Essentially, the Corsair Flash Padlock is the same conceptual gear as what kept your high school locker free from prying eyes -- a combination lock. It's very much a traditional thumb drive with a pull-off end, except for the numeric keypad down the front.
The keypad consists of five numbered keys while a sixth has a "key" icon. It's your entry point to accessing the security features of the drive. As shipped, the Padlock is unlocked and can be used as a standard flash device. If you want to protect your data, you'll need to follow the instructions in the 17-page user manual (it's in six languages).
The hard work of setting up the drive is all about pressing the key button, entering your selected PIN through the keypad, pressing the key button again, re-entering your PIN, followed by the key button one last time. It's redundant grunt work with a few five-second time limits tossed.
After you've done that, you have 15 seconds to plug the drive in or it will automatically lock. What pressure! Not really, you'll just need to re-enter your PIN again to unlock it. If you don't unlock the drive, your computer won't recognize it at all, for anything. There's no need to lock the padlock once you remove it from your PC. It will do that itself after a few seconds.
What happens if you forget your PIN? The good news is that the Padlock is relatively inexpensive so you can probably afford to buy another. The one you had is now useless. Of course, you could register your PIN at Corsair's site and retrieve it from there if you forget the arcane combination of numbers you used.
You can also change your PIN or totally unlock the drive if you no longer have a need for its security. However, according to HD Tach, the Padlock only has a burst speed of 15.9MB/sec. and an average read rate of 15.4MB/sec. Both are rather slow and although there was no discernable difference during music or video playback, it did take four times longer to get an 888MB video onto the Padlock than it did onto Corsair's Survivor.
The key feature here is the lack of any software whatsoever. That means the Padlock is compatible with a Vista or XP PC, or a Linux PC, and yes, even a Mac. If you don't want or need the cross-platform versatility, select one of the faster drives.
A small word of caution
The drive case has a single screw on the bottom, which, when removed, allows you to open the case after a little prying to separate the glue. Inside, you'll find a replaceable battery. The good news is that the device did not reset itself when we removed it. But, of course, we couldn't stop there. We then removed the keypad board and attempted to access the data by simply reinserting the main board it into our USB port, but neither a PC nor a Mac would recognize the device. Then came the paper clip test. It failed, and we were able to bypass the physical PIN security and access the data on the disk. No, we won't tell you how for the sake of all those out there that have already purchased this flash drive. Just be aware that you may want to consider encrypting your data as well.
Price for a 1GB model: $27-$39