Driverless devices fit files into pocket

Storage: Flash memory, USB links create options.

May 16, 2002|By David Dritsas and Collin Keefe | David Dritsas and Collin Keefe,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Even with the wonders of the Internet, physical file exchanging -- taking files from one machine and transferring them to another using a physical medium -- is still a common practice among computer users.

But ever-evolving formats of disk types are nerve-wracking. Copying to CD-RW -- even as fast as it can be these days -- can be time-consuming. Zip drives are not commonplace and floppy disks are becoming passe. A new kind of PC storage device is emerging: the driveless storage device.

Some of the smaller examples include the pocket USB drives that are drawing so much attention. These use flash memory and a USB connection to act as a mini portable drive.

The best part is that many are platform-agnostic and contain their own drivers, so you can exchange from PC to Mac to even a Linux system and not worry about installing software, though we found exceptions.

M-systems DiskOnKey device needs a driver for Windows 98. DiskOnKey, Agate's Q and JMTek's USBDrive are all versions of relatively the same thing. Sizes can range from 16 megabytes up to 512 MB and cost from $60 to $200.

Other kinds of external storage exist in the form of external hard drives. These can be solid ways of backing up and saving information without blank media or internal drives. They separate your information from your main system, protecting data from corruption.

There are drives on the market that connect via USB or FireWire and come in gigabyte sizes at the dimensions of a wallet.

Iomega's Peerless external drive attaches to a base that contains the drive's electronics. This way, if you wanted a larger size drive, you could buy a new one without having to replace the whole thing. Vice versa, if you wanted to upgrade to a faster connection -- say, USB to FireWire -- you could buy a new base without having to buy a new drive.

With internal PC hard drives reaching astronomical sizes, an external drive may seem unnecessary, but it's a great way to store sensitive documents or memory-hogging files such as music files, digital video or digital images.

David Dritsas and Collin Keefe write for the Los Angeles Times, a Tribune Publishing Co. newspaper.

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