Siddhesh Sonawdekar (Editor)

How does a Zip drive store so much more data than a floppy drive

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How does a Zip drive store so much more data than a floppy drive How does a Zip drive store so much more data than a floppy drive

The 1.44-megabyte floppy disk drives that use 3.5-inch diskettes have been around for about 15 years. At the time of their introduction, they seemed like a miracle they were smaller than the standard 5.25-inch disks, but they held more data!

Here are some of the parameters that determine how much data a floppy disk can hold:

Tracks per inch: 135
Total tracks per side: 80
Sectors per track: 18
Bytes per sector: 512
Spin rate: 360 rpm
Head movement mechanism: worm gear and stepper motor


FLOPPY DRIVE

Two important things to notice are the low number of tracks on the disk and the fixed number of sectors per track. Neither one of these techniques makes very good use of the surface of the disk.

The main thing that separates a Zip disk from a floppy disk is themagnetic coating used on the disk. On a Zip disk, the coating is much higher quality (see How Tape Recorders Work for some discussion on magnetic coatings). The higher quality coating means that a Zip disk read/write head can be significantly smaller than a floppy disks (by a factor of 10 or so). The smaller head, combined with a head positioning mechanism similar to that used in a hard disk, means that a Zip drive can pack thousands of tracks per inch on the track surface. Zip drives also use a variable number of sectors per track to make the best use of disk space. All of these things combine to create a floppy disk that holds a huge amount of data!