USB Keychain Drives

  General Information
Why Use a USB Keychain Drive
USB Compatability
Using Your USB Keychain Drive
Care of a USB Keychain Drive

General Information

USB keychain useUSB keychain drives are one of the latest useful peripheral devices for computer data backup and transportation. They get their name from the fact that they are small enough and designed to conveniently attach to a key ring. They can be used in place of floppy or zip disks, and make backing up and transporting your data easy.

USB keychain drives are also called "flash drives" or "USB-based flash drives." They are in fact sold-state memory devices which have the ability to act as floppy disks or hard drives under most personal computer operating systems. The Lehigh University Bookstore will be selling the 128MB Lexar Media Jump Drive pictured in the photo above.

NOTE: Always check compatibility of devices with your hardware and operating system before purchasing. Some USB keychain drives are wider than others and may have difficulty fitting into the USB port due to its physical location on the computer.

Why Use a USB Keychain Drive

  • Many personal computers no longer come with a floppy disk drive as standard equipment.
  • They are supported in Microsoft Windows, Apple Macintosh, and Linux operating systems.
  • They are small , lightweight, and extremely portable.
  • Because they have no moving parts, there is nothing mechanical to break down.
  • They come in various capacities to fit your data needs (available from 8MB to 2GB).
  • They can quickly and easily move data between computers.
  • No external power adapter is required since the power comes directly through the USB port.
  • Non-magnetic media means you don't have to worry about magnets or speakers accidentally erasing your data.

USB Compatibility

What's the difference between
USB 1.1 and 2.0 ?

Speed is the main issues between a USB 1.1 and a USB 2.0 keychain drive. The USB 1.1 standard specifies at data transfer rate of 12 MB/sec. The USB 2.0 standard specifies a data transfer rate 480 MB/sec (nearly 40x faster than USB 1.1). For the casual user, this difference in speed may not be noticeable, but it will be noticable when moving large amounts of data.

A computer with USB 1.1 ports can be used with USB 2.0 devices, however, they will transfer data at the slower rate. A computer with USB 2.0 ports can also use USB 1.1 devices, but again will transfer data at the lower rate.

USB devices work in Windows 98, 98 SE, 98 ME, 2000, and XP, Macintosh OS 8.6 and higher, and Linux. Under Windows 98 you may need to install a manufacturer's hardware device driver (typically included with your device or downloadable from the Internet). Although Windows 95 and NT are not do not officially support USB, some manufacturers have released 3rd party drivers which may allow USB devices to work under those operating systems.

There are two primary USB standards in use today: USB 1.1 and USB 2.0. Most USB devices have the "USB" or "High-Speed USB" logo (see below) on their packaging indicating what standard they support.

USB logos

The new PCs at Lehigh public sites are equipped with USB 2.0 ports which are conveniently located on the front panel for easy access.

Using Your USB Keychain Drive


Inserting the Drive

To use your keychain drive, remove the protective cap. On a PC, insert it into a USB port on the front of the computer as shown in the photo to the left. On an iMac, insert it into the USB port on the side of the keyboard. After the computer has recognized that the drive has been inserted, you can begin using the drive immediately. Copy files to and from the drive - it will act just like any other floppy disk or hard drive. Windows explorer will display the drive as shown to the right (usually drive letter E:). Macintosh computers will simply display the volume (LEXAR_MEDIA) on the desktop.

Removing the Drive

When you are through working with the drive, PC users should click on the "Safely Remove Hardware" icon in the lower right corner of your screen, and choose "Safely Remove USB Mass Storage Device - Drive (E:)". It is then safe to remove the drive from the USB port. Macintosh users should drag the volume to the trashcan to eject. Remember to replace the protective cap on the drive connector.

TIP: Most of the USB keychain drives have an LED light on them which illuminate when data is being read from or written to the device. DO NOT remove the drive while the activity light is on. Doing so may cause loss of data.

Hardware Write Protection

Some USB keychain drives have a physical switch on them that allows you to write-protect your data. This prevents accidental deleting or over-writing of your valuable data. The switches are often very small and in a recessed area, so you may need a paper clip to change the position from write-enable to write-protect.

Software Security

Some USB keychain drives come with security software allowing you to protect your data. In some cases, the drive can be set up with both a public area (which anyone can access), and a secure area (which can only be accessed with a password). Be aware that security software may require Windows XP or 2000 to function. Also be aware that some of these devices must have the security software installed on the computer itself; others run the security software directly from the USB keychain drive. Since you cannot load software on a public site computer, we suggest you avoid any security options which require software on the computer.

Care of a USB Keychain Drive

Like any electrical or data device, some care is needed to keep a keychain drive performing well. While most keychain drives are fairly rugged, they do break. One of the weakest parts of many keychain drives is the hole you actually use to clip it onto your key ring. Here are some suggestions and considerations:

  • USB devices can fit in the port in one way only. Do not attempt to force the drive into the port the wrong way.
  • When not in use, keep the cover on the plug end of your device. Damage to the plug may result in the inability to insert the device into the USB port and retrieve your data.
  • Keep your device clear of liquids.
  • Avoid excessive heat.
  • Once broken, data cannot be restored by Norton or other software recovery tools.

    TIP: Because keychain drives are small, it is likely to be accidentally left behind sometime in its life. For that reason, we suggest you label your keychain drive with your Lehigh user ID (ie: xyz9) using a permanent marker. If someone finds it, they can look you up and return it to you!

    Lexar 128 Viking 128 PNY 128 Kanguru 128

    USB keychain drives come in a variety of styles and capacities.

Last updated: Tuesday, 23-Dec-2008 02:34:03 EST