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I'm looking for portable hard disks that have a physical switch (with or without key) to make it "read only" to prevent modification.

Is there a particular keyword I should look for that designate those types of drives, or models I can look into, anything that can guide me will help.

Thanks

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the only physical switches i've seen on portable hard drive cases are the power switches on 3.5" enclosures. that certainly write-protects them, but it also read-protects them too. probably not what you're looking for. –  quack quixote Oct 31 '09 at 20:27
    
If you're willing to go old school and don't need to store a lot of data, what about a 3.5" floppy? ;) –  Cory Plastek Nov 10 '09 at 14:26
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4 Answers

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Some very few USB keys can be found here, for example:
Ritek Ridata Twister 32GB USB Drive with Write Protection.
I haven't found any larger write-protected external disks.

For others, this article recommends trafficking the jumpers (!) :
How to Write-Protect an External Hard Drive

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the article links to a Seagate SCSI drive which apparently had a WRT PROTECT jumper setting. i don't know if that's still common... i mean, unless there was some secret setting i'm not aware of, standard EIDE drives didn't include a WRT PROTECT jumper... and my latest SATA-II drive acquisitions don't have any jumpers at all. –  quack quixote Oct 31 '09 at 20:25
    
@~quack: True. External disks with write-protect jumpers apparently exist, but might take some doing to find. –  harrymc Oct 31 '09 at 20:54
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I have done a lot of browsing an d was surprised how few drives there are with this feature. The only drive I've found that is still available is the Chinese Eaget E901. You can still grab this thing from most Hong Kong based resellers.

As for your question about the keyword, the best results came up with the words "write-protect usb". Apart from the drive I mentioned, similar queries turned up plenty of thumb drives but no HDD enclosures (most products are no longer made or sold).

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Amazon's related purchases system led me from the aforementioned Ritek model to the Kanguru Flashblu 2 product line. I don't have any personal experience with them, but I read through the comments on the various models (2, 4, 8, 16GB). There were about 10 reviews total. Bad experiences included:

  • one customer said that 5 of the 30 models they ordered arrived with broken switches (the 4GB model)
  • another reviewer with a similar (near-)DOA issue, this one for the 2GB model. The chip apparently came loose from the body of the device within a few days of reception. The protagonist was able to remedy this with some super glue.
  • A couple of people complained about the fact that the cap is not attached to the body of the device. Personally, I would recommend that these people learn the skill "Glue And String".
  • Although no-one complained about the Kanguru's switch itself, someone did mention that the label for it was logically inverted, i.e. the "Read-only" setting was labeled "Read-Write" and vice versa. "Pen and Sticky Tape" could be beneficial here.

Other than these complaints — gleaned from 3 or 4 different reviews — reviews were overwhelmingly positive; most customers gave their respective model 5/5 stars.

A comment on the Ritek Ridata Twister mentions that it has a relatively awkward-to-use switch: it is apparently a DIP switch that you need a paperclip to operate. On the upside, it is a 32GB model.

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