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ATPM 7.02
February 2001


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Review: Iomega Zip CD-RW 4x4x6

by David Ross,


Developer: Iomega (product page)

Price: $279-299

Requirements: G3-based Mac with USB, Mac OS 8.6.

Recommended: 680 MB hard disk space (for CD duplication).

The Iomega ZipCD 650 USB looks good, is easy to use, produces excellent results, and its technical support is speedy and efficient. Yet I wish I’d never bought it.


Buying, installing, and using it is easy. This 4x4x6 CD-RW cost £180 UK pounds inclusive of local taxes (although inexpensive, you should note that the pre-tax UK price of £155 equates to around $30 less than the price quoted here). I was able to order online over a weekend with delivery on Tuesday.

The drive itself is a one-color-fits-all purple which may not integrate 100% with my blueberry iMac but hey, I’m after functionality, not fashion. And at the price paid, I was also willing to overlook the rather flimsy CD tray.


Setup and installation were easy. With a funky jazz track in the background, an Australian woman talks you through a simple process designed for new users that enables you to learn about the software, view the hardware installation guide, and view the user manual, as well as install the software. Unless you particularly like the music or have a thing for antipodean accents, the seasoned Mac hack should just double-click and install.

At this point, it has to be said that I started casting an envious eye over the extras that come for use on a PC. Still, no point in fretting. I’ve used Macs long enough to get used to the limited range of software available on peripherals.

Burning CDs

The ZipCD contains Toast 4.0, and although I’d never used a CD-RW before, I found it easy to set up and understand. If I faced any problems, there was always a comforting PDF manual on hand to refer to.

The Toast interface appears mid-screen with what at first I took to be firefighter’s helmet but which, on further inspection, turned out to be a couple of slices popping out of a toaster on a platter. Instructions couldn’t be clearer. The intuitive interface and the application of drag-and-drop means that most Mac users should have no difficulty in making sure this particular piece of Toast lands butter side up. There is a drop down menu for the Toast functions—files and folders, audio CD, and disc copy. Below that is a recorder status box that lets you know if Toast can detect the drive’s presence or not. So far so good. Time to try it out as I gingerly selected the (default) files and folders function for text data.


Within minutes, I was burning my first CD with nothing more than a cursory glance at the manual. I’d heard horror stories about the time it takes to burn a CD so I started off with a 50 MB text folder to get the feel of things. Having dragged and dropped, I chose Simulation Mode from the Recorder menu—a handy little function which, as you would expect from the title, simulates a recording in real time. If all goes well, there should be no Toaster coasters when it comes to the real thing.

Moving on to creating an actual CD, there is one item that needs to be foremost in your mind. After choosing Write CD you will be given the options of Write Session or Write Disk. Session allows you to use the unused segment of a CD-R at a later date. With a CD-RW, the same option allows you to update or add new material without having to erase the original. This, of course, assumes you have enough space left on the disk. You can check this by going to Disc Info under the Recorder menu.

Choosing Write Disk on a CD-R means that, once the disk is written, it can’t be used again. With a CD-RW, you can use the disk again if you’ve chosen this option, but you will have to erase the existing contents first. If you are absolutely certain that you won’t need to use a particular disk again, choose Write Disk; otherwise play safe and go with Write Session.

I was pleasantly surprised that in under five minutes, my CD was ready. Having also read tales about CDs that would only work on the machine that created them, I forsook my G3 iMac 350 (Mac OS 9.0.4) and tested the CD on my old Power Mac 5500/225 (Mac OS 8.1).

Everything was perfect, even down to the custom folder icon on the desktop. Until now, my backup process involved e-mailing between my two machines. No more. By copying to the desktop and replacing the old folder on the Power Mac when prompted, I had acquired an instant update. Just what I wanted a CD-RW for.

Having tested the water and found my feet getting enjoyably wet, it was now time for total immersion—-some serious backup. Time to store every piece of data I needed for work, every little thing that I needed which wasn’t on an installation disk, and, importantly, every download on my computer that had taken more than 15 minutes. You may laugh, but this is an important issue to those of us on this side of the big pond. ISPs think nothing of cutting off Net access after a maximum of two hours, and often much less than that. An effective backup means an end to howls of anger when a download approaches 95% just as a Finder message tells me I’ve been disconnected.

At 4x, a full 650MB disk should be ready in just under 20 minutes—and it was. One thing to watch out for here—after writing the disk, Toast will ask if you want to verify it. If you don’t eject within a few seconds, verification takes place automatically, adding more time to the process. And of course, the more you’ve written, the longer the verification process—up to 12 minutes on a full disk.

Time is relative. As a newcomer to CD writing, I was happy to let the verification process ride, though I’m not sure what options would be left if it failed to verify. (Presumably, the ability to wipe the disk so that it is reusable. Either Toast is unclear about this or I have missed something.)

Now some people might think 20 minutes is a long time, but I was happy to get a break from my desk, stretch my legs, make a coffee, and read the newspaper while the CD burned (fairly) quietly in the background.

Then the Trouble Began

I was just thinking about what to do next—test the audio CD function, perhaps try to copy an audio CD, or maybe try out the optional audio play facility—when the I got the first inklings that something was up. While busy in AppleWorks, I started receiving error messages, number -110, an odd address or out of range error. I was a bit perplexed by this but, as nothing shut down, I foolishly carried on as normal.

Next came the online freezes, first in IE 5, then with Netscape 4.74, and finally with Netscape 6. Reasoning it couldn’t be all three browsers that were awry, and not wanting to believe my lovely new drive could be causing problems, I started going through my folders, discarding old items, demos past their trial date, preferences for long-dead software, that kind of thing. I even gave my mouse a long-awaited and much-needed clean.

But things just got worse.

Memory error messages started creeping in for no good reason. Then came the crashes, the inability to reboot, and spookiest of all, a Mac which had been put to sleep overnight was now awake before me in the morning. Given that the year is 2001 and I’m called Dave, I was tempted to start calling it HAL!

The next step was to start reading up on Forums. I visited all the usual suspects, learning as much as I could about possible problems with CD-RWs. This prompted me to update to Toast 4.1.2 and start again.

I’ve got to stress here that at no time did the drive itself give me any grief. It burned away happily, and my backup has never been so secure. Both CD-R and CD-RW functions worked fine. I’ve had no problems with using my disks on PCs. And how anyone can complain about speed when a 650 MB disk can be filled in under 20 minutes is beyond me. Though with the associated problems, I still haven’t used the audio CD facility.

Still the freezes and crashes persisted. So now it was off to Iomega’s Web site for some tech help. Their assistance was first class. Online help is available Monday through Friday, and unlike some other online services, it’s accessed quickly. There are even a couple of icons to let you know their operative is reading/researching or typing, a boon to anyone who’s ever been left hanging in the ether wondering where their online support has got to.

And, also unusual, they know their Macs. The response I normally get from online support is “a Macintosh? Uh, hold on…yeah, I think we’ve got somebody knows about them…um, err, doesn’t appear to be around at the moment,” or words to that effect.

At Iomega, by typing in your OS as well as the product before you speak to a helpline assistant, you are guaranteed to get someone familiar with Mac OS broadly, if not with particular systems or machines. Iomega also leaves you with a screen page transcript of your session, and will e-mail you a copy for future reference.

The advice I got was sound. Basically, some idiot (me) was using his CD-RW with a USB hub rather than plugging directly into the iMac. Problem solved? Not really.

Online support is one thing, but as I’m in the UK, I’m running eight hours ahead of PST, so it was the following morning before I tried to fix things. Still the same. Sudden quits, including several while writing this article, Disk First Aid forever claiming to repairing the hard drive during restarts, freezes on start-up. TechTool Pro telling me my system’s fine. And by now it was a weekend so it was back to Iomega, this time by e-mail.

Again a prompt response, from their European HQ, suggesting, for the first time, that there may be an extensions conflict, in which case the offending item is the software rather than the drive. A phone call to their London office was less productive, more or less claiming that this kind of thing was to be expected and that it was other manufacturers faults that their products weren’t compliant with Iomega’s drive!

Perhaps I’m being incredibly naive, but I don’t expect to have to change a scanner and printer that have served me well (and in any case are under a year old) when I buy I new piece of hardware. Especially when the hardware claims to be fully compliant with my machine, OS, and other peripherals.

The upshot of this advice was: only plug in the drive when you want to use it, do the same with other peripherals, or disable extensions for other peripherals until the source of the conflict is identified. Since the great claim for USB is its ability to be hot pluggable, the idea of constantly plugging, unplugging, and restarting forever and a day until a possible extensions conflict can be found is a distinctly unappetizing one.

And, since the drive itself works perfectly well, it can’t be sent back. Even if it could, there is no guarantee that the same thing wouldn’t happen again. And if it is a software problem? Well, what then? Toast seems to be pretty standard for the Mac, and I’ve got the latest update installed. I’ve already tried reinstalling the original software and the results are the same.

Much as I prefer to have a life as well, it looks as if I’ll have to go through the monotonous procedure of checking extensions or creating a duplicate set of extensions for work with the ZipCD drive only. Either way, it’s not an ideal solution.


Steve Jobs’ confession that Apple missed out with CD-RW drives is welcome, and their inclusion on new Macs is welcome if long overdue. But it doesn’t solve the problem for those of us who either don’t want to or can’t afford to buy new. My iMac is less than a year old, and I’d hoped to be running it for some time yet.

So, in the final analysis, my experience of the Iomega USB ZipCD drive is: great little machine, looks good, functions well, not a single coaster to its name, and the price represents value for money. But the price of wreaking havoc with a machine which had worked perfectly beforehand and the time spent in seeking support and making alterations to my system is far too high for this particular consumer.

Reader Comments (32)

Dennis O'Coyle · February 5, 2001 - 01:01 EST #1
The bottom line is you puchased an Iomega ZIP CDRW which does not work correctly and their TechSupport people have been unable to solve the problem. That is what they are paid to do and claiming "Sorry but its a software conflict, too bad" is not an option I ever want to hear. The USB people have started a new certification program for USB devices. It is thought that if consumers demand USB certification, these software conflicts, bad or erronious TECH advice, and sub-standard products would disappear from the market place. In the meantime, check to see if the company is a member or developer of the USB Association. I note that Apple is.
i_think · February 21, 2001 - 01:01 EST #2
When you are burning CD's, especially on USB versions, you don't get the "underrrun error protection" like some Firewire CD-RW do. Therefore, it is very important that you do not to disturb the CD burning process, otherwise you'll end up with lots of coasters. When Toast 5 ships, you will be able to burn in the background.
mike nute · February 21, 2001 - 01:01 EST #3
I had the same problem. fixed it by deleting Toast and reinstalling toast and the printer and scanner drivers in different orders. Can't think of the order that worked but it solved the problem.
PT Sandiford · February 22, 2001 - 01:01 EST #4
Am I missing something here? How do you Re-Write with this drive and the supplied software? On a Mac, from what I've seen, the mechinism may be a RW, but the function is just a CD-R.

Explain HOW you re-format a CD-RW with the supplied software? iomega admits they don't supply a program to do it and recommends CD Direct (which isn't available from Roxio/Adaptec).

Kurt Heldwein · February 22, 2001 - 01:01 EST #5
I bought an Iomega ZipCD-RW and it was miserable at writing audio CDs. 95% of the time ther would be glitches on the CD, or the writing process would pause at an arbitrary point without the benefit of a specific error message. I could force quit the Toast application, but other problems that arose after the "writing incident" would force me to reboot. While Iomega customer support was first class, the problem was never solved. Too many coasters later, I took the Iomega back to the store for a refund. I would caution everyone against buying this specific product from Iomega, and to make sure the store from which you buy any other Iomega CD writer has a fabulous return policy ...just in case.
David Ross · February 28, 2001 - 01:01 EST #6
In reply to PT Sandiford: You re-write by erasing the disk. Erasure is a lengthy procedure unless you choose the Quick Erase option, in which case you can only re-write via Toast or Jam (Disc Burner users take note).

To re-format: go to the Recorder menu, select Disc Info, then Erase. After erasure select a new format either via the drop-down menu on the Toast interface or the Format menu on the desktop.

If you are unable to re-format, it may be because you are not choosing Write Session rather than Write Disk when initially writing. If you choose Write Disk then that's final, even on a CD-RW.

Becky · April 7, 2001 - 17:57 EST #7! Used this Iomega to burn on CD-RW's at work on a desktop G3. Now my iMac at home can't read them. What's up? Any info at all...need my burnt files ASAP!
Ken Ward · April 19, 2001 - 17:26 EST #8
I have to say, having read several not-exactly-glowing reviews of the Iomega Zip CD drive, I bought one not entirely knowing what to expect. Having said that, although I've had my fair share of "coasters", I've had very little problem with the machine provided I've had my screensaver and Apples own "Energy Saver" control panel settings turned off (which I'm pretty sure isn't mentioned in the accompanying manuals). Also, I've found that using cheaper, unbranded CDs rather than those from well-known manufacturers helps a lot.
anonymous · June 30, 2001 - 13:50 EST #9
iMac user beware! Never never buy a Iomega Zip CD-RW 650 USB; it never works. I've tried for a whole month and figure all the problems even the people at the support center can even help. Do not make the same mistake as me. Buyer beware.
Ken Ward · July 1, 2001 - 14:21 EST #10
I bought the same model last year, and haven't had much trouble with it at all, apart from the occasional coaster ... which, talking to my PC-owning friends, seems to be an occupational hazard of buying a CDRW.
Gemma · July 7, 2001 - 11:20 EST #11
Can anyone recommend a CD-RW? I'm not looking to burn CDs at super-speed, but I'm looking for a reliable, easy-to-use CD-RW to connect to my iBook. Cheers!
Kevin P · July 11, 2001 - 11:28 EST #12
I have an iMac. I bought a Iomega CD-RW Zip 650. Toast 4.1 recognized the drive at first. Some days later, I had to unplug the drive, (while the computer was shut down, of course). When I rebooted the system, Toast did not see the drive anymore. I went as far as doing a clean install, mind you, losing some old files in the process. I unplugged the drive again a few days later, and ...well.... no Zip drive. Back to the store it goes. I am going to try the Que drive. Anyone have dealings with this one?
Eddie Luz · August 5, 2001 - 19:34 EST #13
I have a Power Mac G4 at 400MHz. Then I made the mistake of buying a purple Iomega Zip CD 650 (model: ZipCD ext 4x4x6 USB) and I had the same case that Kevin P. had. I installed Toast 4.1 and it recognized the drive first. Then, nothing. I have been reinstalling the sofware, checking cables and connections, extensions, upgrading to Toast 4.1.2 and 4.1.3 and going back to the Iomega's Solutions CD...and NOTHING. The software can't recognize the drive. What can I do? Please if you have the solution please send me an e-mail. Thanks. (Maybe the best thing to do is to get rid of it, don't you agree?)
David Ross · August 12, 2001 - 10:08 EST #14
Eddie, Apologies for the delay in replying -- I have been away. A couple of questions. How is the CD drive connected to your Power Mac? Is it directly connected via a USB port on the Mac? Or via your keyboard? The latter can cause problems. Do you have Disc Burner on the same extensions set as Toast? Again this can cause conflicts. My drive has been running OK for several months now. Connection is via a 4-port hub and I run three sets of extensions on my iMac -- standard set without burning software, a set with Toast, and a set with Disc Burner. I've also purchased Toast 5 Titanium (UKĀ£55) which works like a dream. I hope this helps. If you have a genuinely faulty drive (and that can happen) then Iomega should replace it if still under warranty. David Ross
Adorno · September 2, 2001 - 22:09 EST #15
I've had the same problem as Eddie and Kevin. I bought this Iomega (model: ZipCD ext 4x4x6 USB) about a week ago and on the first day the software and hardware installation went fine. Toast recognized the CDRW and I even did several copies of Audio CDs at 4x speed. At the end of the day I unplugged the CDRW from my iMac and powered the CDRW off from the powerpoint. The next time I powered up the CDRW and hooked it up to the iMac running Toast 4.1.3, Toast could not identify the ZipCD, but rather claimed to have identified an IDE CDRW 8x4x32 which was the indentity of a Sony CDRW that I had no luck using with an external Skymaster USB case (but that's another story!). The point is that Apple System Profiler recognized the ZipCD as connected to the iMac, but Toast couldn't. Before working out a possible solution, I had noticed something odd about the ZipCD when I powered it up on that following morning--it did not appear to be powered up properly. By this I mean, the green flashing light didn't really flash all that much (or, at least, not as much as it did when I used it the first time). When I plugged the CDRW into the iMac, I could 'hear' the USB being 'recognized' (You know? The little sounds that the machine makes when you hot-plug a USB plug into an already powered-up Mac). Anyway, the CDRW was being recognized by the iMac but Toast didn't recognize it. So, I decided to shut down the iMac and the CDRW. I physically unplugged the CDRW from the powerpoint and replugged it. I then fired up the iMac and hotplugged the CDRW into the mac and this time Toast recognized the ZipCD 650. The only explanation I can come up for this problem is that the CDRW was not properly powered and that by unplugging it from the powerpoint and re-powering it could somehow make it function properly again. So in short, I think the problem was the CDRW and not Toast. Any ideas? By the way, I also had the same problem as Kurt. For some unknown reason, Toast just stopped burning 2 of my Audio CDs without any error message. I had to force quit Toast and it eventually froze my machine. My only solution to this has been to burn Audio CDs at 2x speed. So far so good.
Luke · October 23, 2001 - 14:24 EST #16
Iomega will now take back all of the first issue USB CDZip drives and give you the most recent version. This isn't available on the North American Iomega site but in the UK and Europe.
Mark Buttery · December 10, 2001 - 12:38 EST #17
I bought an Iomega Zip CD-RW 4x4x6 for my iMac. The computer recognizes it's there, but the Toast software says there is no CD writer. I can install softare from it but it will not record. Does anyone know what's wrong? Mark
Chris Ballard · March 3, 2002 - 12:11 EST #18
I just bought a used Zip 650 USB 4x4x6. My problem is that I can only record to CD-RW discs (Fuji brand). I've tried Durabrand (Walmart), TDK CDRs for data and TDK CDR-music to try to burn audio and keep geting the error message: MEDIUM ERROR. Has anyone had this problem? I have a G3 Blue and White with OS 9.1 using Toast 5.0.1. Thanks.
Lee Bennett (ATPM Staff) · March 3, 2002 - 18:22 EST #19
Chris - the TDK CDRs should be fine, but I read somewhere that the CDRs labeled for music are only for those entertainment center recorders and not for computer drives. You should still burn music to standard data CDRs if you are burning from your computer.
anonymous · May 20, 2002 - 00:18 EST #20
Durabrand completely does not work on my 24x12x40x. It fails every time.
John · July 3, 2002 - 23:42 EST #21
I have had the same troubles ... medium error ... with CD-Rs by Durabrand.
anonymous · November 9, 2002 - 11:38 EST #22
I use Durabrand 800mb discs all the time with my Iomega and have had absolutely no problems at all. I make audio, data, VCD, XVCD, SVCD, XSVCD, and all turn out great. Use Nero and dump Toast.
Greg · November 17, 2002 - 10:33 EST #23
I have a ZipCD 4x4x6, which was working fine until 4 weeks ago. Now, every type of blank CD-R or CD-RW fails to be recognized. Iomega said it was because I had a USB hub. I have had that hub for two years without problem. So, I took Iomega's suggestion and moved the ZipCD directly into the PC interface for USB. End result: I have TDK, Memorex, and Sony blanks which all worked fine. Now nothing works. Iomega suggested I upgrade my EZCD software. I guess they had a timer set that said after two years, mandate a software upgrade.

I'm very frustrated. Iomega's tech support has been my worst experience ever. Rather than troubleshoot, they just point fingers.
Scott · January 8, 2003 - 13:57 EST #24
I have a Zip CD 650 USB. It's connected through a PCI USB card on an S900 with G4 accelerator. I'm running OS 9.1 and Toast Titanium or version 4.1 using Disk-At-Once. The CDs I burn stop just seconds before the end of each song and then jump to the beginning of the next track! Any ideas?
Sherrie · January 14, 2003 - 17:40 EST #25
I finally got around to installing my Iomega Zip CD on an iMac G3, 400 MHz. The problem is, the system and Toast don't recognize the burner. HELP!

Lee Bennett (ATPM Staff) · January 14, 2003 - 20:12 EST #26
Sherrie - other staff members think perhaps you are using an older version of Toast. Roxio's web site states that version 4.05 is needed to work with the Zip CD, but it was said that you should be running Toast 5 Titanium's latest version.
Claudio Hohlmann · March 4, 2003 - 19:47 EST #27
It looks like most of you have problems with the Iomega Zip CD.

  1. Use the latest Toast version, 5.2

  2. Upgrade your software to OS X 10.2.4

Since I upgraded the Toast software, I do not have any problems any more. Good luck. :-)
Claudio · March 4, 2003 - 19:53 EST #28
Need a rewriter for the Mac? Try the Lite On 52x24x52x burner. It's a best buy for the price. I changed my external burner for this one and it's sweet. This baby burns my stuff in under 2-3 minutes (650mb) and it uses BurnProof.
Simon · May 14, 2003 - 14:04 EST #29
I have an Iomega Zip CD 4.4.6 rewriter and need a copy of the disc that came with it. I've reinstalled my OS, forgot to backup the installer, and can't find the driver disc. Please help.
Lee Bennett (ATPM Staff) · May 15, 2003 - 00:02 EST #30
Simon - you can download the Zip CD driver from Iomega's web site.
Victor JG · December 30, 2003 - 20:06 EST #31
seems that i am the last victim on 2003 (but i have got more than 3 months with this problem).All things that you all said happend to me since i bought this cd burner, but some how always i found a way to get around to it, but 3 months ago i moved all my desk to another room and this cd burner just stop working, no signal, no nothing )...completly death...i am very sure that nothing happen during this change of place, i 'd just unpluged, move the burner and pluged everything again... printer is working, my lamps are working, my speakers are working, just this thing die of suddenly death with out reason,..any ideas? (yeahh i know ! BUY A NEW LAPTOP WITH CD BURNER OR ANOTHER CD BURNER) but if you have any other different ideas let me know
David Peters · June 2, 2005 - 10:30 EST #32
I have an Iomega cd 650 burner and suddenly, after years of working, it stopped being recognized by Toast 4.0. I upgraded to Toast Lite 5.2 - still no recognition.

At the office I swapped out cables and burners. Toast saw the other burner. Not the 650 using either cable.

So that narrows it down to the 650 burner.

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