Biometrics fascinates me, and I got my own little slice of the technical pie while testing the Micro Solutions LockBox, a fingerprint-access hard drive. Directly from Micro Solutions, the 80 GB drive is $199, the 120 GB drive is $249 and the 200 GB drive is $269.
I'll admit, I have quite a bit of stuff on my hard drive, so just having the extra space available for my goods was wonderful. But being the only person who can access the drive by placing either my index or middle finger on the touchpad is reassuring -- or I guess I should say it would be reassuring if I had supersecret information to store.
After installing the software on my computer, I went through the initial setup, which required me to "enroll fingerprints." I pressed my index finger on the touchpad about eight different times so the software could recognize it no matter the angle (and each time a print is taken, a picture of the print registers on-screen), and did the same with my middle finger.
The next step was dividing the LockBox, and as a newbie to this situation (and the only person accessing the drive), I opted for one private drive. The LockBox can, however, be split into as many as eight private drives, and users can be assigned access to all or any of them.
The Micro Solutions Web site says the particular model I have, the 501001, has 80 MB of storage, but when assessing the LockBox's properties, it says the public drive has 510 MB, and the single private drive has 74 GB, which still has me a tad perplexed. But should the user opt to split up the private drive, each separate drive size can be adjusted based on each user's need.
After installation, use is simple. Anytime I want to unlock my hard drive, I simply place my finger on the keypad, which is red when locked. An icon pops up in the top, right-hand corner of my screen, shows my fingerprint behind an unlocking padlock, the light on the keypad turns green, and I'm in.
I took all my personal files and archives of articles, and moved them to my LockBox, then locked it back up, which is just as easy as unlocking.
My computer immediately began running much faster, but I guess that's a given since my desktop is no longer cluttered.
If the unit has been either locked or unlocked for an extended period, it will take a few seconds for the keypad to warm up, but to keep those top-secret files nice and safe, it's worth that tiny wait.
An icon for the LockBox remains in the system tray area, and displays whether the drive is locked, unlocked or not connected to the computer. It also allows the user to lock or unlock, stop using the LockBox, access the help menu, and it opens up to a set of administrative tasks, one of which allows adding more users, and another that allows using the drive with other fingerprint-access software.
The LockBox also can be used on another computer, which actually comes in handy for large files.
I took the hard drive home, installed the software on my PC and instantly had access, via my already-enrolled fingerprint, to all files I'd transferred from my work computer. I could then add anything from my home computer to the drive, and it took about four minutes to transfer almost 1.9 GB of data -- not too shabby compared to my usual method of e-mailing files to myself.
All in all, the Micro Solutions LockBox is a handy, secure hard drive that I trust to store and transfer any and all data I have.
Dimensions: 1 3/8" x 4 3/4" x 6 7/8"
Weight: 1 lb., 13 oz; power supply -- 9 oz; USB 2.0 cable -- 1.5 oz (45 g)
Active imaging sensor is unaffected by changes in skin condition and moisture content
Enroll up to eight authorized users
The sensor tolerates varied finger placement during authentication
Free 24/7 emergency unlock service with no preregistration required
Web-based utility provides emergency access -- only to the LockBox owner
Attach to USB 2.0 port -- good for desktop and notebook PCs
Supports both USB and Hi-Speed USB 2.0
Hot pluggable -- attach and detach the drive without restarting your PC under Windows 98, Me, 2000 or XP
Works with Windows 98, Me, 2000 and XP
Detachable data cable makes the drive easier to transport
Rating: Five out of five