DiskOnKey turns on USB storage

DiskOnKey turns on USB storage

The 128M DiskOnKey had trouble staying connected when it was plugged into some cramped or oddly oriented USB ports.

It's a paradox: Storage devices are getting smaller but holding more.

M-Systems' DiskOnKey removable hard drive for Universal Serial Bus ports can store 128M in a key chain device measuring only 3.9 by 1 by 0.72 inches and weighing 0.7 ounces.

A small CPU in the base of the key has drivers for Microsoft Windows Millennium Edition, Win 2000 and Win XP; Mac OS 8.6; and Linux 2.4.0 or higher versions. Win98 drivers are downloadable from the company's Web site, at www.diskonkey.com.

With its mini CPU, the $150 128M version installs in less than a minute. And it has plug-and-play compatibility across Windows, Mac and Linux operating systems'an invaluable benefit for any network administrator.

DiskOnKey comes in 8M, 16M, 32M and 64M versions priced from $30 to $100. M-Systems plans to offer 512M and 1G versions later this year, at the current data transfer rate of about 1M per second.

The 128M version is the best value, although it's inadequate for large audio or video files. In comparison, a 64M Q drive from Agat' Technologies Inc. of Cerritos, Calif., sells for $200'$50 more than the 128M DiskOnKey.

Considering that a CD-ROM holds 700M and costs as little as 50 cents in bulk, a DiskOnKey smaller than 128M is not cost-effective.

Despite its small size, the DiskOnKey was bulkier on one side than the other and would not connect properly to some notebook PCs whose USB ports were close together. Sometimes the key would disconnect when its lower half rested on the desk.

The device was durable, surviving the usual number of drops for a key-sized object. Although 1M per second was the advertised transfer rate, it took me about 35 seconds to transfer a 20M file.

The embedded, easy-to-use KeySafe software lets the user designate a portion of storage to encrypt. With the DiskOnKey plugged in, entering a password on the PC decodes the 128-bit encryption.

Warning: When you initiate an encrypted partition or uninstall the KeySafe software, the device will reformat by default. It's possible to delete something unintentionally this way.

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