For moving small files it’s hard to imagine anything more convenient than a USB flash drive. They are around the size of a pack of gum and work with any computer with a USB port. Last month we looked at two portable USB flash drives (http://www.macworld.com/2001/11/reviews/usbflashstore.html) and were impressed with Agate’ Q. USB Hard Drive. This month we review two new drives in the same category, Trekstor’s ThumbDrive and M-System’s DiskOnKey. We found that DiskOnKey is easier to use than any of the three other drives we’ve seen.
The ThumbDrive is the smallest USB flash drive we’ve seen, smaller even than most people’s thumbs. It has a tiny switch at the end that locks the drive from writing. DiskOnKey, true to their name, comes with a detachable key ring. It does not have a locking switch although M-Systems is working on a software locking application. Although still small DiskOnKey is 4″ long, 1.5″ longer than the ThumbDrive.
The drives look like a floppy or drive to the Apple System Profiler, enabling you to erase the drive with the “Erase Disk…” command in the Special menu. Trek’s ThumbDrive did not mention Mac compatibility on the package or in the documentation. We were able to download drivers from their web site however. Once we loaded the drivers and restarted the ThumbDrive showed up on the desktop.
DiskOnKey has a big advantage over the other USB flash drives on the market: it auto-loads its driver so you don’t have to install any software to mount the drive. If you are using the drive to transport a PowerPoint presentation or to move files around the office this feature will save you time and a small amount of headache. The DiskOnKey also comes with Mac instructions.
In our performance tests, the two drives performed similarly and were in line with the Q. USB drive from the previous review.
Not Quite X
The ThumbDrive is not yet compatible with OS X. DiskOnKey showed up on the OS X desktop when we connected the drive. We were able to copy files to and from the drive. However when we dragged the icon to the trash and disconnected the drive we got an error that the drive had not been put away properly. M-Systems says they know of the bug and are working on a solution. The DiskOnKey may work in a pinch on OS X but if you are running OS X as your main operating system you may want to hold off on buying a USB flash drive.
Macworld’s Buying Advice
Although they are coming down in price USB flash drives are still a relatively expensive for the capacity. If you plan on using your USB flash drive between only a few computers, for instance your home and office computers, the ThumbDrive or the Q. USB Hard Drive are both good choices, especially if you find one for a good price. Our recommendation though is to spring for the DiskOnKey. The auto-loading driver is sure to come in handy.