Friday, 23 June, 2006

U3 Smart Drive is a Bad Idea

When my friend David Stafford bought a 2 GB SanDisk Cruzer Micro USB Flash Drive the other day he got more than he bargained for.  The Cruzer includes the U3 Smart Drive technology that lets you install software, carry data, and share information seamlessly between multiple computers.  It's pretty cool technology and may very well be the way that portable computing will go (I've mentioned the possibility here a time or three), but to have it thrust upon you is unfriendly in the extreme.  When an unsuspecting David plugged the drive into his computer, he was not very happy to see it installing software and popping up menus.

A few minutes' searching and he located the U3 Uninstall site, where he had to tell them why he wanted to remove the software, and also had to acknowledge several times that, yes, he really did want to remove U3 from his flash drive.  Once he finished running the gauntlet he got to download the uninstall program.  Which promptly crashed when he tried to run it on his dual core Athlon 64 running Windows XP.

So he brought the drive over to my old Windows 2000 build machine and plugged it in.  I went through the U3 Uninstall Inquisition and finally got the program.  Which ran fine and made me acknowledge three different times that I really and truly, unquestionably and without even one shred of doubt wanted to remove that stupid software from the flash drive.  Done.  Oh, and the whole idea of having to agree to a software license just to remove some "feature" that I didn't want in the first place is highly amusing.

I think SanDisk and any other company that's considering using U3 might want to reconsider.  Most of us who buy these drives just want an easy way to move files among computers.  We don't care about being on the cutting edge of whatever innovation they're trying to shove down our throats.  As far as I'm concerned, having U3 on the flash drive makes it less valuable to me because I have to go through the trouble of removing the crap before I can use the drive the way I want to use it.  I will make it a point now to look closely at whatever USB flash drive I'm considering so that I can be sure not to get one that has U3.