Thursday, January 04, 2007

TIP: Why your USB Key may not work on a public workstation and how to get it to work!

Our local Web Guru Greg Weller here at the Library I work for just came across some great information that I wanted to go ahead and pass along to the group about USB Drive issues on locked down machines. As most of you know not all USB Stick, keys, fob, or whatever you want to call them work on public computers. That is because a lot of them use a proprietary driver. Greg has discovered that holding the shift key down when inserting the device bypasses the request for driver installation and recognizes the key as a basic drive.

Here is the text from Greg:

There is a distinct class of USB drives that are labeled as a 'U3' device, or a SmartDrive. A lot of the Sandisk Cruzers are this type of device. Some other big ones are: Kingston U3 DataTraveler, Verbatim Store 'n' Go U3 Smart Drive, Intuix Smart Drive, Memorex Mini TravelDrive, and GeekSquad Flash Drives. The U3 home page is here:

And there's a more comprehensive list of drives and what they look like here:

The U3 device has a launcher application that starts when you plug it in and while they say that it doesn't affect the operating system it does in the sense that it needs to load some drivers in and then wants you to reboot the PC in order for it to work. Obviously, this is not going to work on a Dell in the branch. Here's the fix: Hold down the Shift key while you are plugging in the device, and keep the shift key held down for around 30 seconds. This disables the launch pad and it now looks like a plain old USB drive instead of a SmartDrive. The only other apparent solution to this is to wipe the drive completely to remove the software, which is not something that I would ever tell a patron to do. This 'fix' is from the USB page, and does not harm the drive. I tested it out on our Dell behind the help desk, and on a couple of machines at a branch and devices that I've never gotten to work on a Dell, worked fine. As far as it goes, it might just be a good idea to tell people to hold down the Shift key no matter what kind of USB drive they're plugging in.

Thanks for the tip and info Greg!


motpid said...

I work in a library and our patrons have been complaining about this problem for a long time. I have been trying to find a solution for 3 months! I am going to run out and try this immediately. Thanks!

Jim Kenzig said...

The other thing you can do is install the latest version of Activesync (4.5) on your computers. It installs updated USB drivers. It makes just about every USB work beautifully.

We also have found that if you use Altiris Protect all the way to version 1.5 USB's won't function correctly. Switch to deepfreeze or something else for protection.