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Beware of U3 on Your Flash Drive

Without really knowing what I was doing, I bought a Sandisk flash drive with "U3" on it.  This is an application that when you plug the flash drive into your computer, spoofs the computer into thinking it is a CD-ROM drive, so programs can be run from it.  I presume this might be useful if you compute from a lot of public computers and want to carry your own email client around, but for me, this was useless functionality. 

All that U3 did for me was radically slow down the process of plugging my flash drive into the computer and getting my damn files on and off.  There is sort of a boot up process, and on several occasions it crashed my whole system, despite trying to update the software to the most recent version.  Unfortunately, the built in uninstaller does not work, so, like spyware, the U3 has become impossible to remove.  Despite paying $50 for this thing, I am seriously considering throwing it in the trash and getting a new one without U3 on it.

Update: Downloading this finally got rid of it.  Again, this might be a cool tool for folks who use public computers or other people's computers a lot.  However, if you don't need this functionality, and just want to move files around, you will not want the instability and incompatibility problems U3 brings.

Posted on January 23, 2008 at 10:27 AM | Permalink

Comments

Thanx for the tip! I am in the market for a 4Gb+ USB drive & will now know to avoid this piece of trickery. Sounds like a Microsoft kind of feature, ok idea in theory - implementation ends up a clusterf***

Posted by: Mike | Jan 23, 2008 10:32:22 AM

I've noticed this as well with SanDisk and other thumb-drive manufacturers. Even though the program's not malicious, it should be noticed that it's against the law to install software on a user's computer without their permission.

Posted by: ErikTheRed | Jan 23, 2008 11:05:00 AM

It's not just SanDisk. The U3 web site lists the following products as using their software:

SanDisk Cruzer Micro
SanDisk Cruzer Titanium

Intuix Smart Drive M300
Intuix Smart Drive S300
*excluding Japan

Memorex Mini TravelDrive
*excluding Asia

PQI Cool Drive U320 Smart Drive

TwinMos U3 Mobile Disk

A DATA PD13

Ativa U3 USB 2.0
Flash Drive

Edge Tech Corp DiskGo

PNY Attaché

disgo and busbi

Disk2go SMART II

Extrememory U3 Smart USB Drive

Hama U3 FlashPen Mini USB 2.0

Elecom MF-UU2*
*Japan Only

I-O DATA EasyDisk U3 smart drive*
*Japan Only

Posted by: ErikTheRed | Jan 23, 2008 11:10:04 AM

I had one of these as well. Hated the U3 part, once I figured out how to uninstall it (sure was a pain) I started using it again. Had I known, I would have avoided it. When I was in the market for a newer flash drive with more memory, I ended up getting a 120gb portable HD instead - not much more $$ and holds SO much more. I use it daily.

Posted by: Jim | Jan 23, 2008 12:45:22 PM

The uninstall link asks you why you are removing U3. One of the listed reasons is "I own a Mac". I was not amused, therefore, to find out their uninstaller only works on a PC running Windows.

Posted by: Bob Smith | Jan 23, 2008 5:14:53 PM

The true lesson is "Beware Autorun"

You should disable autorun on all devices - you never want software to install without your express permission. That's how spyware, trojans and other malware spread.

Posted by: Chris | Jan 23, 2008 6:56:33 PM

Okay, so I'm a moron. Why can't you run programs from a flash drive? Why must the computer be fooled into thinking it's a CD-ROM drive? That makes no sense.

Posted by: damaged justice | Jan 24, 2008 10:17:50 AM

It's not an autorun thing, and it has nothing to do with running programs. The memory stick reports itself as being 2 different devices on the USB bus- a CD-ROM drive containing an installation of the U3 software that can't be erased, and a regular flash drive. They could have just put the software on the regular flash partition and not have a fake CD-ROM drive, but that would make it too easy for people to delete. I'm guessing they figured that if they stored it in a way it couldn't be deleted and made it show up every time, people would wonder what the hell it was and be more inclined to try it out.

I tried it for a bit and didn't like it at all. I downloaded the PortableApps.com suite instead, and I'm much happier with it.

It took a long time for me to find the uninstaller and get it to work. It wasn't a fun process. Also, a warning- the uninstaller says it will back up your data and you won't lose anything, but after running it, my memory key was blank. Thankfully I backed up my data first.

Posted by: Nick S. | Jan 24, 2008 7:58:28 PM

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