Monday, April 03, 2006

Your handy secret flash stash

I find that when traveling with my laptop (whatever its size) one thing that I always want on me is some type of external drive space, either for quick exchanges of data with colleagues or to ensure that your most important files are backed up somewhere other than the laptop's internal hard drive (knock on wood and all).

I'm fortunate enough to have drawers full of USB flash drives, of all shapes and sizes - a veritable United Nations of flash storage. One of my favorites is SanDisk's very flat metal-clad flash drive with U3. I realized one way to have this drive with me at all times is to use my laptop's PCMCIA slot, which generally sits empty (in a laptop the size of Fujitsu P7120 that can seem like a lot of empty space begging to be filled up). Here is a simple way you can stash your own slim USB flash drive inside your laptop.

To start, you need to find a dust-blocker plastic insert that usually sits in PCMCIA slot (some laptops use a spring-loaded flap instead, in which case you need to beg your friends for their plastic insert). You will need to use a power tool and dremel out an empty area in the middle of the plastic insert.



The bit on the right was cut out from the bit on the left. My plastic insert had a solid plastic throughout, but some others will be a lot easier to carve out. On this black insert you just need to sever the diagonal support.



Next, just slide your USB flash drive into the PCMCIA slot, with the insert in place:









Voila! Your flash drive is ready and waiting any time you need it. There are some caveats of course. Firstly, I am not responsible for any damage this arrangement does to your flash drive or the computer, but it has been working for me without problems. Heat hasn't been an issue either (flash drives can take a lot of heat). I will write about another way to expand your drive space via PCMCIA slot very soon.

Of course, you can stash all types of items into your PCMCIA slot (I suggest experimenting with liquids!) but generally memory cards are a good choice as they're resistant to heat and will not get lost in the laptop's innards. If you want to store items such as some extra emergency cash or spare keys to your house you may want to look at products designed for this purpose.

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