When you’re actually performing hands-on troubleshooting
operations in your enterprise chances are good that you carry a small stack of
CDs with you so that you’ll be able to easily replace system files or drivers
should the situation require it. One of the CDs might even contain diagnostic
software should you need to run tests on the system. While you can use a CD
wallet to cart your CDs with you, it can still be a hassle. Wouldn’t it be
easier if you could fit everything you needed in your pocket? I’ve always
thought so.

As such, I began carrying a 1GB USB thumb drive and with a
little effort I was able to fit most of what I needed within the confines of
1GB. While this worked well on many occasions, I still felt the need to tote
the CD wallet with me in some situations, so I really didn’t do away with the
inconvenience altogether.

So when I started seeing pocket sized portable USB hard
disks on the market, I began to do some research. However, while I was very
interested I didn’t find anything with the right combination of features and
price to make me take the plunge. That is, until I found the EZ Bus Mini series
of pocket USB 2.0 drives from Apricorn.

EZ Bus Mini is ideal for the job that I had in mind. It’s small
enough to fit in a pocket, has a very large capacity, has a built-in USB cable,
doesn’t require external power source, doesn’t require any special drivers, and
it carries an affordable price tag. In addition, it comes with a whole slew of
software for extending the types of operations for which you can use this
device.

In this article, I’ll introduce you to the EZ Bus Mini and
examine its features. I’ll then provide you with an overview of a few of the
other similar portable hard disk products.

Taking a closer look at the device

When you first see the EZ Bus Mini, its diminutive size is
instantly intriguing. At 4 x 3 x Â? inches, this device is only slightly larger
than standard deck of cards, as you can see in Figure A. And, at only 5 ounces,
it actually weighs a bit less than a standard deck of cards. As such, you can
immediately get an idea of the portability of this device–it can easily and
comfortably be carried around in your shirt pocket. The device also comes with
a nice neoprene travel pouch.

Figure A

The EZ Bus Mini is about the size of a deck of cards and can fit in a shirt
pocket for easy portability.

If you flip the device over, as shown in Figure B, you can
see that the USB cable, which measure about 3-inches, fits right into the back
of the case in a recessed compartment where it’s easily accessible with a flip
of a fingertip. (The package includes an equally compact 40-inch extension
cable, should you need a longer reach.)

Figure B:

The built-in USB cable fits snuggly right into the back of the unit.

As you look at the unit, you’re probably wondering where the
power cord is–well there isn’t one. The EZ Bus Mini draws its required 5 volt
power requirement directly from the USB bus.

 Packed inside the
rubber-coated case is a 1.8-inch Hitachi hard disk with a 2MB buffer and an
operating speed of 4200 RPM, thus allowing a data transfer rate of up to 480
Mbps. The unit that I worked with for this review contained a 40GB hard disk,
but Apricorn also offers 20GB and 60GB models.

The EZ Bus Mini hard disk is formatted with the FAT32 file
system in order to allow the device to be usable with all the Windows operating
systems. However, if you’re only going to be using it with Windows 2000 and
Windows XP, you can easily reformat the drive with NTFS file system and take
advantage its features.

Using the device

To use the EZ Bus Mini, just plug the unit into a USB port
on any Windows 2000 or Windows XP system. When you do, the New Hardware Found
balloon will appear while the operating system installs the native drivers and
in a few moments the drive will be assigned a drive letter and be available in
My Computer.

When you want to disconnect the EZ Bus Mini, close any open
folder windows showing the drive and double-click and Safely Remove Hardware
icon in the notification area of the taskbar. Then, follow the online
instructions for removing the device. This ensures that all data is safely
written to the drive. However, the drive is listed as being hot swappable, so
if you’re sure that all data has been written to the drive, you can simply
unplug it and go. (The EZ Bus Mini is a USB 2.0 device but it is backwards
compatible with USB 1.1.)

As I mentioned in the introduction, my primary goal for
using this device was to be able to copy the contents of multiple operating
system CDs, drivers and diagnostic software to the drive so that I could easily
take them with me on troubleshooting expeditions. However, I’ve since
discovered that this portable hard disk comes in handy in a lot of other
circumstances.

For example, I recently performed several system migrations
and used the EZ Bus Mini as the intermediary transport device for the Files And
Settings Transfer (FAST) Wizard. Over the years I’ve carried out many system
migrations with FAST and have used all different means of transfer, but I have
to say that using the EZ Bus Mini was one of the easiest operations I’ve
performed. And while I have yet to use the EZ Bus Mini as the intermediary
transport device for the User State Migration Tool, I’m sure that it will
function equally well in that operation.

Included software

In addition to using the EZ Bus Mini as a tool for the type
of IT operations I’ve mentioned, you can use the drive for lots of other basic
data copy and backup operations. In order to support these other operations,
Apricorn has included a nice software bundle with the drive.

For backup and restore operations Apricorn provides you with
their EZ Gig II software, which is specially designed for backing up to the USB
channel as well as PC Card and IDE. Using EZ Gig II’s two components–Clone EZ
and Image EZ–you can perform a couple of different types of backup operations.
With Clone EZ you can create a cloned copy of your computer’s hard disk and
save it on the EZ Bus Mini drive.

The cloned copy can serve as a disaster recovery backup or
as a means of transferring your operating system and data during a hard disk
upgrade. With Image EZ, you can create a snapshot of your entire hard disk and
save the image as a compressed file that is roughly have the size file of the
original. This will allow you the ability to save multiple images to the EZ Bus
Mini drive.

For protecting your data files, Apricorn included Second Copy 2000, which allows you to
protect your data by synchronizing copies of files and folders between your
hard disk and the EZ Bus Mini. Second Copy 2000 is unique in that once it is
configured, it continually monitors the source files and then in the background
updates the backup copies any time it senses that the files have changed.

The other piece of software bundled with the EZ Bus Mini is Cryptainer LE an encryption
software package. While Cryptainer will work on any drive once it is installed,
the goal of its inclusion with the EZ Bus Mini is that it will allow you to
protect any data that you copy to this very portable drive.

Getting your EZ Bus Mini

The EZ Bus Mini comes in 20GB,40GB and, 60GB hard disk
models. The 20GB model carries a manufacture suggested retail price of $179,
while the 40GB and 60GB models go for $249 and $349 respectively. However, the
drives are available online
for slightly less.