Sunday, February 25, 2007

Did Bono Approve This?

So the other day I went over to Staples and bought a 2GB SanDisk Cruzer Micro USB Flash Drive, for the pretty low price of $24.98 (including rebate, which Staples makes ridiculously easy). Really nice price, considering I once bought a 256 MB drive for $60.

I have no complaints with the drive. I deleted the junk software that SanDisk put on the drive, and it works just fine under Linux, and on the Mac. I love it. It fits on my keychain, has a retractable USB plug, and looks cute. It'll carry around just about anything I want.

On the Mac, though, two partitions show up. The first is just the partition I see in Linux. The second, however, is labeled U3 and contains the software I deleted off the main partition: the windows only U3 Launchpad and application software. In a partition that Linux doesn't see and Mac OS X won't touch.

Plug this into a Windows XP box and it autolaunches. OK, you can remove the software, but only under windows, and only if Launchpad is running. I'm scared to death to stick it into our one and only XP box to see if I can do it. Apparently one can reformat the drive under Linux, but if I screw it up, I've got a $25 bit of plastic and silicon that's not heavy enough to make a good paperweight.

So what's the problem? Leave it alone, right? But big pendrives are great for Sneakernet applications. Suppose I want to carry a big file to a friend's Windows box? Up pops Launchpad, which should at least freak him out, if it doesn't cause any other problems. I know U3 vets all the software it allows on the drive, but it's still running programs on a friend's computer that he didn't give me permission to run. And then there is our own XP box, Hal's evil twin, which has the nice printer attached to it. I'd really like to Sneaker my files onto it, but not with this drive as long as it has U3 on it.

So I ask my small community of readers: Anyone successfully reformat a 2GB Cruzer, removed the U3 stuff, and still have a drive that can be read under Linux, OS X, and Windows? Leave details in the comments.


Anonymous said...

There's no way I would tolerate a hidden Windows partition on my hardware - what a great backdoor for rootkits!

I can't speak for your brand, but I have one standard practice for every storage media: dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/media (where its mounted) then fdisk and make a new partition, then mkfs.ext2. And I've done it with two smaller, even cheaper flash drives. In fact, I even have one running now as a swap partition on another machine with flakey RAM until I can give it a new stick. We're talking a 128MB here; I think you get those free with cereal now.

My policy is, I can do what I want with it, or my money back. But your mileage may vary...

rcjhawk said...

Well, I finally found a little courage, plugged the U3 drive in our XP box, and used the U3 uninstaller to delete the partition. Of course, I had to page through marketing telling me that I was throwing away all sorts of really neat stuff, but the delete program worked. I now have an honest-to-gnu 2 GB flash drive without any annoying software on it.

Caveat: For some reason (sanity?) the U3 software didn't launch on our XP box. I remembered reading somewhere that you needed to have it running when you launched the uninstall utility, so I started the thing up. The link above eventually downloads a file, which you then run. It took a minute or so.

Caveat (2): The Uninstall erases everything on both partitions of the drive, so back up anything you don't want to loose.

Finally, U3 gives you a chance to tell them why you don't want their wonderful software. Be sure and let them know. Politely, of course.