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June 9, 1997

A cool utility lets you boot from an IDE or parallel port Iomega Zip drive

Iomega zip drives are an increasingly popular removable storage medium. Using $15 disks that are only slightly larger and thicker than a 1.44MB floppy disk, Zip drives store about 100MB in a convenient package.

I use Zip drives for large data files, but I also install on them whole programs that are bulky and infrequently used. A Zip drive installed on an IDE or SCSI controller is comparable to a hard drive in terms of access time. People who can't spare an IDE or SCSI connection can use a version of the Zip drive that operates off a parallel port (although it operates quite a bit more slowly).

For all of its similarities to a floppy drive, however, a Zip drive (which bears no relation to PKZip compression software) doesn't work well as an A: or B: floppy drive.

That's too bad, because many people have vacant B: drives and could use a removable disk drive there.

And, if a Zip drive could be configured as drive A:, you could boot from a 100MB removable drive, which would make it easy to switch between different configurations or entire operating systems. (For example, your data files could reside on a hard drive and continue to be accessible from whichever configuration you were currently using.)

Now there is a shareware utility that allows you to boot from a Zip disk in the same way many people boot from different floppy diskettes. Programmer Benedict Chong has developed two related programs. Z-pA works with IDE/ATA Zip drives, and ZppA works with parallel-port Zip drives.

There isn't a version available now for SCSI Zip drives. (Some SCSI adapters already allow Devices 5 and 6 to be configured as bootable devices. Check your documentation.)

To determine if you have an IDE/ATA Zip drive, check to see if the drive is mounted internally, like a floppy drive, and has a 40-pin connector at the back of it. A Zip drive that requires an external AC adapter is not an IDE/ATA drive. A SCSI Zip drive, of course, has a cable that plugs into a SCSI controller.

Both versions of Chong's program reside in the master boot record of your C: drive. They run before the operating system is loaded and they detect IDE/ATA Zip drives whether or not a disk is present in the drive. When Z-pA detects a Zip drive, it configures it as drive A: or B:.

Also, computers can start up from a Zip drive configured as the A: drive just as they can from any floppy A: drive.

Having a Zip drive with an A: drive configuration also means that you can right-click files in the Windows Explorer and use the Send To menu to copy files to removable storage. The menu command Send To A: appears automatically when you install Windows 95.

Windows 95B, also known as OEM Service Release 2 (OSR2), is a particularly hospitable environment for Zip drives. OSR2 supports floppy drives larger than 100MB; previous versions of DOS and Windows supported floppies as large as 32MB. (OSR2 is available only from OEMs with the purchase of compatible hardware.)

Z-pA 0.99e and ZppA 0.91 are 30-day trial versions that are available for download from a Web site that is maintained by Chong. Z-pA is at; ZppA is at

You should also read Frequently Asked Questions at

A registered version of either utility costs $15; full support for enhanced parallel ports will soon appear in the registered version only of ZppA.

You can contact Benedict Chong at 2530 Berryessa Road No. 321, San Jose, Calif., 95132, or

Brian Livingston is the co-author of Windows 95 Secrets Gold and four other Windows books (IDG Books). Send tips to or fax: (206) 282-1248.

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Copyright © 1997 by InfoWorld Publishing Company


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