Product Type: Sandisk Flash Drive
Newest Review: ... is printed on it. Insert this, so that the words are facing upwards and youíre ready to go. This might sound a simple point, but with some ... more
Cruz(er) on up!
Sandisk Cruzer Micro 512 MB
Member Name: SWSt
Sandisk Cruzer Micro 512 MB
Advantages: Small, lightweight, reliable, easy to use
Disadvantages: Durability, easy to lose
These days, it seems like almost everyone has a USB flash drive Ė and why not? With prices dropping all the time, a flash drive is a large capacity storage device, allowing you to transport your files, music, pictures or videos around easily. They remove the need to carry around low capacity (and increasingly obsolete) floppy disks or bulky CD-ROMs. Small, lightweight and very portable, they allow you to carry your files with you and access them on virtually any PC or Mac.
The ScanDisk Cruzer is no exception to this. Itís available in a range of different sizes (the smaller Mini range starts with 128Mb (megabytes) of storage, whilst the Cruzer Micro is available with up to 2Gb (Gigabyte) capacity. The model under review here is the Micro 1GB version.
The first thing you notice about the Micro is its really compact size. It measures approximately 5cm long, 0.5cm wide and weighs about as much as a standard house key. This means itís easily going to fit in any pocket without weighing you down. The Micro comes with a plastic cover and cap (to protect the bit that goes into your PC from dirt or damage.) Better still, you actually get two spare and different coloured protective covers. So if you lose or damage one (or, if youíre just really fashion conscious and want to colour co-ordinate with your outfit!) you can just replace it. Mine came with a clear/grey cover (the one I use, since Iím boringly conventional!), together with red and blue spares. If you want to change the cover, itís simplicity itself Ė simply slide the old cover off, then slide the replacement on.
At the top of the drive is a solid plastic loop. This is so that you can clip the drive onto your keyring to make it even easier to carry around with you Ė more on this later.
The Cruzer Micro uses USB 2.0 technology, making it faster to save/access files to it. However, it is also backwards compatible with USB 1.1 Ė accessing files using USB 1.1 will be slightly slower, but it means that the drive should be usable on any PC (or Mac) which has a spare USB port. Itís compatible with any PC running Windows 98SE or higher, or Macs running OS 9.1.x onwards Ė again, meaning it should be compatible with most machines out there. I use the drive on a PC, so my review will be biased towards that.
Ease of Use
How easy can a piece of hardware be to use?! At last, a Plug and Play device that does exactly what it says on the tin! Plug it into a spare USB port and the drive is instantly recognised and available for use. Even better, you always know which way to insert the drive, as the word ScanDisk is printed on it. Insert this, so that the words are facing upwards and youíre ready to go. This might sound a simple point, but with some drives Iíve owned in the past, it was difficult to remember which way round you had to insert the drive. This meant you would spend time fiddling with it, trying to find the right way round each time you wanted to use it. OK, so itís only a minor point, but it does point to good, thoughtful design that this has been considered and addressed.
The drive also has a green light at the top (the loop mentioned above forms part of this). When the drive is inserted correctly into your PC, this lights up, making it clear that the drive is available for use. Similarly, when the drive is in use (e.g. when you are saving or opening a file), the green light blinks on and off. This is very useful, as it means youíre not in danger of removing the drive mid-save and risking corruption to your files.
Your flash drive is automatically assigned a drive letter (this will vary depending on how many drives are already fitted to your computer Ė e.g. CD-ROM drive, DVD Drive etc.) and then all the files on it are accessible by selecting that letter.
When you insert the drive each time, you are presented with a standard Windows menu giving you a variety of options Ė for example, you can play any media files, view the files using Windows Explorer etc. Alternatively (as I do), you can simply cancel this box. To be honest, it is a little bit annoying getting this menu every time, but this is a feature of Windows, rather than the flash drive.
As Iíve said, once youíve inserted the drive, itís accessible just like any other drive on your PC. So, you can open up Word or any other application and youíll see the flash drive listed and your files available. This is pretty reliable. Occasionally, you may try to open or save a file to find the flash drive is not listed, but if this happens, simply click on the Save in box (for example in Word) again, and it will re-appear.
The other nice thing about this disk is that, on Windows XP PCs at least, you can just remove it from the drive without going through the cumbersome ďeject driveĒ process which older PCs insist on. Again, this might sound like a minor thing, but when youíre racing around trying to get stuff done, itís great to know you can just pull the drive out when you need to. The one exception to this is if you have a file open from your flash drive and pull the drive free, the file will become corrupted. This is a fairly obvious point, I suppose, and Iíve only ever done it once accidentally. However, it is slightly annoying that it corrupts the whole file, rather than just not saving any recent changes. This corruption occurs even if you realise what youíve done and plug the drive back into the PC straight away.
Give it the Boot
The other annoying aspect is that I canít leave it in my PC when I switch off. If I do, the next time I switch my PC on, it tries to boot from the flash drive and wonít do anything until I remove it and then switch the PC off and on again. This is a bit frustrating if you want to access files on your flash drive as you have to remove it, wait for the PC to boot, then plug it back in (getting that annoying menu again). In fairness, I think this is more a function of the way the PC works, and I could probably get round it by fiddling around with the settings, but people who donít know much about PCs will find it slightly frustrating.
When accessing or saving files, the drive is pretty nifty. I have no idea of (or interest in) the actual technical specifications of the speed of file transfer, but itís pretty nifty Ė particularly using a high speed USB 2.0 port. To give you some idea of the speed, itís significantly quicker than saving a file to either a floppy disk or a CD-ROM drive, and youíll only notice a very small difference in speed with saving it onto your PCís hard drive. This review, for example, written in Word, takes about 2 seconds to save. Obviously, exact transfer speeds will depend on the size and type of the file you are using, but youíre not going to spend ages waiting around for it to do what youíve asked.
Durability-wise, Iíve now had this flash drive for 6 months and have only one issue with it.
Remember the plastic tag I mentioned earlier that you use to attach the drive to your keyring? Well, itís not the strongest thing in the world and mine snapped off after a few months. In truth, this was probably partly my fault. I have a fairly heavy bunch of keys and the USB ports on my PC are towards the top of the machine. This meant that when I inserted the drive, the keys were hanging down, unsupported and placing strain on the plastic top. Having said that, my setup is not particularly unusual, so it is a bit of a design flaw.
The trouble is that the plastic tab is attached to the flash drive itself (rather than being part of the replaceable cover), so once it has snapped, it cannot be replaced. This is a real nuisance, as it now means I have to carry the drive around in my pocket. Since it is so small and so light, it would be very easy to unwittingly pull it out of your pocket and lose it. Iíve managed to avoid this so far, but itís been a close call on a couple of occasions. The worrying thing is that there are so many personal documents on this drive, that if I ever did lose it, it would be a godsend to anyone who wanted to use it for nefarious purposes.
Iíve never experienced any difficulty accessing files and so far have had no corrupted files (except the one instant mentioned above, which was my fault.) However, as with any important files, itís sensible to take precautions to backup your data, so I do occasionally back it up to a CD-ROM.
As stated earlier, the Cruzer is available in a variety of different sizes. Personally, I would recommend going for the largest capacity you can afford, as you will always find you use it for more than you expect! How long it will take you to fill the drive will obviously depend on the types of files you save to it Ė video and music files will take up far more space than simple Word documents. To give you some idea, I have had my drive for 6 months now and have 187 files on it. These are a mixture of Office documents, pictures and programs which Iíve downloaded from the internet. Even with 187 files on the drive, Iíve still only used 147Mb of the 1Gb capacity (i.e. less than 15%). At this rate, itís going to take me a long time before I need to worry about deleting old files to make way for new ones!
In addition to providing a great, easy to use, large capacity device, there are also a couple of pieces of software supplied installed and ready to use on the drive. I havenít actually used any of these, so I canít comment on how useful or otherwise they are, but the details are as follows:
** CruzerLock Ė encryption software. This allows you to encrypt the files stored on your drive. I really should get around to looking at this, as obviously it would help allay my fears as to what would happen to the data if I ever lost the drive.
** CruzerSync Ė allows you to synchronise your files, emails, favourites etc between different PCs so that you can make sure each PC has the same version of the document and that you donít accidentally start editing an earlier version.
** PocketCache (14 day trial version) Ė use your flash drive to back up the most important data on your PC at the push of a button.
The Cruzer ScanDisk Micro is available from most decent PC shops and from various on-line retailers. The cheapest place Iíve found for the 1Gb version is from Amazon, where it can be bought for around £23. The larger 2Gb version can be bought for £39.99.
Price-wise, the Cruzer works out marginally more expensive than some other brands. However, because of its ease of use and reliability, I think itís worth spending a couple of pounds extra on this model, rather than going for a cheaper, generic brand.
Summary: A smart choice if you need high capacity, portable storage
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