Posted by Lori Ayre on November 20, 2003

A 128MB Hard Drive that is the smaller than the light on my keychain and fits into any USB that is one excellent idea! I saw Mary Minow use this device to pop her PowerPoint presentation into my laptop for the mini-demo at the Infopeople booth. No worrying about drives or whether I had brought my external CD drive or floppy drive for her to use (which I had not). Now that's portable!

There are three interfaces to consider when you start shopping for portable storage devices. The one described above is an example of a USB Flash drive. USB Flash drives come in two USB standards USB 1.1 and USB 2.0. The USB 2.0 drives are MUCH faster so you might want to hold out until more of those come out and you have the USB 2.0 port on your PC. Per Plextor "only more-recently manufactured motherboards like those from Intel, ABIT, Soyo, and others, support USB 2.0, and most of those provide USB 2.0 driver support for Microsoft Windows XP only."

To check if your PC supports USB 2.0, go into Device Manager, click on View and sort the list by connection. Expand all the USB trees, look for an Enhanced USB controller.

The third interface is IEEE 1394 (Firewire). You probably don't have a Firewire card but this is something to think about down the road. I'd consider getting one for backing up my PC. But it's not practical for taking my PowerPoint on the road because most people's computers don't yet have a IEEE 1394 port.

PC Magazine offers up some useful reviews of storage devices including these snappy little USB drives. You might want to peruse them before making any purchases. Especially noteworthy are the speedtests showing the difference between USB 1.1 and USB 2.0 and IEEE 1394 interfaces.

Here's a smattering of products to consider:

USB Flash Drives
Iomega sells 128MB, 256MB, 512MB, and 1GB versions.

M Systems sells a Smart DiskonKey with capacity from 1GB to 8GB.

How about Kanguru's USB Drive that is also a wireless LAN adapter?

Then there are the novelty USB/Flash drives that come in ideal little holiday packages such as the one featured on TechZone. Altogether you get an MP3 player, FM radio, voice recorder and ear plug style headphones along with your 256MB USB drive. And get this! It all hangs around your neck serving to geekily accessorize any outfit you choose! All for $149.

I just bought the SanDisk Cruzer Mini for $57 at CDW. It holds 256MB (USB2 with USB 1.1 backwards compatibility). I'll let you know how it goes.

PC Card Drive
And to that person in my troubleshooting class who asked if PC Cards can be used to store data...I was wrong. Here's one right here, from Toshiba.

Multiple Media Type Readers
Kanguru has come up with a mobile media appliance that allows you to use the little memory sticks and memory cards you use in your digital camera for storage. Check out Kanguru for lots of portable media products.

Here's another that uses a USB port to do the same. It's SanDisk's Cruzer and SanDisk also has lots of other portable storage devices.

Firewire aka IEEE 1394
SmartDisk FireFly and EZQuest Cobra Slim FireWire are a couple examples of the IEEE 1394 devices but you certainly can't count on everyone having one of these in their laptop for exchanging files....yet.

Combo USB/Firewire

WiebeTech MicroGB has come out with a 30GB drive with one USB 2.0 and two IEEE 1394 interfaces; you can power it through the IEEE 1394 jacks or use it with the included AC adapter. Highly rated by PC Mag.

SimpleTech is another manufacturer to check out for some of all the above.

These are all the rage and changing fast, so expect to buy something different shortly after you make your first foray into portable storage.