Zip Drive FAQ

Most people need only read section A. It contains all the essential information for using zip disks that can be shared with Win95 systems.

A. Quick Start

The simplest, easiest way to use the Zip drive is to purchase zip disks that have been pre-formatted for DOS. To use such a disk, simply insert it into the zip drive and mount it by typing the following:

sudo mount /mnt/zipdos

You will be asked to enter your password. This is your login password on the system, not a password for the zip disk, such as may have been set by using the Iomega tools under Win95. We do not support password-protecting zip disks, so if you share the disk with a Win95 computer, do not use the Iomega tools to password-protect it. At this point the contents of the zip disk are accessible under /mnt/zipdos. You can read and write to the disk by reading and writing to that directory in the usual ways. When you want to remove the zip disk, you must first unmount it by typing the following:

sudo umount /mnt/zipdos

You can then eject the disk by pushing the button on the drive. 

B. Advanced Use

The DOS filesystem (FAT) is slower and less efficient than the native Linux filesystem (ext2). In addition, it does not support the concept of file permissions and ownership, although it does now support long file names. For these reasons you may prefer to format your zip disks with ext2 instead of FAT. This will make it impossible for you to read the disks under Windows 95, but is most sensible if you only use Linux. To do this, you must either convince a more knowledgable friend to give you a disk that has already been formatted for ext2, or you must first repartition the zip disk yourself. If you don't understand what this means, you should probably have someone else prepare your disks for you. If you do understand, the following is a step-by-step description of how ext2 zip disks must be prepared in order to be usable on our system.

Summarizing the procedure, you must create a partition /dev/hdd1, of type 83 (ext2 Linux native), then format it. You must then make sure that the disk belongs to group floppy, and that it is group writable. Since these are actions that can ordinarily only be performed by the superuser, you must preface each of the relevant commands with the word sudo, and you must be careful to type exactly the commands outlined below. Similar, but slightly different, commands will not be accepted by the system. First, insert the disk into the drive (be certain the disk is not mounted) and type the following:

sudo /sbin/fdisk /dev/hdd


Make sure that the only partition is /dev/hdd1, and that it is set to type 83. On a disk that has already been formatted for DOS or Mac this will involve first deleting /dev/hdd4. If you don't know what this means, read the fdisk man page for details.

After exiting fdisk you must format the disk. Type

sudo /sbin/mke2fs /dev/hdd1

Now the disk can be mounted and unmounted just like a DOS formatted zip disk, as discussed in section A, except that you should use the mount point /mnt/zip. I.e., mount the disk by

sudo mount /mnt/zip

and unmount by

sudo umount /mnt/zip

There is one further detail. Like all native linux filesystems, the disk you have just formatted belongs to a particular user. Unfortunately, that user is not you. This means that you will not be able to write to it. To make it usable, you must change its ownerships. Mount the disk and type

sudo chgrp floppy /mnt/zip


sudo chmod g+w /mnt/zip

You are now ready to use the zip disk. Mount it and unmount it as discussed above. You can read and write to it by reading and writing to the directory /mnt/zip. Remember you must unmount the disk before you can eject it.

If you later decide to reformat the zip disk to use the DOS filesystem, run fdisk again. Make sure the disk is not mounted, then type:

sudo /sbin/fdisk /dev/hdd

Delete /dev/hdd1 if it exists, and create /dev/hdd4, and set its type to FAT16(Type 6). Then format the disk by

sudo /sbin/mkdosfs /dev/hdd4.

The disk can now be mounted and unmounted just like a preformatted DOS disk (see section A);

Jeff Anderson

Last modified: Fri Jun 18 13:33:15 PDT 1999