What unusual removable storage have you used?

Topic Remember floppy disks? - #17 by tommy got me thinking…

Macs have had a long history of use with removable storage. The original Macs used a Sony drive with single-sided 400K micro-floppy disks (later increased to 800K and then 1.44 MB). But when Macs were used in desktop publishing workflows, much higher capacities of removable storage were needed. So, removable storage on Macs were more varied that what was used on IBM PCs.

What unusual removable storage devices have you used? The criteria is either a rewritable portable media or a portable device, other than standard micro-floppy disks, bus-powered USB drives, and USB flash drives. It should support random-access (i.e. we’re excluding tape drives).

Such as:

  • SyQuest removable hard disk
  • Iomega Bernoulli Box disk
  • Iomega Zip disk
  • Iomega Clik! (aka PocketZip)
  • Iomega REV
  • Iomega Jaz
  • Castlewood Orb drive
  • Imation SuperDisk
  • Magneto-optical disk, e.g. Sony MiniDisc
  • Sony HiFD
  • CDs with a packet-writing (UDF) driver
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I’d say it was the 5.25” magneto optical drives. Very stable and reliable storage, but never popular enough for costs to come down.


Unusual is in the eye of the beholder, but everything I’ve used would include:

  • Cassette tapes (TRS-80)
  • Apple II 140K floppies
  • IBM PC floppies (360K, 1.2M, 720K, 1.44M and 2.88M - but I never owned any of the latter) and Apple 3.5" floppies (400K, 800K and 1.44M).
  • Iomega Zip (100M, 250M and 750M). I still occasionally use these. I mounted a Zip-100 IDE drive in a USB enclosure a long time ago, so I can use it on modern computers. Plus I own several SCSI internal drives, mostly inside other computers, but one in an external SCSI chassis.
  • Syquest 5.25". 44M and 88M cartridges.
  • Various tape backup formats: Travan TR-4, DAT DDS-2, 8mm Data8 (at work - never owned one of these) and VXA-2.
  • Floptical (used, but didn’t own - a friend owned one of these)

I used to use Zip disks extensively. I have both an external (SCSI) Zip drive, and an internal one in my Windtunnel G4 (which still runs and gets used occasionally). I have a lot of graphics projects archived on Zip disks. I also have burned a huge number of CD-ROMs and DVD-ROMs.

My father was addicted to the older Bernoulli disks. He passed a few years ago, and when my mother and I were cleaning out his storage unit, we found no fewer than three unopened Bernoulli drives he’d bought as a hedge against either of the two he kept connected to his tower failing. (Yes, he wanted to be able to keep two Bernoulli disks mounted at once.)

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  • 8", 5.25", and 3.5" inch floppies.
  • Zip disk
  • CD and DVD disks
  • 8mm Exabyte tapes. Still have the drive.
  • Floppies - PC, Mac, Amiga.
  • SyQuests 44 and 88
  • Zip drives were the main transfer method when I worked mainly in publishing and design. They were so robust compared to what had been available before.
  • I passed on picking up a Jaz drive but was tempted.
    Now I have a bag of various thumb drives, from 1Gb to 128Gb, and external SSDs, from 1Tb to 4Tb.

I still have an internal SyJet drive in my PowerMac 8500 and a bunch of cartridges. Those were made by Syquest in the late 1990s and instead of 44MB they held 1.5GB – huge!

I shudder to think how much I spent on all those cartridges. (If I remember right, they were $100 or $150 each!)

I still have banker boxes full of 44MB Syquest cartridges. Afraid to throw them away without looking at what is on them, but I’m not even sure how I’d go about doing that these days. Probably the data wouldn’t be usable anyway as the programs that open those files are long dead.

Scary to think now I’ve got thumb drives and tiny SD carts the size of a fingernail that hold 512GB. What’s that, 340 SyJet cartridges? :joy:

Are optical discs – i.e., recordable DVD-R/RE or BD-R/RE – considered outré these days?

I started using them for both weekly backups and quarterly epoch backups of our home computers back in the 2000s; I moved from DVD to BD (currently BD DL – stores up to 50 GB) over the years. I do the weekly backups (using tar – OK, I admit, that could be considered unusual/weird to many) onto rotating BD-RE discs; and then once a quarter, burn that week’s tar backup onto a BD-R for archival purposes. Old IT department habits die hard.

Never had any problems recovering information from them; the standard built-in macOS disc burning software verifies the disc to ensure the burn was good; if I get an error message, I destroy that disc and use a new one instead. With the quarterly archives, I also run a Unix “cmp -l” between the source tar files and their counterparts on the just-burned optical disc, just to double-check.

I didn’t think there were too many people still using optical discs for backup or archiving; but I also assumed they weren’t look at like floppy discs – if for no other reason, Verbatim is still selling media, and Panasonic and others make optical drives/burners (I’ve gotten my last 3 from OWC (Off-World Computing); they’re very solid.)

I had a SyQuest EZ 135 Drive. Loved that device. Fast, easy to use, and very reliable — way more reliable than the Zip disks that all of my friends were using in the same late 90s period. Unfortunately, I was the only one with a SyQuest drive, so it did not help me at all with sharing large files. Still, it was an outstanding backup medium in an era where I needed to restore my machine a couple of times per year after a Sad Mac episode. I used it with my 68k Performa, my G3 AIO, and my last G4 desktop and never had a disk fail.

No one has yet mentioned the Iomega Jaz drive. They came in 1 GB and 2 GB formats.

I think I have used all of the items mentioned in this thread, aside from the Castlewood Orb and the non-Zip/Jaz Iomega products.

It doesn’t meet the original poster’s criteria, and I can’t recall the name of the product, but in the earliest days of the Mac, there was a company that made product that stored data (write only) on long strips of paper tape, sort of like a very long 2d barcode. The company’s ads were very prominent in early issues of MacWorld magazine.

Speaking of obscure vintage tech, I’m reminded of the old ThunderScan product, which was a hardware adapter that could turn an ImageWriter dot-matrix printer into a scanner.

Any Mac old enough to have a SCSI port (beige G3 and older, or a PowerMac with a SCSI PCI card) should be able to access read these. If you happen to have a USB SCSI adapter (no longer being made by anyone, and used ones are expensive), you should be able to connect it to even a modern Mac.

They will probably be formatted HFS and should therefore be usable on any macOS up to version 10.12 (Sierra) and read-only on macOS 10.13 (High Sierra) and 10.14 (Mojave).

More recent versions of macOS will require third-party software to access files on HFS volumes. I know about hfsutils (install via Homebrew or MacPorts if you don’t want to compile it yourself). Unfortunately, this won’t mount the volume in a way that Finder can access it. You’ll need to use its own set of command-line utilities to browse the voliumes and copy the files elsewhere.

If they are formatted HFS+ (unlikely, but possible), then they should be usable from Mac OS System 8 through modern versions.

See also:

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I’ve used:
5.25" floppies (with a DECmate)
3.5" floppies
Iomega Zip
Travan tapes, still have some tapes and a SCSI Travan Drive
MO disks: 230MB, 640MB, 1.3GB. I recently moved files off MO disks that I’d had stored here for 20+ years. Still have a SCSI 640 MO drive. Also a USB 1.3GB drive.
DAT DDS-2 tapes

The Castlewood Orb seemed like vaporware for a couple of years and when it finally materialized, CDs were taking over.

I was able to pull files from a bunch of MO disks using a Mac running High Sierra, just couldn’t write to them, as they were all formatted HFS.

Possible to chain a USB-to-IDE adapter with an IDE-to-SCSI adapter?

I suppose so, if an IDE-to-SCSI adapter exists. I’ve never heard of one.

If you have one in mind and can share the spec sheet with us, I’d love to read about it.

I have this SCSI to IDE adapter in my old Performa 6400/200 for an additional hard drive:


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Cool. I didn’t know about these. But note that it is for connecting an IDE peripheral to a SCSI host (the Mac). To work with a USB-IDE adapter, you would need a device that can connect a SCSI peripheral to an IDE host (the adapter). The documentation you shared doesn’t even hint at this being a possibility, so I wouldn’t count on it.

Note that any adapter like this is not going to be a simple passive adapter. It is going to have active components (that custom chip on the board) in order to do the heavy lifting. If it isn’t already designed to work in reverse, then you won’t be able to make it operate that way.

I also note the price. The link you shared wants $240 for the adapter. That doesn’t matter if you already have one, but at that price, you can consider the prices being commanded for purpose-built SCSI-USB adapters. For instance:

I only shared what I’ve used and was specific regarding the computer not that it would work for other possible uses which is why I posted the manual.

For those looking to accomplish a specific task, the price may or may not be an issue. They used to be around $100.00 used so prices have gone up like everything else.

That’s exactly what I used: 40 MB external hard disk. The college had a lab full of dual-floppy Mac SE computers and I had a Mac SE at home (with an internal hard disk). I bought a 40 MB external hard disk and a SCSI cable, and schlepped them back and forth. One side benefit was that the external disk was much faster than than the internal on my Mac SE and of course much, much faster than the floppies at the college.

The external hard disk was $800, as I recall. That was painful, but I did not regret it.