The Micro Solutions Lockbox is a USB 2.0 external hard drive protected by a biometric fingerprint sensor system.
The Lockbox comes in 3 sizes: 80gb ($199), 120gb ($249), and 200gb ($299) and works with Windows 98 or later PCs.
As of 8/23 you could get the 80gb Lockbox for $191.99 from Buy.com with Free Shipping.
We got hold of an 80gb lockbox to review, keep reading to find out what we thought of it……
The Lockbox comes in a cardboard box with the drive itself protected by foam.
The Lockbox package comprises:
- 80GB Lockbox External Hard Drive
- AC Adapter and Power Cord
- USB Cable
- Installation CD
- Instructions/User Guide
Taking the drive out of its protective foam packaging we can see two connectors on the back, one is for power and the other is a mini-USB connector for connecting to your PC. There is also a small fan on the back.
The base of the drive has rubber feet and some ventilation holes.
The front of the drive has a Lockbox logo and the top has a green power light and the fingerprint sensor. When the drive is powered up the sensor also has a red light at the top.
The drive is smaller than I expected, just slightly larger than the 3.5″ Hitachi drive it contains. Overall it is 6.88″ x 4.75″ x 1.37″ and weighs 1lb 13oz (without the AC adapter).
Setup and Installation:
You are supposed to install the Lockbox software from the CD and restart your computer before connecting the Lockbox drive (if you don’t the drive will be recognized and you can access the public partition but windows won’t recognize the fingerprint sensor).
Assuming you installed the software and rebooted you will see the following screen where you will be able to click next and start setting up the drive and biometric protection.
First you need to create a user, typically this will be the administrator user who can later setup other users to access the drive.
Once you have created a username and password you need to scan your fingerprint. Each user is required to enroll two fingerprints, preferably from different hands in case you happen to lose a hand in a horrific industrial accident.
Enrolling a fingerprint is easy, you just touch your finger flat/horizontal to the sensor, and it typically needs 5-20 examples of your finger to build up a good enough record.
The next step is to decide how many partitions you need and to set the size of the partitions. If you have multiple users accessing the drive then you may want to give each one a partition, alternatively if you have just one or two users you can have just two partitions, one public and one fingerprint protected.
During the setup process you also have the option to enter the owner’s information (a minimum of name and email address). This is an optional step but if you don’t enter the owner information you will not be able to use the 24/7 emergency unlock service (presumably you need this in case you lose _both_ hands in the accident).
Using the Drive:
When the drive is connected the administrator can access the user administration and add new users (after unlocking the drive with the fingerprint scanner):
Each user need to enroll two fingerprints and can be assigned to have access to one of more protected partitions.
When the drive is connected the protected partitions are locked until a user scans his/her fingerprint and unlocks them.
Here we see just the Public Drive (H:) visible in Windows Explorer.
When someone scans their fingerprint a large icon (250 x 250 pixels) is displayed on screen.
If the fingerprint is recognized the green icon is displayed along with the user name and that user’s protected partition(s) are unlocked.
Here we see that the Private drives (I: and J:) are now visible.
If the fingerprint isn’t recognized the amber icon is displayed and no drives are locked or unlocked.
A user can lock drives by scanning their fingerprint. If it is recognised the red lock icon is displayed and open drives are locked.
I know what you’re thinking: It’s just a regular 3.5″ hard drive so I can get around the security by opening the case, taking out the drive, and plugging it into a regular hard drive cable.
Wrong: The drives are locked using the standard hardware password feature of IDE drives. Without the right password the protected partitions won’t even appear if you insert the drive in another PC.
We aren’t big on benchmarks at ShinyPlastic.com but with something like a hard drive you want to know how it performs so we ran some tests:
Using the Sandra benchmarking program we got the following results:
Buffered Read : 12 MB/s
Sequential Read : 13 MB/s
Random Read : 12 MB/s
Buffered Write : 19 MB/s
Sequential Write : 19 MB/s
Random Write : 19 MB/s
Average Access Time : 9 ms (estimated)
These speeds are slower than for a drive installed in a PC due to the limitations of the USB 2.0 interface but they are fast enough for normal use either as extra file space or for backups. They are also comparable to other USB 2.0 external hard drives we have seen.
As a USB external hard drive this is a great drive, well constructed, pretty fast, easy to use.
The security and biometric features work well and we had no problems getting our fingerprints recognized every time we used the drive.
Any small business should consider a drive like this: if you are storing confidential business/financial documents on a regular hard drive any of your employees could be looking at them.
The security functions are even useful for home users providing a safe place for backups from accounting software and tax returns etc.
One feature I would like to see that is missing is an autolock if they drive isn’t accessed for a specified period of time, so the drive wouldn’t be left unlocked if I went to lunch and forgot to lock the drive.
Easy to use
No autolocking feature
Overall Rating: 9/10