Memory company Corsair has come up with an ingeniously simple way to secure USB flash drives without having to remember a password – build a PIN-based ‘padlock’ into the drive itself.

As the picture on the company website makes apparent, the new Flash Padlock drive has a five-button PIN interface on each drive, into which the user hits the unlock code before accessing the drive. Doing this is as simple as hitting an unlock button on the unit and then entering the chosen code, which can be up to ten numbers in length.

For extra security, the Flash Padlock automatically locks itself each time it is removed from a PC, so users don’t actually have to remember anything beyond the PIN number to use the drive securely. The drive requires no special software to operate.

An added benefit compared to password-based products is that the Flash Padlock partitions the drive as a singe partition – password-based drives reserve a separate partition for the security driver itself.

The company’s argument is that users feel more at home using simple PIN codes than having to load specialised software designed to choose and manage passwords. They might be on to something here. Rival products in the USB storage segment invariably come with some kind of software security, but there is no evidence that the average user bothers to turn on such security. It is seen as an inconvenience.

Building a PIN number touchpad into a drive sounds like an intuitive feature, as long as the code itself isn’t forgotten. To get round that problem, users are invited to register their PIN code on Corsair’s website. If the PIN is forgotten, the code can then be retrieved by supplying a valid email address and password.

Beyond describing the PIN system, Corsair’s description of the drives inner security workings, and any use of encryption, is vague. Presumably, the PIN is stored on a physically separate memory location within the drive.

Flash padlock costs $29.95 and $39.95 for the 1GB and 2GB capacities on offer, and can be used on Windows 2000, XP, Vista and Apple OS X.