Want Your PC To Go? Make It Migo

By Joseph Moran | Posted November 23, 2004

It's hard to imagine there was a time not that long ago when moving files between computers could be achieved only with slow, low-capacity, and high-hassle options like floppy, Zip, or CD-R drives. The proliferation of USB Flash drives over the past few years, on the other hand, has made possible quick and easy transport of even the largest files between multiple computers.

That's been a great help, but the high speed and capacity of a USB Flash drive doesn't solve every problem. For example, simply moving some files from your work PC to your home PC doesn't necessarily give you access to all the information that makes you productive during the day. Plus you still have to decide what data to move, manually copy it to the USB drive, and then be sure that the updated versions of your files eventually get copied back to the original PC.

Flash With A Twist
With these issues in mind, PowerHouse Technologies Group promises that its Migo improves upon the USB Flash drive by adding intelligence and convenience to it. Rather than simply acting as a simple, albeit spacious, storage medium, the Migo USB Flash drive provides synchronization software that lets you easily transport not just files and folders, but many other aspects of your Windows computing environment — including your desktop appearance, Web browser data like Favorites, History, and Cookies, and even e-mails — to another computer.

Migo works with any Windows client operating system that supports USB. This includes Windows Me, 2000 Professional, and XP Home or Professional. You can also use Migo with Windows 98 SE, but since it doesn't have built-in USB support you'll first need to download an update from Microsoft. The only e-mail application that Migo currently supports is Microsoft Outlook (2000 or higher), which may be a disappointment for many people — particularly anyone who uses Outlook Express. Browser support is also limited to Internet Explorer (5 or higher).

A bit smaller than a typical USB Flash device, the Migo drive includes an extension cable that allows you to easily connect the device to computers where the USB ports are recessed or otherwise hard to reach. You also get a high quality lanyard, but unfortunately the attach point is built into the Migo's cap rather than the device itself. While the cap fits tightly, there's always the possibility that you could look down and find nothing but a cap hanging around your neck. The company says it will address this design issue in a future version.

Working With Migo
Setting up Migo on your main PC is a relatively straightforward task. There's no installation process per se; you simply plug the Migo into the USB port, which then automatically launches the synchronization software.

This software provides a fair degree of control over what data to include in the process. It includes files on your desktop are by default, and you can add additional files or folders as you wish. You can also choose to synchronize only files that have been changed in a certain number of days. The 30-days default setting can be shortened or extended further back if space on the Migo permits. (As you add and remove items, Migo automatically calculates the space that will be required, so there's no guesswork involved.)

The process is similar for configuring Outlook. Migo lets you decide whether you want to synchronize just the Inbox or other Outlook folders as well (including non-mail folders like Contacts, Tasks, and Calendar). Once you've decided what information to include and synchronized the Migo, the software copies all the specified files and settings over to the device.

When you insert the Migo into the USB port of another computer, a pull-down menu appears at the top of the screen with a link that will load the saved configuration from your main machine. Click it, and that computer's desktop appears, complete with files, folders, and even wallpaper. When connected to a guest machine, all data is designed to remain on the Migo device so that no traces of user activity are left behind, which is ideal when using a public computer or one that you don't control.


The Migo
The Migo from PowerHouse Technologies looks like a USB Flash drive but offers more than just storage. It also lets you transfer the look and feel of your PC to any other computer.

Using Migo on a "guest" computer worked well, with one exception. The e-mail synchronization feature worked without a hitch, since I was able to receive and send e-mails through Outlook normally while using the Migo on the guest computer (no configuration was required, though I was prompted to enter my e-mail account password in spite of the fact that it had been saved on my main machine). You'll appreciate Migo's e-mail capabilities if you've ever wrestled with trying to keep a POP mail account current on more than one machine.

(It's important to note that the Migo only works with user data and doesn't make the actual application software portable. Therefore, the guest machine must have the relevant applications like Microsoft Outlook or Word installed.)

With regard to the browser, while my Internet Explorer Favorites were available and the cookies from my main machine seemed to be present as well, the address history didn't transfer over correctly. This was a mild inconvenience at best (since like many people, I rely on Favorites for frequently-visited sites), but an unfortunate by-product of this was that after I removed the Migo, the sites I visited while using it remained in the guest machine's browser history. The company attributes this to Internet Explorer modifications made by XP Service Pack 2 (which was installed on both my computers), and is working on a resolution.

After removing the device from the guest machine and plugging it back into my main computer, Migo updated all of the files that had been changed and correctly incorporated all the e-mails I sent or received back into my Outlook. On the guest machine, I couldn't find any indication of the work I did there, with the exception of the aforementioned browser history.

As far as Windows is concerned, the Migo drive is treated like any other USB Flash drive. This means you can include it in a virus scan or use any free space to store files outside of the synchronization system. You can also password-protect access to the Migo, though if you have this feature enabled, all but a fraction of the device capacity will be inaccessible, even if most of the protected space is not actually in use.

Facts And Figures
According the manufacturer, the high-speed USB 2.0 Migo is capable of reading data at 8MB/sec and writing it at a slightly slower rate of 7MB/sec. However, these data transfer specs are more theoretical than real world. Synchronizing about 11MB of data from my main machine (with USB 2.0 ports) took a little over one minute, and subsequent synchronizations went much faster. Launching the Migo's saved profile onto a guest machine took from 10-25 seconds. Load times will of course vary based on the amount of data and the speed of the computer. The Migo is also compatible with older USB 1.1 ports, albeit with significantly lower performance.

If you already own a high-capacity USB Flash drive and would like to buy the Migo synchronization software alone you're out of luck, because the Migo software isn't available separately (at least not yet). The company is planning to release an iPod-compatible version of the Migo software in November and is also working on encryption technology that should let the software work with a generic USB Flash drive at some point in the future.

Currently, the Migo is sold primarily through a network of small resellers and can't be found at any major brick and mortar stores or online vendors, though the company says it's working on additional distribution deals.

The Migo comes in a variety of capacities and prices:

  • Migo 1GB Smart USB 2.0 — $339.95
  • Migo 512MB Smart USB 2.0 — $229.95
  • Migo 256MB Smart USB 2.0 — $139.95
  • Migo 64MB Smart USB 2.0 — $99.95
  • Migo Personal for iPod Software — $99.95

For the most part, Migo does what it promises, eliminating the need to manually move and track your data as you move from between computers. This can save you considerable time and effort, and many mobile users will likely find the convenience of the synchronization software worth the expense. If you do a lot of work away from your primary PC, Migo is a good alternative to a regular USB key, or in some cases perhaps even stand-in for a notebook on the road.

  • Pros: Automatically syncs files, e-mail, browser settings
  • Cons: No Outlook Express support for e-mail, lanyard attaches to the cap, not the body

Joe Moran spent six years as an editor and analyst with Ziff-Davis Publishing and several more as a freelance product reviewer. He's also worked in technology public relations and as a corporate IT manager, and he's currently principal of Neighborhood Techs, a technology service firm in St. Petersburg, FL. He holds several industry certifications, including Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) and Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA).

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