As portable USB flash drive storage capacities continue to rise, the possibility of losing a lot of data in one hit becomes more worrying. While there are no flashing lights, laser grids or barbed wire to suggest that the Kingston DataTraveler Vault - Privacy Edition is different to other USB flash drives, the drive comes with 256-bit AES encryption. If you lose your drive your data will still be safe from prying eyes.
Apart from the bold "Vault Privacy" lettering on the underside of the drive, it resembles the DataTraveler 150 without the Spiderman suit. Like the DataTraveler 150, it is slightly chunky for a USB flash drive, which means you might have trouble accessing adjacent USB ports when it's plugged in.
Using the Kingston DataTraveler Vault - Privacy Edition with a PC for the first time initiates automatic installation of the DTVP Launcher (which is compatible with both Windows PCs and Macs). During installation and before you type in your password, the DataTraveler Vault - Privacy Edition shows up on your computer as a 3.9MB CD drive with the installation software and a removable media drive that denies access.
Once software installation is complete, you can enter your password, which unlocks and mounts the drive as a standard 32GB removable storage device. On Windows PCs, a system tray icon also appears from which you can access the settings menu to change your password or format the USB flash drive. From plugging the USB flash drive in to be being prompted for your password takes roughly a minute, and this has to be repeated on every new computer you plug the drive into. Subsequent uses on the same computer don't require the set-up process, so you can start using the USB flash drive as soon as you enter your password.
The 256-bit AES encryption employed by the drive is also used by Maxtor's BlackArmor portable hard drive and has been ratified by US government for use with both unclassified and potentially classified information.
All of the available storage on the drive is encrypted, so you can't accidentally transfer a file to an unprotected portion of the USB flash drive. The drive is also protected against brute force attempts to break the password, and will automatically reformat itself after 10 unsuccessful password attempts. You can securely format the USB flash drive at any time through the settings dialog.
The Kingston DataTraveler Vault - Privacy Edition is extremely fast, able to write 20GB worth of 3-4GB files at a rate of 12.2 megabytes per second (MBps), and read the same data at 28.5MBps. It also handles small files well. In our benchmark tests, it wrote 3GB worth of 1MB files at 5.5MBps and read them at 23.6MBps. It performed a simultaneous read/write operation of the same files at 4.8MBps.
The DataTraveler Vault - Privacy Edition's closest competitor, Corsair's 32GB Flash Voyager provides data encryption, but it only encrypts the USB flash drive in 4GB portions and it's not government-grade.
The Kingston drive is twice as expensive as Corsair's offering, and unfortunately you don't get the rugged shell of the Flash Voyager. But if data security is your primary concern, Kingston's DataTraveler Vault - Privacy Edition wins hands down.
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