The Zippo Lighter of Small Business Storage

By Drew Robb | Posted May 02, 2006

Imagine all the storage you could ever use in a device the size of a small Zippo lighter or a box of Tic Tacs. The good news is that it's not your imagination; it's the WD Passport Pocket Drive. Made by Western Digital Corp, the Pocket Drive accommodates up to 6GB and costs a mere $129.99. We covered the drive's arrival on the scene last month, and we simply couldn't wait to see what it can do. Here's what we found.

This marvel can hold as many as 5.5 hours of movies, 2,400 digital photos, 2,400 songs or tens of thousands of Word documents. As a result, you can go on the road with your entire digital library. No need to phone the office to ask someone to e-mail it to you in the middle of an interview.

The Passport Pocket Drive weighs 1.6 ounces and measures a scant: 0.37 x 2.41 x 1.80 inches. It houses a one-inch, 3,600 RPM WD hard drive inside with the rest of the space taken up by a flip-out, rotating connector that goes into one of the USB ports in a desktop or laptop computer. It's even Mac and PC-compatible.

Historical Note
It seems like only yesterday that a floppy disk held a LOT of data. At 1.44 MB, though, it soon became a casualty of the Internet-driven data explosion of the nineties. By the turn of the millennium, stories began to appear that said the end is in sight for the floppy. Manufacturers began issuing computers without floppy drives and today you rarely see a floppy drive in any new gear. Try going to an office supply or computer store to buy floppies — it might well prove to be a fruitless task.

Today thumb drives have become the format of choice for storing and moving data. The first one we owned contained 64 MB and, at the time, carrying the equivalent of 40 floppies in a device about as long as a toothpick seemed incredible. Now you can buy 128 MB thumb drives for $16.99. The-top-of-the-line versions offer 4GB and cost anywhere from $150 to $250.

The WD Passport Pocket Drive, though, might signal the end of the line for thumb drive expansion. It's already cheaper in terms of total capacity and — since it's an actual hard drive — it's inherently more reliable. It also draws power from the computer; so it doesn't require a separate power supply, thus keeping its compact design.

Presto, It Works
How easy is it to install? This ease


 WD Passport Pocket Drive
of use is reflected in the instructions: there are none. Three simple diagrams show you how it works, mainly explaining that the connector slides out from the case and rotated ninety degrees to plug into any USB port no matter which direction the port faces.

At first, we thought we'd have to place our laptop on a book to give enough space underneath for the Pocket Drive. Instead, we just rotated the connector, and it worked perfectly.

The three basic installation steps include:

  • Plug it in to the port at the side, back or front of your computer or laptop
  • Reboot the computer
  • You are ready to go

It took a few seconds for the laptop to recognize and prepare the device. Once we rebooted the PC, we could download or drag and drop files to it — or even play music from it. An activity light on the drive glows solid when the drive is connected, and it flashes while the drive stores data.

The "instructions" also contained a listing of compatible operating systems:

  • Windows 98SE
  • ME
  • 2000
  • XP
  • Mac OS versions 9 and 10

If you're running Windows 98SE, you need to install the driver from Western Digital. Click on Knowledge Base and search for answer ID 1286.

For XP, WD recommends that you install the latest service packs. Do this by going to the Start Menu and finding Windows Update. Apple folks can find their latest updates via the Apple Menu by selecting Software Update.

As a safeguard, WD includes a protective green plastic sleeve for the drive, but it's extremely difficult to put on (we never managed) and the case itself seems to offer sufficient protection. The product comes with a one-year warranty.

In Practice
The first thing we did was download 5.5 MB of MP3 files (about 100 songs) in just a couple of seconds — hey, even a business owner deserves a bit of entertainment sometimes. It barely made a dent in the space used/space available pie chart.

The second thing we did was use the Pocket Drive to transfer archived Zip Drive files. We've had the device for years, but it is so cumbersome that we only use it for files we rarely or never access. The longest part of the task was getting the Zip Drive to open and upload the files to the Pocket Drive. But the result was wonderful. We uploaded 250 MB of the old files onto the device in a matter of minutes. And once the files are on the Pocket Drive, they open quickly, unlike the long delays we sometimes experienced with the Zip.

Bottom Line
The affordable device makes it easy for a small business owner to carry around all of the Word docs, graphics or PowerPoint presentations he or she could ever need. You'll find WD Passport Pocket Drives at computer and office supply stores, online retailers and via the company's online store.

Drew Robb is a Los Angeles-based freelancer specializing in technology and engineering. Originally from Scotland, he graduated with a degree in geology from Glasgow's Strathclyde University. In recent years he has authored hundreds of articles as well as the book, Server Disk Management by CRC Press.

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