The ZALMAN ZM VE200 SATA hard disk caddy with DVD/HDD/FDD emulation
The Zalman ZM VE200 is a 2.5" SATA Hard Disk drive caddy with a difference. If you place any ISO file in the _ISO folder in the first partition of the hard drive (which you need to fit first), it can be made to emulate a CD/DVD drive just as if you had a USB CD/DVD drive attached instead of a USB hard drive. It also allows you to simultaneously emulate up to four floppy .IMA images too (and possibly .DSK and .RMD virtual drive images - untested). There is also a small write-protect switch at the top of the drive (tip: use the USB connector plug end to move it if you have short fingernails!). It also has an eSATA interface as well as a USB interface (eSATA is for storage/file transfer only, not drive emulation).
If you want a USB Flash drive version of this see here for details of a new bit of kit currently being developed.
Transfer rates are OK but not impressive via USB 2. Read (24-30MB/s depending on computer) and Writes (22-24MB/s); compared this to a Patriot Rage quad channel 32GB flash stick which can do 30MB/s read and 27MB/s write. It is also slow in practise when booting from it (comparable with a standard inexpensive and slow USB flash drive). When emulating a bootable install DVD using a Windows 7 SP1 iso, Windows Setup took a very long time to scan it (when at the early partition/format hard disk Install\Custom-Advanced screen stage). If I unplugged the VE200, Windows setup instantly stopped waiting (the blue circle for 'waiting/not responding' disappeared) so it is definitely the VE200 that Windows Setup did not like. If however you left it for 5 minutes or so, Windows Setup eventually stopped waiting and I could carry on and format my PC hard drive and install Windows 7 as normal.
For this reason I recommend setting it to ODD only mode (wheel up the jog switch and then connect the USB cable) and not Dual Mode when using it to boot from an OS install ISO.
The ZM VE200 in black.
Note: there is a peelable transparent protective film on the LCD display when new.
You can easily select and boot from any ISO file just by using the jog wheel to select it (when an ISO file is mapped into the virtual DVD/CD drive the double-ring (CD) icon appears on the LCD display).
There are some reviews here and here and here and a YouTube advert here
When I got mine I had a few 'issues', so I just wanted to help those of you who have similar difficulties. (To cut a long story short though - wipe all partitions, format with the first partition as Primary NTFS, create a _ISO folder and store your .iso
files in there - up to a limit of 32 objects per folder - but you can make subfolders).
Note: New firmware version 61F also supports exFAT.
First, what should happen when you plug it in to a USB port with a correctly formatted hard disk in the Zalman caddy is that is should display either 'NO _ISO' or the name of an ISO file (or folder) that you have placed in the _ISO folder on the hard disk.
The VE200 reads the NTFS disk filesystem on power up and looks for a _ISO or a _iso folder (not case sensitive) on the drive. Instead, what you might see instead is:
This display is showing an error - the first partition is of type DE
and so is not suitable for emulating ISO or other files as
it cannot be read by the VE200 firmware
ERROR MESSAGES (VE200 57N firmware)
Error 23 I have no idea what this means but it displayed it even when a valid hard disk was connected that worked fine on a friends VE200!. Try CLEANing/wiping the drive!
1st Partition: XX where XX is a number such as 6, B, C, 83, F etc. (the number means 'the partition type of the 1st partition is type XX and I DON'T LIKE IT!')
1st Partition: FF Either 1st partition type is FF or I cannot read/understand the partition (volume) format (e.g. type 7 NTFS partition but it is formatted as exFAT for instance)
1st Partition: 0 drive is not partitioned
NO - DISC the VE200 has found the _ISO folder :-) but it contains no valid files with a valid extension (e.g. .iso, .ima, .dsk)
TOO Many FILES you have more than 32 objects (files + folders) in the _ISO folder or in the user selected folder which is under the _ISO folder. (>32 FILES+FOLDERS! would have been a better message!)
ALREADY HIT you have already selected this file for emulation and it is already loaded and being emulated
vDISK LIMIT the VE200 can emulate a max of 4 virtual disks only at the same time
NO _ISO the VE200 can read the 1st partition OK but it cannot find any folder called _ISO or _iso
An ISO can be loaded (or unloaded) by selecting it and pressing in the jog wheel.
If you have copied an .iso file to the _ISO folder but the VE200 does not list it on it's LCD display when using the jog wheel, that indicates the file is corrupt or the wrong format.
The VE200 can also load up to FOUR .IMA images as four virtual read/write floppy drives (thanks TheHive for the heads-up on this!). The drives will appear in Windows Explorer as A:, B:, and then two spare drive letters like J: and K:. You can also load an ISO file at the same time. Once an IMA file is loaded, the VE200 will no longer be in DUAL MODE and the hard disk volume will disappear from Explorer. Also, the VE200 will remember and auto-load these virtual disk files each time it is powered up! To make it forget this and to reset it back to DUAL MODE, unplug it - press and hold in the jog wheel and then plug it in again whilst still holding in the jog wheel.
The VE200 may also support .DSK and .RMD files too (as yet I have not tested this).
As far as I can make out while experimenting with different formats, it ONLY seems to be able to mount iso files if you format the drive as NTFS (or exFAT if you use the latest firmware). The _ISO folder must be in the first NTFS primary partition. You can have other partitions, but to make use of the iso/ima mount feature, the first one needs to be a primary NTFS partition. If you have done this and you still cannot get the 'NO _ISO' message to appear, do not despair. I had a brand new VE200 and could not get the *3^&ing* thing to work. A colleague also had a working one, so we first changed my hard disk for his hard disk -> still got an error on my caddy (so it looked like my controller was faulty). Then we put his controller on my hard disk and that did not work either! So I concluded that my controller was faulty. We tried reformatting my disk and mucked about for about an hour but could not get my Zalman controller to work with any of 3 different hard disks - even though the hard disks worked with his Zalman controller when wiped and reformatted using his controller!
LCD icons, and jog wheel positions when connecting the USB cable
e.g. To power on the VE200 in Dual Mode, push in the jog switch and then
connect the USB cable so that it powers up with the jog switch pressed in.
To connect in ODD mode, push up the jog switch and connect USB cable (recommended for OS installs).
Jog Wheel usage: e.g. to select HDD Mode, jog the wheel up to the Begin of List,
then press in the jog wheel twice to get 'HDD Mode' then wait 3 seconds.
I was just about to send it back when I did the following and ever since, my controller has worked fine:
First reset the VE200 back to DUAL MODE as follows: Unplug USB - Press and hold in Jog button in the centre position - Reconnect USB cable. If this does not work, try:
1. Under Windows 7 run DISKPART, then type LIS DIS and then SEL DIS 1 (assuming disk 1 is your VE200 drive), then type LIS DIS and make SURE the * is against the VE200 drive and then type CLEAN to completely erase the hard disk partitions.
2. Unplug the VE200 and then wait for 20 seconds - then re-connect it whilst pressing in the jog wheel in the centre position
3. Now partition and format the VE200 hard disk as NTFS PRIMARY.
4. Now use 'Safely Remove Hardware' systray icon to eject it and unplug and re-connect it whilst pressing in the jog wheel
With luck, it should power up and say "NO _ISO". If not try again or try RMPrepUSB CLEAN function instead of step 1 above and then in step 3 use RMPrepUSB to format it as an NTFS partition. Once I got it working, I cannot get it to now fail in the same way as before, so I cannot be sure exactly how I cleared the problem!
You can also obtain a firmware update for this controller (if you press in the jog button a few times it displays the firmware revision so you can check it - once updated mine says ZMVE200-v1.00.00-57N). Once you have the "NO _ISO" message, download the firmware update iso file and then copy it to a folder named _ISO on the VE200 hard disk. Unplug the drive and plug it in again and you should see the name of the ISO file in the LCD display. Press the jog button to select it and the firmware should update. Once you have done this you can delete the firmware update ISO file.
I have noticed that some notebooks do not seem to be able to provide sufficient power for my caddy+HDD combination. So I use a USB Y-Cable which gives me two USB plugs to use on the notebook, - this works fine. So I highly recommend purchasing a USB Y-cable.
If you still have problems when using a PC, try the rear USB ports instead of the front USB ports.