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Imation Micro Hard Drive (4GB) Review

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £106.62

Recently I’ve looked at a few hard drives from the likes of Iomega, Sony and Memorex so recently Imation sent me its 4GB offering to have a look at. While USB keys are becoming ubiquitous they only go up to 2GB. 4GB drives are on the horizon but these will be expensive. If you need more capacity in your pocket, a portable hard drive is more cost effective. Capacities start at 4GB, which is what Imation is offering, though the Iomega and the Memorex boast 8GB.

This sort of capacity is useful for transporting large video files, or disc images, without having to resort to burning discs, which can be time consuming and can fall foul of incompatibilities and errors. Copying data on a portable hard drive is simple. The drives are recognised by any modern OS as a mass storage device and you can run directly from the disc.

The Imation Micro Hard drive is a 4GB unit contained in a silver shell. Rather unusually, the USB connector is placed on top in an arch and is held in place by a switch in the centre. This clearly is designed to look like a padlock, which reflects Imation selling this drive as a secure back-up drive, thanks to downloadable 128-bit encryption software and built-in error correction.

That’s all very well but to be honest it looks a bit naff. It also makes the drive much larger and more bulky than it needs to be and the USB connector really sticks out on top, rather than being built flush into the housing as it is on the other drives I’ve looked at. Imation tries to sell it as a feature, enabling you to attach it to your briefcase, but I can’t really see anyone wanting to have their portable hard drive on display and invite it to be stolen.

The large handle also rather puts a dampener on Imation’s claim that this is the ‘world’s smallest and most portable hard drive’. It must be referring to the actual internal hard drive, rather than the external unit. When closed the USB cable makes the whole device 84mm tall, adding around third to the height. The large plastic bit also adds weight and though 52g is hardly back breaking, it’s more than the 39.7g of the Memorex.

When it’s plugged it, a blue light around the central switch illuminates. I found that the drive gets very hot to the touch, just by being left plugged in, even without any drive access.

On the Memerox we achieved a data write speed of 6.1MB/s for mixed files and 8.8MB/s for a single large file, lower than the 9.6MB/s we got fro the Iomega. Imation only gives a write speed of 3MB/s so I wasn’t expecting much.

In fact we achieved a write speed of 3.06MB/s so that was pretty spot on and 4.7MB/s for reading, which isn’t far off the quoted 5MB/s. It’s not terribly slow but it’s noticeably slower than the very fast Iomega.

Where the Imation drive offers more is its backup software. This is a feature that enables you to have a folder automatically synchronised and backed up to the Micro Drive and at the same time encrypted using 128-bit encryption. The files names can be viewed but without logging into the drive with the password you can’t open the files. If you lose your password there’s no way of recovery. There is a version of the software included on the drive but a much newer version on the disc so it’s worth downloading that.

Once the software is installed it places a ‘Synchronize’ option into the right-click context menu, and you can add files and folders to this. Once selected, they appear in Windows Explorer with a large yellow padlock icon next to them. However, if you just want to drag and drop files onto the disk you can just shut the software down. You won’t be able to access the encrypted files on this disk but you will have regular drag and drop access.

However, when I received the drive it has already had a password on it and I couldn’t get access or create my own. I got round this by removing the Sync folder from the drive, which enabled me to bring up the initial dialogue and create a new password. There was no way to view the old data but it still brings up a rather glaring flaw – though you’re data is safe from being viewed – it can still be accessed and quite easily deleted, which hardly seems that secure. It’s therefore a safe way of transporting data but not of protecting it.

Value wise, the Imation is around the same price as the Iomega but you get half the capacity. What you’re really paying for is the encryption software, which protects you’re data. But to view these files onto another PC you have to install the software and restore them so it’s not particularly convenient. It’s really best suited if you want to back up your files, but want to keep prying eyes away in case it falls out of your hands.

However, Memory Corp Biometric USB key is currently available at 2GB and will soon be available at 4GB. With this, thanks to its fingerprint/password combo, your data is secure from being accessed rather than just safe from being viewed.


The Imation has a rather quirky design, it’s not particularly speedy and you can get twice the capacity for around the same price. The only reason to go for the Imation then is if you are concerned about security of your data on your device but as it can still be deleted it’s still not that secure. We’d recommend going for a better value, faster portable hard drive or if security is a concern investing in a Memory Corp Biometric USB key.

Trusted Score

Score in detail

  • Value 5
  • Features 7

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