What Might Go In My Next PC Toolkit

What Might Go In My Next PC Toolkit

As the appointed on-call technician for my family, my wife’s family, our combined extended family and apparently anybody who is able to jot down my cell number on a napkin in a darkened bar, I’m always on the hunt for tools and utilities that could potentially make my life easier during the next free support call.

Data Drive Thru’s The Tornado might just get added to the tool kit. It’s basically a compact USB cable that self winds into a circular case that’s about the size of a CD-ROM. Unwind the cable, and plug one USB head into a PC running XP, W2K or ME (Win98 requires drivers) and the other into your machine and you have an easy way to copy files between the machines without the need to install drivers. On both machines, a file browser window pops up giving you the ability to copy files to and fro and a pretty fair speed. When you’re done, pressing a button winds the cords into a nice neat package. Best of all, it's fairly inexpensive at $60. Expect a more detailed review in an upcoming issue of the magazine.

I normally carry a set of Wiebetech ComboDock adapters in my kit as well as pair of nifty Forensic versions in SATA and PATA that are write-blocked. Forensic examiners use such devices when making images of hard disks seized during criminal investigations. Since they’re write blocked, there is no chance of inadvertently writing over critical evidence they’re looking for and they maintain the chain of evidence for investigators who may very well have to testify that they in no way altered the data on a seized hard drive.

That’s exciting stuff if you’re a crime buff but write-blocked tools can also be valuable for techs too. As I wrote in the mag, the write-blocking helps me two ways. If you’ve yanked the drive from the ailing machine for work, there’s no risk of you accidentally erasing data while you poke around. The write-blocked devices are also handy if you want to hook your own hard drive up to the sick machine. If the machine is horribly infected, you’re assured that it can’t corrupt your own drive full of utilities and patches. What I’d really love to have is a shock-mounted, fan-cooled drive enclosure with a switch to go between write-blocked mode andn on-blocked (if you know of one, let me know.)

Write-blocked adapters are handy but expensive. For someone looking for a more inexpensive adapter, I recently came across NewerTech’s USB 2.0 Universal Drive Adapter. This device comes with a power brick with a standard drive Molex cable, a SATA power adapter and a little USB adapter that can connect to a 3.5-inch desktop drive, a 2.5-inch notebook drive or a SATA drive. It’s tiny, small and also pretty cheap at $25. I’ll be putting it against pricier adapters using high-performance Oxford controllers and in an upcoming issue of the magazine.

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CrAsHnBuRnXp

Wow. Spend $60 for a device that a Ethernet cable could do for less. A lot less.

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Lars Rasmussen

An ethernet cable offers you a method of transport, just like the firewire & USB connectors on the forensic dock.

The problem lies with the PATA or SATA controller sending write requests to the drive. The dock intercepts those requests so the drive is not modified.

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qa9b

Yeah, but with an Ethernet cable, don't you have to have permission to access the files on the other computer (i.e. they're "shared")? It didn't make clear whether the USB thing has to work through the whole file sharing setup. Obviously it serves some purpose, or it wouldn't be on this page.

Not only that, but older PCs are more likely to have a USB port than an ethernet port.

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