THe disgo Xkey is a USB thumb memory drive, with 256MB capacity as reviewed, which incorporates several security facilities. It's a thumb drive you can lose and be sure no one can read the content unless they are world class at cracking RSA security algorithms.

The device comes with an on-board application supported on Windows 2000 and XP operating systems. It is inserted into an available USB socket like any other USB device but your system then registers an XKey disk and an XKey launcher which is categorised as a disk also; they were G: and F: respectively on my PC. The Xkey Launcher appears as a thin green-yellow curly X-shape icon in the task bar. Clicking on this provides access to functions to browse the contents of the device, gain help and support, look at its settings, run anti-virus functions, courtesy of McAfee, and the shutdown function.

Pulling the drive out of your system without running the shutdown function could result in on-board data loss or corruption.

When you first load the device there is a set-up process to run through. It comprises:-

- Selecting a Language
- Setting a Device Password
- Accepting the EULA- Owner Information
- Logging In

This is all straightforward and results in the device's on-board settings being updated. Subsequent insertions in this or other computers merely require a password login for device access. The supported languages are English, French, Italian, German and Spanish. You can modify the Xkey settings by clicking the Xkey icon in the task bar.

The password protection is serious. If you lose your password then you lose the data on the device. This is because when you, as the device owner, reset the password all data in the Xkey is deleted. You can set up a password hint, accessible on the device log-in window. It's recommended that you do so.

After ten unsuccessful login attempts the device is locked and must be re-formatted - meaning its data contents are lost.

You an also enter owner contact information so that the device can be returned to you if it is lost. Although how anyone can access it without knowing the password is beyond me. You simply can't read the settings file without entering a password. It seems to be a function too far.

Security
In addition to the password protection there are several security measures activated or usable when you plug Xkey into any Windows 2000/XP system. These ensure the device contents are virus-free, the data is secured, and also that you leave no trace of your presence on the host system.

Anti-keylogging is enabled when Xkey is launched to locate and disable programs that track your key-presses, including passwords. Xkey shutdown uninstalls the anti-keylogging module. You need system administrator privileges on the host PC for this to work.

Xkey has a no-trace system which enables you to run Xkey on any computer and leave no trace of your presence on that system. When you shutdown Xkey all open browser windows are closed, cookies are deleted and browser history files cleared

The next user of that computer is not able to view any private files or web pages you accessed in the browser.

The device uses strong AES 128bit encryption to encrypt all the data stored on it. This doesn't noticably slow down reading or writing data to it. In fact it seems very fast in use.

You can also use digital IDs with the Xkey. Such Digital IDs or certificates are used for personal authentication and enable you to access a secure network from any location using your Xkey. You can import digital certificates from a host system to your Xkey.

The Xkey is available with capacities up to 4GB. It can hold a lot of data and is useful for travelling people who need to be sure that confidential data on the device is secure and who might need to access systems across secured networks from any Windows 2000/XP host.

There is a nice and large bright blue light which glows when the Xkey is plugged in and flickers as it is accessed. There is also a pen-style clip casing cover and, of course, a key-fob attachment ring, also a neat little round leather case. This case has a velcro'd loop enabling you to fasten it your belt.

The Xkey is not quite as convenient in use as an ordinary USB flash memory device but that is a small price to pay for the added security.

The SanDisk Cruzer USB drive has a similar password-protected and encrypted data store. It also lets you store the encrypted files on a host or networked drive. But you have to manually set files to be encrypted or decrypted. Also you can delete files on the Cruzer such that they don't appear in the contents listing but still occupy space in the device. This can be confusing and, personally, I prefer the cleaner and unfussy Xkey interface and functions.

Xkey also has digital certificate support which the Cruzer lacks.

OUR VERDICT

Good value, convenient to use, secure and encrypted USB flash memory with secure network authentication.