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M-Systems DiskonKey 8MB review:

M-Systems DiskonKey 8MB

  • 1
MSRP: $45.00
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The Good Lightweight, portable storage; supports Windows, Mac OS, and Linux; mounts without installing Windows Me and 2000 drivers.

The Bad High price per megabyte.

The Bottom Line An extremely handy, portable, and secure way to transfer small amounts of data between Windows PCs, Linux sytems, and Macs.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

CNET Editors' Rating

8.0 Overall

M-Systems' DiskonKey isn't the only flash memory drive that connects to your system via the USB port, but it's easily the best. Unlike products such as Agate Technologies' Q USB and JMTek's USBdrive, the DiskonKey can be used without first installing drivers--though only if you use a fully USB-aware OS, such as Windows Me or 2000, Mac OS 9 or higher, and Linux 2.4.0 or later. You can download drivers from the DiskonKey Web site for Windows 98 and 98 SE. M-Systems' DiskonKey isn't the only flash memory drive that connects to your system via the USB port, but it's easily the best. Unlike products such as Agate Technologies' Q USB and JMTek's USBdrive, the DiskonKey can be used without first installing drivers--though only if you use a fully USB-aware OS, such as Windows Me or 2000, Mac OS 9 or higher, and Linux 2.4.0 or later. You can download drivers from the DiskonKey Web site for Windows 98 and 98 SE.

Real, live plug 'n' play
Installing and using the DiskonKey is easy; plug it into an available USB port, then wait ten seconds for the OS to find it. You're soon ready to cut, paste, and copy files--just as you would with any other drive. But unlike hard disks and removable media drives, DiskonKey has no moving parts or fragile media, so it's more rugged and reliable. It's also very secure, doubling as a key ring (hence the name), so it's easier to keep with you.

The DiskonKey is designed for convenience. It's compact--a little longer and wider than your forefinger (82 by 15 by 23mm)--and sports a clever two-piece design that operates just like a pen with a snap-on cap. The protective cap has a removable key ring held in place by a folded plastic arm, which, in turn, does double duty as a pocket clip (geek nirvana!). The drive itself snaps in and out of the protective top cap and has a power/access LED that blinks in different patterns when it's working, inactive, or in sleep mode.

The product currently comes in three flavors: 8MB ($49.99; reviewed here), 16MB ($69.99), and 32MB ($99.99). Measured per megabyte, the DiskonKey is pricey, and you can find less expensive forms of storage. However, it also costs about the same as other USB flash memory drives. In our informal tests, we measured throughput at somewhere around 170K per second.

M-Systems does its homework
The DiskonKey seems stable, too. M-Systems claims that you can store data on the DiskonKey for up to ten years and provides a five-year warranty against defects. There's also a surprisingly large amount of information, FAQs, and troubleshooting advice for the DiskonKey on its Web site, as well as the Windows 98 driver.

There was only one real problem we could find with the DiskonKey. If you shut down your system with the device attached and then reboot, the system might hang. This problem is similar to leaving a floppy in the A: drive--and so's the solution: Remove the floppy/DiskonKey, reboot, and don't leave it in this time.

There's not an easier, more convenient device for light data backup and transport than the DiskonKey. It's the first device that actually makes the floppy disk look cumbersome and hard to use.

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