Pressure Mounts on Iomega to Fix Flaky Zip Drives

Iomega Corp. has been under fire from some Zip drive owners over a problem that's been dubbed the 'Click of Death,' a noise that sounds like a metallic cricket would.

Iomega Corp. has been under fire from some Zip drive owners over a problem that's been dubbed the "Click of Death," a noise that sounds like a metallic cricket would. Iomega's director of strategic marketing, George Meyer, says that fewer than one percent of the 12 million Zip drive users have reported the clicking problem.

"[The clicking noise] is a difficult thing because it's a symptom, not a problem," says Meyer. "It's a symptom of a number of things that could be wrong, from the disk being bad to the drive being bad to nothing being bad and for some reason the disk just didn't get seated right."

Depending on the cause of the noise, Meyer says, a Zip drive with the Click of Death may be unable to read disks at all, or some disks may become unreadable. While nearly 100,000 users may be affected, the Zip drive's quality is well within industry norms, according to Meyer.

Giga Information Group Inc. analyst Rob Enderle says that nearly every major computer vendor has a vocal minority of disgruntled users. But he says Zip drive owners are different: "Remember that the Zip drive is protecting somebody's data, intellectual property. It's not like, say, a [buggy] notebook that crashes a lot but doesn't put the data at risk. So from a user's standpoint the requirement for quality is quite a bit higher."

Meyer of Iomega says the company has no plans to extend the drive's one-year warranty, or to offer a blanket replacement to anyone who reports getting hit with the Click of Death. But if it doesn't handle the Click of Death properly, analyst Enderle says, Iomega may find itself in a situation like Intel Corp. did when its new Pentium processor was discovered to have a division bug that also affected fewer than one percent of users. In that instance, Intel initially responded to complaints by saying the FDIV bug was very minor, and the company made Pentium owners jump through hoops to get a replacement.

"Iomega is apparently going down the same path," says Enderle. "It's a case of what's rational to [the vendor] and what's rational to someone who just bought [the product] are two different things, and in this case Iomega needs to get in the minds of their users or they may find they don't have a market come Q2."

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