Restoring data from old media like ZIP disks and tapes
June 6, 2021 8:40 AM   Subscribe

I have a few old ZIP disks, tapes, and hard drives (with very old connector formats) that I'd like to recover any contents from. I don't have the means to read any of these myself, so I'm looking for recommendations for a service that can recover any data for me. Thanks!
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell to Computers & Internet (5 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Just as a warning the data may be degraded on these drives because zip drives and harddrives are forms of magnetic storage. I don't have a recommendation on hand, but I wanted to forwarn you that the data might not be recoverable and you will want to factor that into any pricing you concider.
posted by AlexiaSky at 9:15 AM on June 6

Depending on the exact formats you have, it may well cost you less to acquire suitable USB adapters from eBay than to use a data recovery service, which really you'd only need if the media are in fact degraded and the data on them are worth paying hundreds to thousands of dollars to try to recover.
posted by flabdablet at 9:47 AM on June 6 [2 favorites]

I got stuff off of ZIPs fairly recently (like in the last year) and then gave the drive to someone else who collects old media. I'm sorry I don't have a suggestion for services, but only to suggest talking to local Old Computer Group people and/or a local library or academic library particularly who might have ways of reading that stuff.
posted by jessamyn at 10:39 AM on June 6

I'm not sure about tape or zip drives, but you can get some inexpensive connectors (example: ) that will connect IDE hard drives and let you connect them by USB. If the drives are not damaged, that may be a cheaper option then a data recovery company, and would be fairly easy to do.
posted by nalyd at 11:07 AM on June 6

Well, as the OP doesn't have the drives any more, only the media, there's not much point in trying to find out whether you can hook up a tape drive via USB; ZIP drives with an USB interface were quite common, and might occasionally be found at thrift stores.

With tape drives you would have to know what program wrote them as each had their own way of organising the files on tape, and if it was one of those tape drives that connected to a floppy controller you'd need a computer that still has a real hardware floppy controller to hook up such a drive. Most of the drives taking the QIC-40, QIC-80 and Travan cartridges listed here were of that type, though there have been external drives that connected to a parallel port, and some Travan drives were IDE or even SCSI. It could be that those could read the smaller cartridges, but I'm not sure. As well as the actual media degrading, those tape cartridges are driven by a rubber band, and we've encountered several older cartridges where the band had snapped or gotten stuck to the tape reels, rendering the cartridge unusable unless you're willing to expend the effort of putting a new band in place.
posted by Stoneshop at 12:03 PM on June 6

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