What’s the best way to transfer files between two or more non-networked computers? The answer might be a combination of “sneakernet” and removable storage devices.

If you’re in the market for removable storage, or if you’re looking for a guru to help troubleshoot a problem on an existing drive, read on. We’ve pre-surfed some relevant sites for you.

Try USB for hot swapping
With universal serial bus (USB) hard drives, you give up some speed (they’re not as fast as internal drives), but you gain a portable storage vault to plug into your USB-compatible computer, no rebooting required. For all the hot, swappable hard drive space you can handle—13 GB—at a killer price, take a peek at the Universal Buslink. It’s a 3.5-inch, 13-GB hard drive that connects via USB and can be found for $186.98 at eCost.com. To track it down, search on “Universal Buslink” and scroll through the results. The drive was backordered at the time of this writing, but the site says such items are usually restocked within three to 10 days.

It may be too soon to find it at your local computer store, but Digital Wallet from Minds@Work has impressive features for those in the market for removable storage. It offers up to 8 GB of portable capability and doesn’t even require a computer.

It’s powered by Motorola’s ColdFire microprocessor, uses a 2.5-inch hard drive, has a PCMCIA slot that can read and transfer data from “all types of FLASH cards,” and is powered by rechargeable batteries. You can attach it directly to digital cameras and save tons of photos. Traditionalists can also attach it to a PC or Mac using the USB interface.

To keep up with the latest USB devices, including removable storage drives, bookmark allUSB.

Iomega rules
The Zip drive from Iomega has become the acknowledged heir to the floppy in Apple’s world and has done quite well infiltrating the PC’s realm, too. (I bet you’ve got a Zip disk lying on your desk right now.) And you can pick your flavor: SCSI, ATAPI, USB, or parallel port. Do you want that in 100 MB or super-sized to 250 MB?

Iomega also scales down with Clik! (to fit 40 MB of storage in a PC card slot) and scales up with Jaz drives (to hold up to 2 GB of data).

But a very attractive new Iomega option is the ZipCD, a CD-RW drive that connects to both PCs and Macs with a USB connection for cross-platform backups and burns. The speed doesn’t approach that of a Jaz, which performs at close to hard-drive speed, but you can’t beat the dirt-cheap price of the media: a couple of dollars for a couple of CD-R or CD-RW blanks, as opposed to $125 for a single Jaz disk.

What happened to SyQuest?
SyQuest, the maker of the popular SparQ and SyJet drives, entered bankruptcy, sold off its assets to Iomega, and emerged through the other side as SYQT. So what do you do with old SparQs and SyJets? Who do you turn to for support? And what, in general, is going on with SyQuest/SYQT?

For answers, turn to the SYQT FAQ page. For more help, you can appeal to the folks at the newsgroup alt.syquest.

SyQuest products are getting hard to find, but drives and cartridges are still available directly from SYQT. You may find a better deal on drives through liquidators or online auction houses, though. In fact, you might find a really sweet deal, such as a new SyQuest drive for less than a quarter of the retail price. That’s getting almost the capacity of Iomega’s Jaz drive for the price of a Zip drive.

While the SyQuest drives are older and not as fast as the snazzy new USB peripherals, their age is what makes them valuable, especially the drives that connect via parallel port. They can work with older machines, even 486s lacking a USB port.

A dose of Dijit
So you’re interested in purchasing removable storage but can’t make up your mind? Jaz or Orb, CD-RW or some type of recordable DVD? Swing by Dijit’s Removable Storage Buying Guide, which provides overviews of formats and media.

It starts with traditional floppy and hard drives, then moves on to SuperDisk, Sony HiFD, Zip, Jaz, Orb, and optical drives. Dijit helpfully suggests you make sure SCSI cards are included with SCSI drives if you don’t already have a SCSI card, and to see if an MPEG card comes with DVD-RAM drives.

Links are also provided to other tech and how-to sites covering removable storage drives. DVD enthusiasts should follow the link to the EMediaM article “Writable DVD: A Guide for the Perplexed.” According to Dijit, it “nicely explains the differences in technology and specifications between the four flavors of writable DVD.”

Fire in the wire
Sony’s Spressa is a respectable USB CD-RW drive, and as a bonus it works with both Macs and Windows PCs. Even more exciting, the Spressa is available in a FireWire (aka i.LINK, aka IEEE 1394) flavor. The FireWire model can burn a CD in as little as seven minutes. And it’s portable, too.

To follow product releases and news about red-hot FireWire, point your browser toward FireWireWorld.com.

Making tracks
Check out these sites for more products and information:

  • If you’re interested in more USB CD-RW drives, check out Hewlett-Packard’s CD-Writer Plus 8200e. HP’s frame-based site makes it difficult to give a URL, but you’ll find specs on the drive by visiting HP’s site and searching on “8200e.”
  • Need help getting your removable storage device to work with Linux? Help is around the corner at the newsgroup comp.os.linux.hardware.
  • While everybody has opinions, we’re more interested in epinions. If you want to read comments about specific removable drives from people who’ve bought them, head over to the Removable Storage section of Epinions.com.

And that’s what I’ve seen worth citing this week.

Lauren Willoughby is a Web editor at The Courier-Journal newspaper in Louisville, KY, where she also writes the weekly “Technophobe” column. At night, she turns into an online auction junkie. When she’s not spotting deals on refurbished 486s, she’s reading science fiction novels.

What are you using for removable storage? What are its advantages? Does it have any drawbacks? Post a comment below or send us an e-mail.