USB hard drives are getting more popular these days but there aren't many on the market that offer the kind of security that is needed keep confidential data out of the wrong hands.

Micro-Solutions have a nifty device that combines a hard drive with a fingerprint sensor. The idea is a user can only access their own files if they have provided the right authentication. In this instance the right fingerprint.

The box is a small device not much larger than the hard drive it contains and weighing in as around half a kilogram. And like all hard drives it gets warm, so is quite useful for those winter days when your hands need heating up. It requires a separate power supply as it is not powered from the USB port, but this is pretty much par for the course with hard drives.

Installing it is a cinch. We plugged it into the back of our test computer running Windows XP and the device's "public drive" was immediately recognised as a removable volume. This is a very small partition of about 512MB (in comparison to the private drive of 80GB). Here the vendors thoughtfully provide the set up program to install the fingerprint sensor software that gives the user access to the rest of the hard drive capacity.

However we noted a couple of problems. When we were asked to restart the computer we noticed an memory error as the OS was shutting down. When we started again there were no further error messages until we accessed the drive. Whenever we tried to access the device by putting the appropriate digit on the sensor the message "Could not set icon 1" kept on appearing. It didn't have much of an effect on the normal running of the device but we did notice that it took a few attempts by the sensor to understand the fingerprint before we could gain access to the private portion of the drive. Reinstalling the software seemed to get rid of this problem but it still took a number of attempts to gain access to the drive.

The drive can be partitioned into seven logical drives and can be accessed by up to eight different users. Should the worst happen and a fingerprint become impossible to use, the vendor offers an emergency password replacement service to allow access to the box.

The management of the device is through the system tray. This has only the essentials: there is not much to do here but enough to make it usable.

Overall, a good device with lots of storage but troubled by the same problems that most if not all biometric devices have with recognition.

Product title
Product info
Name: LockBox Description: Price: $199.00
: Capacious device that keeps files safe from prying eyes
: Sensor needs a few attempts before allowing accessed
: As a portable hard drive it is very cheap and the biometric part should be considered a bonus but not the deciding factor to buy and use.

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