The 1GB size is right. FAT formatted, fast and ready to share. $70 price OK...metal versions go for $20 - $40 more. Skip the overpriced software if you can.
PROS: Tiny, Fast, Convenient and 1 Gigabyte of storage. FREE software available.
CONS: Included software costly, the plastic "tips" on USB connector get lost, flimsy molded plastic construction.
This was going to be a "mini" review because there isn't much to tell you about this matchbox-sized USB 2.0 flash drive that isn't already obvious. Then, we discovered a lot of FREE software programs designed for flash drives. Interested? Read on!
- Size...it's very small...allows use of nearby ports
- Portable...carries files between PC's and Mac's
- 3 plastic "caps" supplied to protect the USB plug
- Lanyard comes with retail package
- Software programs included to encrypt, backup and synchronize files
- Cost: $70 at Costco...that's 7 cents a megabyte.
(at $260, the 4GB version is still 6.5 cents a megabyte)
As noted below, if you have files larger than 1GB to transfer, it's probably just as easy...and cheaper...to use a laptop drive in an external case. 60GB of storage in that format will cost around $100.00 The 4GB version will inevitably fall in price significantly.
They've been called Pen Drives, Thumb Drives and Flash Drives. They are basically a memory module in a convenient housing that plugs right into the USB 1.1 or 2.0 port on your desktop or laptop computer.
The concept is to be able to quickly store files and unplug the device, plug it into another computer and share the files on that computer.
But as you'll see below, that concept is changing with the larger drives, enabling you to run so-called "Portable Apps" on compatible systems.
While you might have stored a compressed version of your favorite e-mail client to load and install on another computer, the larger drives enable you to just run a portable version of that right from the USB Flash Drive and still have adequate storage for moving files.
A Windows computer sees the Cruzer Mini a second or two after you plug it into the USB port. Note: While these work on Windows98SE, they are designed for more recent versions of Windows. With 98SE you will need to load drivers on the computer to make it work.
Plug it in. A green light (your color may vary) shines to show the card is getting power from the USB port.
The device should be automatically recognized as a removable drive and you can select various actions from a list. The default is to open the folder, which is the root of the drive and shows all of the folders and files contained within it.
Get in the habit of shutting down all open folders, files or programs
running on the Mini Cruzer and using the "Remove Hardware Safely"
procedure. It's the best way.
You can drag and drop (move) files from your laptop/desktop onto the Cruzer Mini or vice-versa to accomplish your goals, or use Copy and Paste.
SanDisk provides three software programs already stored on the disk. You still have a Gigabyte of room. (No, that's not 1,000 Megabytes...it's more like 970MB. There are more than a billion bytes.)
PocketCache Trial software of a $20 program that will automatically repeat tasks like backing up a certain directory. Also enables you to create a "snapshot" of files that will preserve them at the time the snapshot was taken.
CruzerSync Trial software of a $60 program that will "synchronize" files. That is, when a file has been updated, the updates will be saved on your Cruzer Mini. If you are updating a directory, it will only change those files that have changed since the last time you performed synchronization.
CruzerLock2 Trial software of a program that can cost anywhere from $30 to $100 to keep your data safe from prying eyes.
I'm not going to argue that some of you may have data that is much, much more valuable than mine. But I think it a little absurd to pay $70 for a drive and then pay a hundred dollars or more for programs that are largely available free on the internet.
Frankly, I found the CruzerSync software to be less intuitive and user-friendly than easy back-it-up which I downloaded free. Synchronization works. Scheduled backups, too.
You can also use the handy links on the Menu to the right in order to select and download software. All links are to free programs.
For most of us, Drag and Drop or Cut and Paste will be the preferred methods. ezback-it-up's ability to synchornize directories is also nice when you want to bring along multiple files that may have changed.
If you want continuous backups of a directory (every 20 minutes to 6 hours) and/or the power to ZIP those files automatically to save space, check out Back2zip
Microsoft has gotten into the act with the USB Flash Drive Manager that works on XP systems ONLY.
- Copy files and label USB Flash Drives
- Backup and restore contents of Flash Drive(s)
- Make flashdrive "Autorun" when inserted in USB Port
- Manage library of saved backups
- Wireless Network Setup - no more searching for WEP keys?
Users are not as enthused as they might be. This "Manager" needs some updates. If you restore a drive image using the manager, it won't autorun anything because that autorun.ini file is contained in a folder with the name you gave the drive. (In other words, instead of restoring the root directory needed to autorun anything, it placed it inside a folder called "MyCruzer" or whatever you named the backup.) Just copy and paste "autorun.ini" back into the root.
If you're always needing to configure new computers for an existing network, you can save the image of the flash drive enabled as a network setup disk. Warning: That overwrites whatever you had in "autorun.ini" with the network setup wizard!
Google "USB Flash Drive Manager" + Microsoft
You'll find a link to Microsoft's "Download" pages specific to the program.
While you're out at the Microsoft Dowloads pages, you may also want to check out "SyncToy" It's version 1.0 software as of this writing but it seemed to work fine on my system. Again, it's Windows XP ONLY. You will be required to do a version check, to ensure your Windows XP installation is genuine.
SyncToy is specifically designed to handle high volumes of photo files. But it works on any two directories...apparently unlimited subdirectories...and you can add multiple "pairs" to a Synchronization operation. You can also "de-select" subdirectories in either of the paired directories.
The applications that work best on these flash drives are called portable apps because they don't depend on the drive letter assignments and have all their files stored locally.
Moreover, a true "Portable App should eliminate all unnecessary writes to the USB drive to minimize wear and prolong the life of the flash drive.
Here's a link to a site with specifically modified applications that won't leave files behind on computers you use...
Portable Firefox (Web Browser)
Portable Thunderbird (E-Mail Client)
Portable Sunbird (Calendar)
iFTP (Small FTP client)
...and audio tools etc. for use on a flash drive.
Don't pay $40 for a custom e-mail client -- Thunderbird has already
been customized for use on a flash drive!
Get Portable Mozilla Apps Here...
One "must have" application is a menu system that will call your applications from relative paths...so it works on any computer you happen to plug your USB Flash Drive into:
PStart (Portable Start) has some other nice features, like the ability to search all files on your USB flash drive for a string of text. You can also save notes about programs, files and profiles you have stored.
You can find a huge directory (60+) of FREE portable applications at "The Portable Freeware Collection." Another site that has a selection of Portable Apps is "Stand Alone."
Expect to see a lot more of these applications being modified for use on the larger flash drives.
The Cruzer Mini 1GB Flash Drive works as promised. That's about all the room I need for fast file transfers. In fact, I really like the speed of this thing! It's great for moving documents, photos, even entire programs.
Rating: 3 gears out of 5
Why only 3 gears? It's price, performance and included features don't make this model stand out in the crowd. It does work very well, but other versions are more rugged (more expensive, too.) The removable "caps" that go over the USB plug get lost...tethering them would have prevented that.
The lanyard that comes with it is a bit tricky to get installed. (Hint: slide the waxed cord into one of the holes at the end of the Mini and use the tip of a bent paperclip to pull the loop through the other hole. Then, just pass the detachable plastic connector through that loop and pull it tight.)
The price point for flash drives now seems to have hit the 1GB mark.
This little baby is the equivalent of 500 floppy drives or more. It's convenience is remarkable.