Road Warrior Bullet Drive Professional PC Card Cable and
Chassis plus USB Interface

Reviewed by: Songmuh Jong, send e-mail
Manufactured by: iGo Corporation, go to the web site
Requires: 2.5" Hard Drive, computer with USB, Firewire or PC Card interface and a small screwdriver
MSRP: US$129 for the kit, US$49.99 for the interface cable

We're in an era of portable computing, but it's not limited to mobile users. Desktop users also have the need to share or transfer files across multiple computers. Even if you have an intranet or Internet storage area, the hard drives usually fill up before you realize it. With the increasing complexity of operating systems and ready availability of multimedia files and the need for backups, computer users are facing the challenge of getting sufficient storage. Portable storage solutions are getting hotter and bigger than ever.

Portable storage solutions usually come in a few flavors: (1) enclosure kit without a drive, (2) enclosure kit with a drive which cannot be easily detached, and (3) enclosure and drive which can be easily detached. The first and last categories are the most interesting ones because they allow you to replace the hard drive using the same enclosure over and over again. All drive kits are available for 2.5" and 3.5" hard drives. The kit we reviewed requires a 2.5" hard drive.

The interface is also important. The standard interface is universal serial bus (USB) for desktop PC, PC Card for notebooks (PCMCIA), and IEEE1394 (Firewire). Late model notebook computers also come with USB and Firewire ports as standard configuration. One disadvantage of PCMCIA is that the cable can easily break at the card connection. Most of the kits come in one interface, including the Bullet Drive professional enclosure.

Assembly and installation of the Bullet Drive is a four-step process. The first step is to mount the hard drive in the chassis. It requires some practice and took me some time to master it. The problems were the small size and enclosure alignment difficulty. The two pieces of enclosure, the front piece, the hard drive and the electronic board must all be aligned properly and fastened in place before you can successfully use the kit. This step also has a big impact on the subsequent steps. Without a careful assembly, this kit cannot be functional. The chassis provides the power.

One nice thing about the Bullet Drive Professional is that it comes with both an AC converter and a serial connector. With the AC converter, you hook up the kit to your AC source as usual. The serial connector allows you to use the power from the computer without external source. That's pretty neat, but it is not mentioned in the manual. 2.5" drives do not need any power cable.

The second step is to attach the kit to the computer. Operating systems like Windows XP and Windows 98 will recognize the interface cable first. The driver for the interface cable and the chassis come with the kit on a floppy disk. Windows XP will automatically search for and install the driver. Windows 98 requires you to browse or type in the subdirectory name in the A: drive. PC Card installation on Windows XP is automatic and requires no manual intervention at all. The USB driver needs a little extra work, but it is not complicated. Here the manual is wrong about the Windows XP. It says that you have to choose the second driver for Windows XP, but I had to choose the first one on my Windows XP professional notebook. Perhaps the manual was tested with XP Home, but I don't have other XP versions to verify.

The third step is automatically initiated by Windows when it finds the Bullet Drive chassis. Again, I had to choose the first driver on the list for my XP Pro computer, not the second one as described by the manual.

The last step is the most troublesome. You need to run FDISK to complete the job in Windows 98, or use the Disk Management utilities on Windows XP. Subsequent connection to the computer after installation is also tricky. You must assemble the whole kit before attaching it to the computer. If you leave the interface cable attached to the computer and connect the chassis after the computer is booted, the computer only recognizes the interface cable, not the hard drive.

My notebook is running Windows 98; my desktop computer is running Windows XP. Since the kit comes with a PC Card, I tried it on my notebook first. However, I had a lot of difficulty installing the kit on the laptop so I requested the USB interface to try the kit on my desktop. The desktop computer recognized the drive, but the last step still failed because FDISK could not create a partition. So I tried Windows XP Disk Management and it surprisingly worked. I re-connected the drive to the laptop, but Windows 98 FDISK would not recognize the partition created by Windows XP even though I specifically choose not to format it in Windows XP. During this whole period of time, I disassembled and reassembled the whole kit numerous times.

My ideal portable storage device is one that has large storage capacity, a convenient interface for multiple computers, compatibility with various operating systems, size and weight small enough for mobile computing, and a form factor which makes it easy to install and switch hard drives. This product segment is still evolving. More interesting products should be coming out in the near future. For now, PC Card looks awkward and the USB port looks more promising. 2.5" hard drives may replace 3.5" if their prices can continue to drop. Companies like iGo have and will come up with more convenient kits that allow easy installation of the increasing larger hard drives to any computer. The Bullet Drive Professional Kit is one step toward that goal.

(Ed. Note: iGo was quick to respond to the error in the installation instructions under Windows XP. The company told us they will add an insert to update the manual in all new Road Warrior Bullet Drive Professional PC Card Cable and Chassis Kit product shipments).

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