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A Belt & Brace Drive 

Portable external drives come in all colours, shapes and capacities. Recently I have been using an external drive that offers an extra layer of security.

Portable hard disk storage prices, although not yet reaching impulse buying levels, are now an attractive and economic proposition for many users.  The portability and convenience of such devices, however, is only one side of the equation.  You do need to balance the security angle as devices of this kind can easily be mislaid or even purloined if felt unattended.  It is not only the device but also the data it contains that needs to be taken into consideration.  As a result most manufacturers include some kind of encryption as part of the package.

One company, iStorage, has gone a stage further by adopting a “belt and braces” approach with its diskGenie product.  Not only do you get AES 256-bit encryption as standard (that’s the belt part) but each device can be further protected by a PIN number (the braces) to deny access to the drive’s content.  With dimensions of 123 x 84 x 18mm, the diskGenie encased in a rubberised substance, features a 4 x 3 alphanumeric pad on its top surface and has a permanently attached 4-inch USB lead which slots into a channel running down one side of the unit when not required.

This alphanumeric pad is used to enter the PIN for the disk.  Initially the drive uses a default number which should be changed to one of your own choosing using a supplied routine which makes use of key combinations and a LED light which changes colour and flashes to indicate the mode and when an entry has been authorised.  You can create up to 10 individual PIN numbers for different users.  The documentation clearly states that you can use a PIN with between 6 and 16 characters yet I encountered some problems in getting some new PIN numbers to be recognised.  Eventually I was able to set up a number of PINs to give access to the drive for different users.

The diskGenie is not recognised by the operating system until a correct PIN has been entered.  Once the PIN has been accepted the drive will appear in My Computer and its content can be accessed.  Initially the drive just contains a PDF version of the User Guide which expands on the information supplied on the Getting Started document.  Other content can be added as you would normally carry out such a task.

Running various tests copying files to and from the diskGenie revealed that this drive is far more comfortable when handling small files especially with regards to reading content.  Copying 650 document files consisting of 19.5MB of data to the diskGenie took 29 seconds.  Reversing the process required just 20 seconds.  Both these timings were acceptable. 

A second test consisted of 2GB of data made up of 633 MP3 files spread over 40 folders.  Transferring this data to the diskGenie took 3 minutes 14 seconds.  While hardly setting any speed records, this was an acceptable performance which is more than can be said for the results achieved when copying the same files from the diskGenie.  This process took a patience-stretching 11 minutes 12 seconds.  I have yet to discover the reason for this particular abysmal performance.

As mentioned earlier, the diskGenie has a permanently attached USB lead which might prove rather short for some eventualities.  Fortunately iStorage has included a USB Y-cable which can act as an extension lead and/or provide a second connection if a single link does not supplied enough power as could happen with some laptops.  Also included in the box is a padded slip case to provide protection for the drive when it is in transit.

By default the diskGenie arrives formatted to the NTFS standard making it suitable for Windows-based systems.  Instructions are provided for reformatting the drive to make it Mac compatible.  The diskGenie is available in 500GB (£171.35), 320GB (£136.85) and 250GB (£113.85) capacities.  This review is based on the 250GB model.

The diskGenie does give that that vital layer of extra protection.  While the products write speeds are of a reasonable standard, its performance in reading large files is a major handicap.  The ability to set up several PIN numbers is interesting but is more business orientated and will probably not be too much of an incentive for an individual user.

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OveralliStorage,diskGenie rated 64 out of 100

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