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I don't know much about how USB key drives work, but I notice that some of them can be made bootable to start any host, some only work on some hosts, while some never work at all.

To investigate, I'd like to check the manufacturer and precise model for the different USB key drives that I have. However, for one of them, Speccy only returns "Flash Drive USB Device", which isn't very helpful.

Does someone know of a utility for Windows that can analyse USB key drives and return useful technical information on them?

Thank you.


Edit: Here's what XP's Device Manager returns that could help identify the mfg + model:

Device Manager > Disk Drives > (USB key drive) > right-click > Properties > Details

Bus Relations:
STORAGE\RemovableMedia\7&11d2d56e&0&RM

Device Instance Id:
USBSTOR\DISK&VEN_&PROD_FLASH_DRIVE&REV_5.00\CCCBB9999003615&0

Hardware Ids:
USBSTOR\Disk________Flash_Drive_____5.00
USBSTOR\Disk________Flash_Drive_____
USBSTOR\Disk________
USBSTOR\________Flash_Drive_____5
________Flash_Drive_____5
USBSTOR\GenDisk
GenDisk

Edit: Microsoft's DevCon returns useful information, although it's still no guarantee that a no-brand USB key drive can be identified. I'll read more about how to check if a USB key drive can be made bootable reliably.

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3 Answers 3

up vote 1 down vote accepted

This information is only included in the USB key as a vendor and product ID pair (VID and PID), nothing more. If you want to query this information systematically, you can use the DevCon utility from Microsoft. This is like a command-line utility for the device manager.

After that, you could obtain the VID/PID pair, and as suggested, compare it with a database. However, because this is all CLI-based, you could automate/script the whole thing.

Do note that you should also ask yourself why you want this information in the first place. Most manufacturers have multiple vendor IDs, and create a unique PID for each new product. It's very difficult to maintain (or even find!) an up-to-date list of all of these identifiers and their associated vendor/product names. If you need to have support for a specific feature, try to find an application which can query the device for it's support of said feature, and not relying on the product's name and manufacturer.

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Thanks for the links. DevCon returns "VID_2002&PID_1115", which isn't listed in the Linux list above (linux-usb.org), but Google did find more : www.ixitools.com/hwcat/usb_vid_2002_pid_1115/devinfo4606.html. The reason I need this is to learn more about why some USB can be made bootable while others can't or only work on some hosts. –  OverTheRainbow Aug 24 '11 at 11:06
    
@OverTheRainbow AFAIK, so long as a device is implemented using the standard USB mass-storage device class, it should be recognized and bootable by the machine on startup. –  Breakthrough Aug 24 '11 at 13:15

You might get some useful info through the Windows Device Manager - for example (Windows 7):

  • Right click on 'Computer and select 'properties'.
  • Select Device Manager
  • Find your USB device, right click and select 'properties'
  • Have a look at the 'Hardware Ids'

enter image description here

Edit: As I was preparing this, Journeyman Geek has done a good write-up too!

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Thanks but I get the same type of infos for the USB key drive I'm testing, but it's neither in the Linux list mentionned below nor in Google. With bootable USB keys being such a useful tool to start a problematic PC, I expected someone to have written a utility to help generate a reliable bootable key. –  OverTheRainbow Aug 24 '11 at 10:31
    
If you haven't found it already, have a look at Unetbootin for making bootable keys: unetbootin.sourceforge.net In my experience it's usually BIOS-related problems that prevent booting from a USB key - notably because the partition numbering in a Linux-based boot setup doesn't have the boot code on partition 1, but there is a 'fix' option in the advanced menu of Linux fdisk that sorts this under some circumstances/for some motherboard. In my experience, the most temperamental motherboard/BIOS combinations for USB booting are those from Gigabyte. –  Linker3000 Aug 24 '11 at 12:30
    
Thanks for the info. –  OverTheRainbow Sep 2 '11 at 12:26

Its a little annoying but, one way to is to get the device id of the specific USB thumb drive - from the removable devices manager, or from my computer rightclick on the drive letter -> properties -> hardware -> hardware id, then compare it with an online database.

for example with my 1tb WD passport - you can find that this is similar to entries here for older models

enter image description here

I'm quite sure there's a better database of these things, and i'll update my answer once i find one. EDIT: Two bits of software that'll do the job. I HATE the UI on it, but SIV will give you the device id. it is under USB Bus -> USB bus.

UKD or unknown devices is a little slower, hasn't been updated in 3 years , but can use the USBID files from SIV apparently

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Thanks for the tip. I'm using XP(SP3) and edited my question to show what Device Manager returns that could be useful... but didn't help when trying to look it up in the Linux list above :-/ –  OverTheRainbow Aug 24 '11 at 10:21
    
you can probably at LEAST work out the vendor from that list. I swear there was a better database, but its been years since i had to mess around with forensic computing, and can't actually remember what we did. The two software i linked prolly will be simpler tho –  Journeyman Geek Aug 24 '11 at 10:29
    
@Overtherainbow - In the Linux List... I am a little confused :/ If you want this info in Linux, try lsusb, as for bootable... I don't want to start another answer in case I have misunderstood you.... but, you are best off using disk management... this isn't usually down to the USB device, but instead down to if the computer supports USB booting and if the drive has a active partition and system/boot files. –  William Hilsum Aug 24 '11 at 10:31
    
naw, i linked a list from linux-usb.org - the manufacturer lists are up to date enough, but the device list seems a generation behind. –  Journeyman Geek Aug 24 '11 at 11:44
    
i wasn't very clear - I used the drive letter in my computer, not device manager - edited to reflect this for future use. –  Journeyman Geek Aug 24 '11 at 12:02

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