kassj.com •  The Information Booth
KASS JOHNS • Print & Web Publishing — tech writing :: copywriting :: content creation :: design

[Articles Section title gif]
[publishing title gif]
DTP Associations
DTP Magazines
Recommended Books
Web Design Resources
Software Links
DTP Training
Download our
HTML Tutorial
(email for info)

[netiquette title gif]
Email Netiquette
Smilies & Shorthand
Internet Glossary
Don't use FWD in AOL
Stop the Junk Email

[articles title gif]
Humorous Articles
CellPhone Buy Tips

[What We Do title gif]
Kass Bio

[techw title gif]
Tech Writing Samples

[Etcetera title gif]
VV Yard Sale
Christmas Lights
(The Flamingos!)
[little santamingo gif]

[home link icon]


"Which SyQuest Should I Buy?" FAQ
Part I of IV -- Initial Buying Questions

• To read this page OFFLINE: (In your browser, in its formatted style...)
Save As or export as "source" format. Then "open file" within your browser software offline.

• To PRINT this page from your browser:
We recommend an 80% reduction to easily fit standard 8.5 x 11" page width.

For technical support, please contact SyQuest (not me).

SyQuest Buying FAQ: Part I of IV -- Initial Buying Questions
SyQuest Buying FAQ: Part II of IV -- Entry-Level & IGB Removables
SyQuest Buying FAQ: Part III of IV -- Troubleshooting
SyQuest Buying FAQ: Part IV of IV -- Contacting SyQuest

As a great defender of SQ technology with many drives (over fifty 44s and fifty 200s) and over a thousand cartridges, I see the same questions asked repeatedly. I do not work for SyQuest Technology. This document is an independent publication.

(Before you write to me, please realize that I am a Macintosh SCSI systems person and have little PC experience.)

2009 UPDATE:
If you need help converting your data from a SyQuest or Iomega cartridge, please visit http://mullermedia.com/

Drives and Cartridges
The drive is the mechanism/box used to 'play' a cartridge. The cartridges are an encased hard disk magnetic platter. These cartridges can be replaced cheaply and easily as they fill up. This is the advantage of removable technology.

Are SyQuest Drives the same as PLI drives?
SyQuest is the OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) for all SyQuest drives and cartridges. Many vendors put SyQuest mechanisms in their drive cases and then sell them under their own labels (PLI, MicroNet, MaxConcept, APS, etc.). Only SyQuest makes these mechanisms. If these are advertised as 'SyQuest' Drives, they have real SyQuest mechanisms in them. (If they are advertised as 'SyQuest-compatible' Drives, see the next paragraph.) The difference between vendors of the drives then becomes a matter of service and support (warranty, guarantee, tech support, etc.) from that vendor. If buying mail order, can your local dealer support your selected brand in case of problems? Or will you have to mail it back to the vendor for service?

Beware of "SyQuest-compatible" drives and cartridges. These do not carry the warranty of original SyQuest equipment from SyQuest Technology. Look for the SyQuest logo (a round disk icon with a 'drive head' forming the tail of the 'Q'). Also, make sure SyQuest is spelled with the capital Q!

FYI--If a product specifies "compatible" it usually means an alternative technology and not the original true technology! The vendor doesn't pay a licensing fee for the rights to the original technology. They say it will work with your original/true technology, but in reality, you risk incompatibility (Are you willing to take their word for it?). An excellent example: "PostScript-compatible" means clone technology and not true Adobe PostScript(tm).

MACINTOSH Format and Initialize--the difference
Many folks will complain about a larger capacity drive's failure to format a smaller capacity cartridge. You must realize that there is a difference in format and initialize. Many users call the initialization process 'formatting'. This is not really formatting.

A true format is a low level system process which defines the platform and read/write specs for the appropriate fixed or removable drive (platter). Many users never use this feature. More advanced users may use this on occasion to diagnose and/or repair a bad sector or format. Usually, special formatting software is required (FWB Hard Disk ToolKit, Silverlining, various vendor utilities). BTW, SyQuest recommends only using FWB Hard Disk ToolKit when formatting their cartridges.

What most users perform when we erase or re-initialize a drive, is initialization. If you select the 'Erase Disk...' option from your Finder menu, you are initializing your disk (not formatting). If you get a message that 'this is not a Macintosh disk' and you choose to make it one, you are initializing it, not formatting it.

So, what all this means is that you cannot format a smaller capacity cartridge on a larger capacity drive, but you can initialize them (which you will more likely be using)!

PC cartridges and drives on a Mac and vice versa
Can I use my Mac SyQuest drive on my new PC? Can my service provider read my SyQuest cartridge even though I am on Mac and they are on PC (or they are on Mac and I am on PC)?

The physical media and the drive is the same. If both systems use the SCSI interface, then yes, the same drive can be used on either platform, with some cable and/or driver changes. Contact your vendor for details of what is needed for a PC to use a SyQuest drive. Everyone I know in 'PC land' tells me that if you are using SCSI on a PC, get an Adaptec SCSI board, no other brand comes close. Life is too short to fight with cheap, problem-generating hardware. If parallel or IDE interfaces are needed for PCs, contact your vendor for help.

It is the software driver that tells your drive to accept the media. Macintosh PC driver utilities for the Mac, like PC Exchange, Access PC and Dos Mounter Plus will recognize a PC cartridge on a Mac. If you need to have a PC recognize a Mac cartridge, SyQuest recommends a PC utility called Mac-in-DOS (call for information at 415.948.6200). I have also seen a package called MacSee recommended by PC users. It is shareware available from shareware sources.

(Mid-level) Sizes and Capacities (the original SyQuests)
5.25" (44, 88, 200)

The original (5.25" diameter) drives created were the 44MB drives. This was followed a few years later by the original 88MB drives. Because the original SQ88 drives could only read a 44MB cartridge, they proved unpopular with many users for their failure to write to a 44 cartridge. There was a large installed base of 44 drives with thousands of cartridges in user libraries. This forced SyQuest to remodel the drive into the newer combination drives which could read and write to an smaller capacity cartridge. This new model, the 88c ('c' for combination) drive was the result. Since this, all new SyQuest mechanisms and models will read, write and initialize the previous capacities in that particular size. In May 1994, SyQuest came out with the 200MB drives, amidst clamor for larger capacities.

  • The 44 drives can only read, write, initialize and format the 44 cartridges.
  • The 88(c) drives can read, write and initialize the 88 and 44 cartridges (not the 200s). Cannot format the 44s. Will format the 88 cartridges.
  • The 200 drives can read, write and initialize the 200, 88 and 44 cartridges. Cannot format the 88s and 44s. Will format the 200 cartridges.
  • These 5.25" drives cannot read, write, initialize or format the smaller-sized 3.5" cartridges.

3.5" (105, 270)

After the release of the 88(c) drives (and before the release of the 200 drives), SyQuest released a new diameter size of drive mechanism and cartridges. The access speed is supposed to be faster and, of course, the space occupied by drive and cartridges is smaller. These drives are becoming popular, but because of the huge installed base of 5.25" drives and cartridges, have not been met with the phenomenal growth success of the original drives. The original drive for this size was the 105MB. It was followed, in December of 1993, with the 270MB.

  • The 105 drives can only read, write, initialize and format the 105 cartridges (not the 270s).
  • The 270 drives can read, write and initialize the 105 and 270 cartridges. Cannot format the 105s. Will format the 270 cartridges.
  • These 3.5" drives cannot read or write the larger-sized 5.25" cartridges.

Spring 1996: More about the newest entry-level (EZ135) units and the 1.3GB (SyJet) units.

Why is it slower to write to an older/smaller capacity cartridge on a newer/higher capacity drive?

There was actually a small physical difference in the 44 and 88 cartridges. In order for the newer combination drives to write to them, an adjustment had to be made in the mechanism and the speed of writing had to be sacrificed. This is why it is slower to write to a smaller capacity cartridge on a larger capacity drive. Speed--the price we pay for backwards compatibility!

I try to relegate my older cartridges to archived files so I may need to read them only. And/or write to them while you are away from your system, on a break, lunch or in a meeting. I used to set it up to copy over files just as I was leaving my office for a meeting. My computer is copying files while I am away anyway. When I return, it is done. Think of it as human multi-tasking! (g)

The larger capacity drives will read a smaller capacity cartridge at the same speed it reads it's 'native' capacity cartridges. If it reads a 200MB cartridge at 'X' speed, it will also read a 44 cartridge at the same 'X' speed. Only the write speed is affected.

Reliability--"I hear they have a high failure rate."
Many people accuse SyQuest cartridges of having a high failure rate. I have had over 1000 cartridges since 1989 (or thereabouts). In that time, I have had only 6 cartridges that failed and had to be sent back to SyQuest (all were within their warranty and were replaced free). I keep them in their dust cases and don't use them as Frisbees or coasters!

In the summer of 1994, SyQuest admitted a problem with reliability under certain circumstances. Many Mac managers I know did not have problems in the beginning because there was a constant access of the attached drives/cartridges. As fixed hard drive costs dropped and larger capacity drives became easier to acquire, the SyQuest drives were relegated more to backup and archive storage instead of secondary online storage devices. The failure rate began to rise for the following reasons...

On the 44 and 88 drives only: If you use a cartridge as a secondary drive and leave the cartridge inserted and idle, you may experience failure of the cartridge. This happens because the older style drives with the 'flap door' tend to allow dust to enter the drive case. The internal drive fans are so powerful, they suck the air through the front of the case.

If you keep a cartridge in the drive for a long period of time and it is idle (you are not accessing the cartridge), you risk a dust contamination. As the cartridge platter sits idle, the read/write head hovers above the platter. The minute space between the head and the platter can get dust particles wedged in it, as sucked in by the fan via the front opening of the drive. If dust accumulates here and then you access the drive (and activate the head), you risk 'crashing' your media.

The solution to this problem is: Do not leave media sit idle for long periods of time. (I put my cartridges in, get my data off or write it on, then eject the media immediately.) Or if you desire to leave media sit idle in your drive, get a SyQuest drive dust guard to insert over the door of the older style drives. This prevents the dust from being sucked into the drives. These dust guard doors are available from APS (800.677.3294) for $8.95. The product name is APS SyGuard. This dust guard device was developed by SyQuest and APS for the Department of Defense when this problem was first discovered.

The newer drives (5.25" 200MB, 3.5" 105 and 270MB--and future models, no doubt) have addressed this problem by a redesign of the door. It is a hinged door. This dust problem does not occur on the newer style drives.

SyQuest or Optical
Some of the things to consider when determining your intention to purchase SyQuest or optical technology: cost per MB (remember that the drive for an optical is considerably more costly), access speed (optical technology is slower), average file size (if you create many files over 200MB in size, maybe optical is your best bet), compatibility (who are you exchanging your data with--service bureaus, clients--and what technology do they use), reliability, physical storage space (opticals take less space to store)!

Industry standards and compatibility
If you wish to purchase a removable drive, you need to check with the parties with whom you will be exchanging data (service bureau, client, employer). What do they use, accept? If you work with a service bureau/provider (or more than one), what do they recommend? Almost every service bureau/provider in America accepts SyQuest 44MB cartridges. Also, most accept the 88MBs. a few take the 200s (they are so new at this writing). Some accept the 3.5" 105s and possibly the 270s (again because of their recent arrival on the market). Some may even take the new EZ cartridges. Many service providers take 5.25" opticals, some take 3.5" opticals. Many now take Bernoulli cartridges (BTW, Bernoullis are not compatible with SyQuest--they cannot read/write each other's media).

What a service provider accepts can depend on their clientele base. Regular client needs drive their media compatibility. Some service providers may even have a special deal to sell you a drive at a discount rate. (Many vendors offer deals to service bureaus for selling their technology. In this case, you may want to solicit a couple of opinions from other providers, to be sure you are not getting a money-making biased opinion.) The bottom line is: Check with whoever you may be exchanging data with--what do they use/recommend? If you require something radically different from what they use, are you willing to seriously ($$$) commit to them as a client if they purchase special equipment to work with you?

SQ costs
Check with a catalog to compare per MB prices. MacWarehouse (800.255.6227). 44MB drives are no longer sold as new, and I suspect the same is true for 88s now. Many vendors deal in quantity discounts for cartridges. Normally, a new drive comes with one cartridge--be sure to ask.

Check the back of computer magazines for suppliers, compare prices. Does the drive come with a free cartridge? Most do/should--ask. Also, on a SCSI model, make sure you get twin 50-pin SCSI ports with external termination and external ID switch (that's a whole other article!). Trust me, just make sure this is what you get!

As a comparison FYI--When I converted from the 44 to 200MB drives/cartridges on my network, I calculated my cost per MB from my supplier. At the time, I was paying $1.76 per MB for a 44 cartridge. That dropped significantly to $.52 per MB when I jumped to the 200MB cartridges.

Related original articles on this site...

SyQuest Buying FAQ: Part I of IV -- Initial Buying Questions
SyQuest Buying FAQ: Part II of IV -- Entry-Level & IGB Removables
SyQuest Buying FAQ: Part III of IV -- Troubleshooting
SyQuest Buying FAQ: Part IV of IV -- Contacting SyQuest

SyQuest 5.25" Drive Error Tables
Iomega's Zip versus SyQuest's EZ135 Comparison Article (28k html)
SCSI Manager 4.3 & Mounting Removables (17k html)

© Copyright 1996-2001 by Kass Johns, all rights reserved world wide.
The opinions and recommendations stated here are solely those of the author and are not the responsibility of anyone else. This is an independent publication not affiliated or otherwise associated with, sponsored by, or sanctioned by any vendor. We state here that we have used trademark names in this publication for editorial purposes only, with no intent to infringe on those trademarks. Permission is granted to copy this document for personal use only for *non-commercial* purposes, in electronic or printed form, provided that this copyright notice is not removed. This work may not be used on another Web site or online service, sold for profit, included within commercial works, or altered or changed in any way without the express written permission of the author.



© Copyright 1996-2001 v.7.5.00
Kass Johns
Technical Writer & Consultant to the Publishing & Telecommunications Industries
Colorado Springs, CO • www.kassj.com • 719/635-1306 (vc)
kass at kassj dot com

[Mac-made image]