought that these would be the ultimate in archive storage.

So is there an OS (Linux?) that might still be able to run Zip drives and read the data?

Seems like my question should be a Haiku:

Old Zip Drive Don't run

once was nice choice of Archives

How Much have we lost?


Perfect OS is Needed.

(I am better at limericks.)

  • 2
    It depends what interface your drive has. At one time or another they used IDE, ATAPI, USB, Parallel printer port, Firewire, and SCSI.
    – alephzero
    Nov 29, 2018 at 20:31
  • I had an internal SCSI-attached Zip on a PC in the early 90s (after market, added by me). I believe I was running NT 3.5, possibly NT 4.0, at the time. Nov 30, 2018 at 3:10
  • 1
    I didn't VTC as duplicate, but I did VTC as unclear. It's unclear how you're trying to "run" your disks, what kind of hardware you have, and what it means to "run" a disk.
    – pipe
    Nov 30, 2018 at 8:38
  • Please... stop with the "Haiku"! A limerick would be much better.
    – wizzwizz4
    Nov 30, 2018 at 18:24

3 Answers 3


ZIP drives come with many different types of interfaces. The most prevalent were:

  1. Internal ATAPI version, most commonly installed in PCs. (An IDE version also existed, but was rather uncommon.)
  2. External Parallel port version, most commonly connected to PCs.
  3. Internal SCSI version, most commonly installed in early Macs.
  4. External SCSI version, most commonly connected to Macs, or other computers that commonly had DB-25 external SCSI ports (i.e. Amiga).

So, the first thing you need to determine is which version you have. Actually, it's not so easy to visually distinguish the external SCSI from the external parallel port version. ZIP also made an external drive that supported both of these.

Assuming you have an external drive, it's not a trivial matter to use it today. You are unlikely to find a modern computer with an external SCSI port. Some modern PCs do have the old Parallel Port, but it will need to be specifically configured for the ZIP and you will need the Driver that was designed to use it. Which means you will need to be running the OS that supported that driver - probably an old versions of Windows 9x.

The only ZIP drives that are easily supported with a modern computer is the internal ATAPI version, simply because you can attach it to a modern USB<->IDE converter and use it from a USB port. Then, the only issue is having an OS that supports whatever filesystem is present on your ZIP disks. The internal IDE version might also work. The difference between those versions is that the IDE version didn't require any drivers, it worked just like a hard disk. Obviously changing media didn't work so well since the software might not recognize the change. The ATAPI version worked with a driver, similar to CD-ROM-drives. Later BIOS releases often offered an option to boot from an ATAPI drive, and later Windows versions also supported these natively.

More specific answers will require a better description of what you have:

  1. Which version of ZIP drive hardware?
  2. Which filesystem is used on the ZIP disks?
  3. What kind of computer/OS do you have that may support the right interface or be able to use some USB converter?
  4. Are you willing to setup a special computer, or at least a virtual machine, to try to read your ZIP disks?
  • 2
    USB 3 introduced USB Attached SCSI, i.e. devices that attach via USB but use the SCSI instruction set; support was implemented in all three of the main desktop operating systems around 2014. So in theory it should be really cheap and easy to connect a SCSI drive via USB. But your answer is correct; I can find no such cable. Just a bunch of expensive and long-discontinued older options that presumably do a lot more work or else require special drivers.
    – Tommy
    Nov 29, 2018 at 21:09
  • 1
    @Tommy I'm not familiar with USB Attached SCSI, but even if that uses the SCSI instruction set, wouldn't you still need a physical converter between the old SCSI connection and USB? Nov 30, 2018 at 2:27
  • 3
    @manassehkatz yes; that's the "no such cable" — you'd still need something that spoke USB to identify the device to the computer, and to translate the signalling, to receive SCSI commands from the computer and repackage them onto a classic SCSI bus (and vice versa).
    – Tommy
    Nov 30, 2018 at 3:23
  • 1
    An IDE one should be pretty easy to get working in a modern computer as well with an IDE to SATA adapter.
    – mnem
    Nov 30, 2018 at 3:25
  • 2
    @Tommy The old USB Mass Storage is fundamentally SCSI. UAS just brings more advanced SCSI features to USB, like queuing and out-of-order completion.
    – user71659
    Nov 30, 2018 at 7:49

A not too long time ago I tried these combinations, without any problems (or any special sw installations).

  • External USB, Linux & Windows 7/10
  • Internal (I belive) IDE, Linux & Windows XP

The Linuxes were some current version of Ubuntu.


They made USB Zip drives for all three size variants (100, 250, 750) that are all standard USB Mass Storage devices. They are simple plug-and-play on a modern OS. I suggest you purchase one on eBay, where they are widely available. The 250 model seems prevalent since it was at the overlap of USB and when Zip was still relevant.

Zip drives can always read media of smaller sizes. If you care, I recall the only incompatibility is the 750 drive can't write to 100 media.

I went through the same exercise as you, recovering old media, in 2014 with a USB 250, and it worked fine on Windows and a Mac.

  • I had a USB 1.1 100MB ZIP drive. Dec 4, 2018 at 11:08

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