Once viewed as sleeper products, pocket-size USB storage devices seem to be gaining momentum. Devices like the new SanDisk Cruzer ($59.99 to $199.99 direct, depending on the amount of memory) provide users with an alternative storage method to limited-capacity floppy disks and larger, less portable alternatives, such as Iomega Zip drives and media. The Cruzer goes one step farther, however, by using removable SecureDigital (SD) media. Compared with fixed-media USB storage devices, the Cruzers removable media provides much more potential for capacity and flexibility for transporting documents, music, images, presentations, and other file types. The Cruzer is simple to install, switch among computers, and transport, making it an indispensable computing peripheral. For security-minded users, a limited encryption application provides some peace of mind in case your Cruzer falls into the wrong hands.
The brushed silver Cruzer measures 2.6 by 1.8 by 0.7 inches (HWD) and weighs 1.1 ounces. The Cruzer bundle includes an SD card, a travel case, and a 5-inch extension cable to use with hard-to-reach USB ports. All units accept both SD and MultiMediaCard (MMC) media. Various memory configurations are available: 32MB ($59.99), 64MB ($79.99), 128MB ($99.99), and 256MB ($199.99).
The Cruzer is compliant with USB Mass Storage Class specifications, so if you use Microsoft Windows Me, 2000, or XP, installing and using the device is a breeze. Simply plug the Cruzer into a USB 1.1–compliant port. The first time you plug it into a new PC, the Windows drivers load automatically, and the Cruzer appears in your Windows directory as a new lettered drive, such as Removable Disk (E:), for example. Installation is still pretty easy for those who use Windows 98 or 98 SE. There is just the additional step of installing the drivers from the Cruzer CD-ROM. After installation, you can use the Cruzer as you would any other drive.
CruzerLock, the bundled security software, is a mixed bag. On the one hand, its free and easy to use. On the other hand, you cant encrypt folders or entire cards unless you choose each one individually. When you encrypt a file using the 40-bit encryption engine, youre asked whether you want to delete the source file. If you dont delete this file, the unencrypted version remains on the card. To work with a file in its original application, you need to decrypt it with the same password you used to encrypt it. This process is laborious and potentially confusing when youre working with a large number of files.
The popularity of pocket-size USB flash memory storage devices is easy to understand. Theyre fast, portable, and simple to use. The SanDisk Cruzers removable media is a definite advantage over other flash storage units, since you can use multiple cards rather than investing in multiple fixed-media devices.