It may look like just another flash thumbdrive, but the Kanguru Bio Drive combines up to a gigabyte of storage with a fingerprint scanner for ultimate security to keep its contents from prying eyes. Even if you lose the device, the data should remain confidential because everything on the Kanguru Bio Drive is encrypted, making this the best bet for the security conscious among us. The Kanguru Bio Drive is more expensive than other thumbdrives and it works with only Windows PCs, but it's worth it for both your security of data and peace of mind.
The Kanguru Bio Drive looks a bit like a Hot Wheels car, minus the wheels. The plastic, gold-tone case measures 3.0 by 1.0 by 0.6 inches and weighs 0.7 ounces, making it bigger and heavier than the average thumbdrive, but it's shorter and lighter than Lexar's similar JumpDrive TouchGuard. The Kanguru Bio Drive is available in three capacities: 256MB, 512MB, and 1GB, and it comes with a metal neck strap, a 1-meter USB extension cord, a mini CD, and a one-page setup guide. Unfortunately, the Bio Drive lacks a real manual. Because of its thick body, the Bio Drive may block the USB slots on either side on some notebooks.
Setting up the Kanguru Bio Drive couldn't be easier. Just plug it into any Windows XP computer, and the drive sets itself up automatically, although if you're still running Windows 98, you'll need to install drivers from the mini CD (Kanguru does not have drivers for Linux or Macintosh computers). The drive contains a 2.8MB setup program that allows you to register your fingerprint. You'll need to press your finger against the rectangular gold scanning area a few times to save its unique pattern of whorls and swirls. The 508dpi capacitive surface is more efficient than swipe scanners and is big enough for all but the largest fingers. The software can hold the characteristics for five different fingers, so several people can share a Bio Drive (though you can't partition the drive by user). You can also set up a keyboard password to bypass the fingerprint scanner and open the key.
Once your prints are registered, the Kanguru Bio Drive is locked and its contents are hidden from view. Only the registered finger or the backup password can open it. Over the course of three weeks of daily use, the key never provided access to the wrong finger, but it often rejected the correct finger, requiring several attempts; one time, we gave up and used the password backup. On the other hand, it was much easier to use than the TouchGuard, which requires that you reencrypt files that you've opened, or they'll be saved unencrypted. With the Bio Drive, you just remove the key from the computer, and its contents are protected. Based on USB 2.0, the Kanguru Bio Drive set up with no problem on five recent notebooks and a desktop PC, but it was well short of the 480Mbps theoretical peak throughput with an IBM ThinkPad R51 notebook. In our informal tests, it was able to read and write data at 74.8Mbps and 42.5Mbps, respectively, putting its performance about midway between the slower IBM Memory Key and the faster TouchGuard.
The Kanguru Bio Drive comes with a one-year warranty, which is half as long as the coverage on Lexar's TouchGuard. Kanguru's telephone help desk is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday, and unfortunately, it's not a toll-free number. You can also e-mail tech support. Kanguru's Web site has downloads of the Windows 98 driver, the device's start-up guide, compatibility and formatting information, and a general Kanguru FAQ with non-product-specific information.