In the October 25 newsletter, I wrote about something I believe is a great bargain: a 64 gigabyte memory stick (also called a flash drive or jump drive or thumb drive or USB drive) for $59.99, including free shipping. That's less than a dollar per gigabyte! The article is still available at http://goo.gl/LKHGW.
The sale has since ended but a quick search shows that many other vendors are selling the same device for prices that vary from $59.99 to perhaps $80. I even found one vendor advertising a lower price, but that web site also stated "On backorder." I guess you can list any price you wish if you don't have any to sell.
I ordered the 64 gigabyte memory stick and it arrived Saturday. I am generally pleased with it, although it didn't turn out to be quite as cheap as I originally thought.
I plugged the Centon DataStick Pro USB Drive 64GB into a Windows laptop and it worked perfectly. Windows users can skip the rest of this article.
The "problem" is only for Macintosh users.
The Centon DataStick Pro USB Drive 64GB is pre-formatted in NTFS format. NTFS is a file system typically associated with Windows computers. If you plug the Centon DataStick Pro into a Windows XP, Vista, or Windows 7 system, it should work perfectly. However, Macintosh users may be dismayed to learn that today's Macs can read NTFS files but cannot write to NTFS devices. In other words, Macs can read information that is already on the memory stick, but cannot write any new information to it. In my opinion, that's not very useful!
Luckily, there are several possible solutions.
The first option is also the cheapest: reformat the Centon DataStick Pro as a Mac drive. You can do that easily by using Disk Utility (click on Finder, Applications, Utilities, Disk Utility). Disk Utility will perform many functions, including reformatting drives. Once formatted as a Mac OS Extended drive, you can plug the Centon DataStick Pro into any Mac and read and write data as you wish.
Of course, carrying a Mac-formatted flash drive also means that you can only use it in Macintosh systems. One of my primary reasons for using flash drives is that I want to be able to carry information to any Macintosh, Windows, or Linux computer, such as the Windows systems found at FedEx Kinko.
In theory, you can also format the drive as a FAT32 drive and use it in both Windows and Macintosh systems. However, FAT32 isn't designed for large drives, such as 64 gigabytes. I attempted to format the flash drive as a FAT32 device but failed. I used Disk Utility, selected the hard drive, and selected the Erase tab. I then clicked Erase. Disk Utility aborted a few seconds later.
A better solution (in my mind) is to add third-party software to the Mac that will read AND WRITE NTFS formatted drives. There are several to choose from, including one that is free, but difficult to install and is also very slow in operation, and another that costs $19.95 but installs easily and works quickly.
Probably the best-known NTFS software for Macintosh systems is MacFUSE. The price tag is great: free. However, MacFUSE has a rather complex installation process that requires opening a Terminal window and typing complex UNIX-like commands.
Next, MacFUSE is not a complete solution. Instead, the free software provides a "layer" of software between the Mac operating system and still other software you must download and install. Installing the MacFUSE software package will let you use any 3rd-party file system written for use with MacFUSE. While the price may remain at zero, the requirement to install even more software only increases the complexity.
Finally, Mac gurus wil tell you that MacFUSE and an accompanying 3rd-party file system product will result in slow performance. Apparently, there are too many "layers" for the software to deal with. Software overhead is a real problem.
In short, MacFUSE is a good solution for casual usage where you won't be using it often. If you would like to try MacFUSE, go to http://code.google.com/p/macfuse/
A more professional solution costs money but is very simple to install and works at full Mac speeds. NTFS for Mac® OS X is a $19.95 product from the Paragon Software Group that solves the problem for Mac users. I downloaded and installed the product within a minute or two. It installs in the same manner as most any other Macintosh software product. However, I did have to re-boot the Mac after installation.
Using NTFS for Mac® OS X is a non-story. It just works. Plug in the Centon DataStick Pro USB Drive 64GB or any other NTFS-formatted device and simply start using it. You can read and write to the drive as much as you wish. On my first attempt, I copied about 35 gigabytes of data to the DataStick Pro USB Drive 64GB.
NTFS for Mac® OS X is available as a 10-day free trial. I'd suggest you download the trial version first. If it works properly on your Mac, you can then purchase a software license for the full version from within the product.
For more information or to download NTFS for Mac® OS X, go to http://www.paragon-software.com/home/ntfs-mac/
I am happy with the Centon DataStick Pro USB Drive 64GB although I do wish it didn't cost me an additional $19.95 to use it the way that I want to. You can find it for sale on any number of web sites, including on Amazon.
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