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WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU NEED MORE SPACE

An old joke in the computer industry holds that you can never be too rich or have too much space on your hard drive. Despite the monstrous sizes of these storage devices--measured now in gigabytes, or billions of bytes--PC owners can soon find that their new hard drive is overflowing with seldom used data. Fortunately, there are simple solutions to the storage blues.

One of the oldest remedies for hard-drive clutter is installing a tape-backup unit. These devices have become fairly standard within the computer industry, making them cheap--around $99 to $200--and available from various makers such as Seagate Technology and Colorado Memory Systems. Meanwhile, the space available on a typical tape cartridge has grown to match that of hard drives. Iomega, for example, sells a $200 unit called the Ditto 2GB that can pack 2 gigabytes of data onto a single cartridge.

ZIP CITY. The problem with tape drives is that they are notoriously slow. It can take hours to make a complete copy of a typical hard drive. What's more, tape drives are only good for backing up and removing unused files from your PC. In order to use the files stored on tape, you must reload them onto your PC's hard drive.

One way around that is to use a so-called removable storage drive. These devices typically have the same mechanical innards as your computer's hard drive, but the disks that actually hold the data are removable. Once one disk becomes full, owners simply pop in a new blank disk, and they're ready to cram more programs onto their PC.

There are two types of removable drives. The first, typified by Iomega's wildly popular $150 Zip drive, uses disk cartridges that are composed of soft magnetic disks--much like common 3.5-inch floppy diskettes. While these disks even resemble chunky versions of those old diskettes, they are able to hold more than 100 megabytes of data, allowing owners to easily move large software programs between computers. The only drawback to these drives, which will work on any IBM-compatible PC or Apple Macintosh, is that they're moderately slow. The Iomega Zip drive takes about twice as long as a typical hard drive to read a file. The LS-120, a removable made by Insite Peripherals and featured on certain Compaq machines, is about five times slower than a typical hard drive.

The other type of removable storage devices use rigid disks. These drives, such as Syquest Technology's $300 EZ-230 Flyer or Iomega's $499 Jaz drive, can store 230 MB or 1 GB worth of data, respectively, and are as fast as nonremovable hard drives. But they're expensive. Not only is the initial cost of owning these drives high but replacement disks are also pricey: $30 for the EZ-230 cartridges and $100 for the Jaz cartridges. Alas, in the endless quest for computer storage space, one may never have a chance to become too rich.

By Paul Eng


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Updated June 14, 1997 by bwwebmaster
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