I picked up a couple of the SanDisk Cruzer 2GB U3 Titanium USB drives today because I found them for $50 each after an instant rebate at Costco. I’ve been needing to upgrade from my old 512 MB drive for some time anyway. The drive itself is beautiful – a brushed silver look with a thumb slide to extend the drive, so no more caps to lose.
Getting it installed on Windows Vista (RTM) was a little tricky, though. For those that don’t know, U3 is a system added onto these drives that lets you install applications (such as email and Web browser) on the drive and then run them from any computer you plug it into – in essence, carrying around your important apps with you. Sounds pretty cool in concept. The drives are formatted in two partitions – one a small partition that Windows sees as a CD-ROM drive and a larger partition that Windows sees as a USB drive.
Unfortunately, Windows Vista does not recognize U3 and cannot install the drivers for the smaller partition. You also cannot remove U3 without first having the drive recognized by Windows. So, I took it over to my Windows XP machine. On Windows XP, the drivers installed just fine. After playing with U3 a bit, I decided there were a few reasons I just didn’t care to have it:
- No Vista support yet.
- It loads up on any machine you insert the drive onto and putting it on a friend’s or coworker’s machine can make them (rightly) feel a little nervous about the extra menus that pop up.
- While the technology is cool, I just really didn’t have the need for it.
Getting rid of it proved tricky, though. You can’t just reformat or repartition the drive. You have to use an uninstall program. The U3 interface has an uninstall feature built in, but it didn’t work for me. When I tried to use it, it just told me there was no drive connected. I downloaded the uninstall program from SanDisk, but it turned out to be the same program and also could not recognize the drive to do the uninstall. Of course, the drive was there and working just fine. The only program that couldn’t see it was the uninstaller.
Seems a lot of people have similar problems getting rid of the U3 software, though, because U3 has created a U3 Uninstall Web site that lets you remove U3 from any drive that has it installed. After telling the site a couple of times that I was really, really sure I didn’t want their amazingly useful software, it finally let me reformat the drive to work as a simple USB drive. One catch, though. Once you remove U3 from your drive, you cannot reinstall it.
When I plugged the drive back in on the Vista machine, Vista recognized it right away.
Now, what I like about the drive itself (and that’s pretty much everything but the U3 software):
- It looks great, as I mentioned.
- It has a retractable key.
- It’s extremely strong – rated to withstand 2,000 lbs of pressure.
- It is blazingly fast.
I plan to use one of them to test out Vista’s new ReadyBoost feature, so when I get around to that, I’ll be sure to post a review of how it does.