Now that there are several billion different makes of USB flash drives available to buy, some manufacturers are understandably trying new ways to differentiate their drives from all the rest. Of course, at its heart, the disgo lite is your ordinary removable storage device, to which you can drag and drop files as you need them, but it also contains an interesting, relatively new application from a company called U3.
It works by using a small read-only partition on the drive to trick your computer into thinking it is a CD-ROM drive, thereby allowing run the U3 launcher automatically. The U3 launcher can then be used to launch a range of special U3 compatible applications.
The end result is that your humble USB drive becomes a means to transport both files and software to any Windows XP or 2000 (SP4) PC (hard luck Mac users). And that could be a huge benefit to you if you regularly use public/shared, or security restricted (i.e. office), PCs.
The U3 system is pretty basic to set up – after you stick it in your USB port for the first time it prompts you to create a master password, then a user password, and that’s it really. If you enable the Usafe security option it will prompt you to enter the user password once each time you insert the drive into a machine and keeps your files safe from prying eyes.
Because the U3 software requires a special type of application, it contains a couple of links to relevant U3 application websites. The good news here is that there is a ton of free, trial and retail software to choose from, including Firefox and Thunderbird, Open Office, VLC, Skype, WinRAR and a small selection of games – the full list is here.
Best of all, it all runs straight off the USB drive itself, so it doesn’t leave any of your personal information on the system you’re using at the time, and with things like Firefox you have all your bookmarks and RSS feeds handy when you’re away from your home computer.
The weakness of the U3 software is that it will only run specially made applications. Even though the list of supported software is fairly extensive, there are still plenty of things you won’t be able to use, and a lot that you’ll have to use on a trial basis only (unless you really want to cough up).
Because of the U3 launcher, the disgo lite takes a fair bit longer to start up than it takes any ordinary USB device to load, and it annoyed me that the loading screen couldn’t just be done in the background while I was using other programs. U3 also has some known stability issues (more information here), and although it never managed to crash or freeze up my PC, it quite often refused to eject properly and whinged about some browser windows being open.
USB 2.0 high-speed
Read speed: 13MB/s
Write Speed: 5MB/s
Write/Erase cycles: 100,000
Data retention: 10 years
Thinking back to the days I spent in my university library struggling with some ancient, outdated copy of Internet Explorer, I wish I’d had something like this to give me access to some decent software. As it happens, I still have a well-worn, 256MB disgo lite, which I still use; I guess that says good things about their durability then.
You can pick up a 1GB version for £20 direct from disgo, which makes it a little bit more expensive than ordinary 1GB flash drives. However, the price difference isn’t that huge and the merits of the U3 software should make the extra outlay worthwhile.