Keyspan USB Parallel Transfer Cable

Reviewed by: Jim Huddle CNE MCNE MCSE CBS ES-RC P+, November 2004
Manufactured by: Keyspan, go to the web site
Requires: Windows 95 through XP, parallel port (Windows 95), USB port (Windows 98 through XP)
MSRP: $29.95

If you've had a PC for any amount of time you have probably needed to use some kind of utility software. Way back in the dark ages of DOS, utility software usually consisted of a single app that did one thing. If it was a decent bit of coding it did that one thing well although the convenience of the Graphical User Interface (GUI) was absent in DOS. On the other hand, you only paid for the utility you actually needed and it required very little disk space. Keyspan's USB Parallel Transfer Cable strikes me as that kind of utility. It performs one function: file tranfers between two PCs where one PC does not have a USB port. It's reasonably priced and it has a small footprint on your drive. It does have a GUI user interface, so you Windows babies are covered.

The utility consists of a cable with a USB connector on one end and a DB25 parallel connector at the other end. The driver disk contains both the local and remote portions of the software and installs both by default. The cable is a good length at about 3 meters and is quite sturdy. The software has a very small installed footprint of less than 2.5MB. Included in the package is a 5"x6" quick start guide card. There is also a user guide in PDF format on the CD, but it really isn't needed to get started or to do basic file operations. It takes five steps to fully connect two PCs using the Keyspan cable and no rebooting is required.

The software provides its own Explorer-like user interface for manipulating files and even the most hopeless user can figure it out in about two minutes. For those who are beyond hopeless, moving the mouse over the icons pops up a quick description of each icon. To initiate the data transfer connection Keyspan recommends that you start the remote software on the PC with the parallel connector and the local portion on the other PC. The local side has the user interface. The local module opens with two panes. The left side shows the drives on the local PC and the right side is empty. To begin the session start the remote side, then click the Connect icon on the GUI. Within a couple of seconds the remote's drives appear in the right pane. From that point it's simply a matter of copying, moving or deleting files and directories between the two panes. All operations work both ways. You can select files or folders and either drag them where you want them or click the appropriate icon. Note that clicking & dragging will only copy, not move. To move you can either right click on the selected file or use the icon.

Each command used will pop up a configuration dialog which allows you to specify how the operation will work. For example the copy command gives you the option to decide how the copy will act. You can set it to confirm replacement of existing files, replace all or none, or replace older files. There is also a Freshen option which will also overwrite older files. It differs from the Replace Older option in that it will not copy files that don't already exist on the target. Besides the expected file operations there is also what Keyspan calls a Favorites command. This allows you to add folders on both sides which the remote and local will jump to on startup. That allows you to quickly access folders you may work with frequently.

This is a decent utility and a good addition to the toolkit. It only does file manipulation, but it does it simply and well. It's unobtrusive and uses very few system resources. The product manual on the CD is well written and easy to use. There are two things I'd like to see added to the product. The first is use of the F5 key to refresh the panes after a file transfer operation. The second is a way to install a smaller, floppy based remote that allows the local module to access files on a remote where Windows will not load. Other than those two items, the Keyspan is a buy. Recommended.

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