There are several USB key-chain storage devices and the upgradeable SanDisk Cruzer that support techs can use to carry around important files, but one slightly less portable option, the Pocketec Pockey Datastor, offers full hard drive-size storage and connects to PCs via USB 2.0. The Pockey Datastor is roughly the size of a checkbook (see Figure A) and is available in sizes up to 60 GB.

Because of the larger storage size it offers and the ease with which it connects to any PC via USB, the Pockey is an excellent portable storage option that can be used to transfer large amounts of data and even image hard drives.

The package
The complete Pockey Datastor package includes the following items:

  • Pockey drive
  • USB cable
  • Supplemental Power Cable (SPC)
  • Manual
  • Installation CD
  • Small carrying case

Figure A
The Pocketec Pockey Datastor

The mini CD contains drivers for Win98/SE and Mac OS versions 8.6 through 10.0. No drivers are needed if you’re running any of these operating systems:

  • Windows XP
  • Windows 2000
  • Windows Me
  • Mac OS 10.1

If you’re running any one of these operating systems, you need only plug in the Pockey and move the switch on the front of the drive to the USB position or the EXT position if you have to use the SPC. The OS will automatically recognize the Pockey, install the necessary drivers, and assign it a drive letter. In WinXP, the installation of the drive is seamless and almost invisible. The Pockey also works with Linux; the user’s manual includes instructions on how to install and use the drive on Linux systems.

Like other USB devices, the Pockey will not work on Win95 or WinNT systems because of their lack of support for USB.

The Pockey draws its power from the USB port and requires no external power source. In some cases, however, the Pockey cannot get enough power from the USB port, so Pocketec provides the SPC as a supplemental power source. Some PCMCIA card buses, for example, may not be sufficiently powered for the Pockey to function properly.

You can plug the SPC into either a second USB port on your computer or into a PS/2 port to provide additional power to the Pockey. The SPC is just a supplemental power cord, so if you need additional power you must connect the Pockey to the computer with both the USB cable and the SPC, since the second cable is just providing power and not transferring data. It’s even possible, though Pocketec says it’s extremely rare, that you may have to plug both the USB and PS/2 connectors of the SPC into the PC to draw sufficient power.

I tested the Pockey on three different machines and did not have to use the SPC on any of them: an HP Vectra with a PIII 800-MHz CPU running Win2K, a Dell with a PII 350-MHz CPU, and a home-built desktop with a 1.2-GHz Athlon running WinXP.

When considering the performance of the Pockey drive, bear in mind that to achieve the fastest possible data transfer speeds, your computer must support USB 2.0. Although the drive is backward compatible with USB 1.1 you will not realize the drive’s full potential.

The results in Figure B show how the Pockey performed on WinBench99 media tests.

Figure B
WinBench 99 results

I also performed less scientific tests of the Pockey’s performance by simply copying a large file to and from the drive. It took 15 minutes to copy an 842-MB file onto the Pockey. To give you a point of comparison, I also copied the same 842-MB file to a network drive on the LAN, and it took exactly half as long to transfer the file.

The transfer speeds you receive may vary from mine depending largely on whether or not you’ve enabled USB 2.0. That can make a significant difference. The primary test machine I used didn’t support USB 2.0, so those of you with USB 2.0 should see faster transfer speeds.

When I initially began transferring the huge file from my hard drive to the Pockey, an error message appeared after a couple of minutes stating that the file couldn’t be copied and that data was lost. I let the transfer complete, however, and when I later tested the file by copying it to a different system, it was intact and worked perfectly. I’m not sure what caused the error message to appear.

Pocketec says the Pockey’s impact on laptop battery life is negligible. If it’s in constant use and you’re transferring a lot of files, though, you may find it noticeably shortens battery life, but normal use will have minimal effect.

One issue that Pocketec tech support informed me of, however, is that the Pockey will not work with some laptops without the AC adapter because the USB ports don’t have a power rating sufficient enough to support the Pockey. So depending on what type of laptop you’re using, you may have to use your AC adapter and also the SPC included with the Pockey.

Great for carrying gigs of data
The Pockey is a great solution for those who need to carry gigs of data in their pockets. It’s small enough to be conveniently portable, but it boasts enough storage capacity to accommodate anything you might need to carry on it. And you can quickly connect it to any computer or laptop with a USB port to transfer files.

Because of it’s large capacity, you can use the Pockey to image hard drives in cases where you don’t have network access. The performance may be slower than you’d get from regular hard drives, but the Pockey is far more portable than anything else you’ll find with this kind of capacity.

Prices on the Pockey range from $199.95 for the 20-GB model to $399.95 for the 60-GB. You can purchase the drive directly from Pocketec’s Web site or from any of its partners, including Fry’s Electronics, Ingram Micro, MacZone and others.