LaCie Biometric Hard Drive

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LaCie Biometric Hard Drive
  • Expert Rating

    4.00 / 5


  • Biometric security, Fast transfer speeds, Competitively Priced


  • No support for Firewire

Bottom Line

The SAFE Hard Drive is competitively priced when compared to other external hard drives and there is the added bonus of biometric security.

Would you buy this?

The LaCie SAFE Mobile Hard Drive uses biometric security to control access to confidential data. More secure than traditional password or smart cards, the SAFE drives uses fingerprint scans to ensure that confidential information can be protected at work or on the road.

The SAFE drive is a small, light grey box with two LED lights and a fingerprint sensor on top and a USB connection and power socket on the side. It's small enough to carry around without any hassles, but at 138 x 80 x 25 mm too large to fit into a pocket. The SAFE Drive uses a hi-speed USB 2.0 cable to transfer data and it is fast - we transferred 1.6GB of data in just under 70 seconds. A second USB cable is all that is needed for power and to charge the device.

The SAFE drive is plug and play, meaning that as soon as you plug it into your computer - PC or Mac - it will recognize it as a USB drive. Additionally, the user interface is embedded in the drive, meaning you can switch from PC to PC without installing any software.

When first plugged in to our Windows XP Professional PC, the SAFE drive was immediately recognized and LaCie.exe icon was displayed in Windows Explorer. At this stage, it was impossible to determine the contents of the drive or its size and the LED lights were red.

On initial setup, users follow a simple wizard to configure the drive. After double clicking on the LaCie icon, users are prompted for a username and can setup three types of users - Administrator, Read/Write and Read Only. Administrators are the only types of users that can configure the drive and add or remove users. The SAFE drive can store up to 5 different user profiles.

Once the username and user type is configured, users are prompted to scan two sets of fingerprints from two different fingers. For example, we chose the left index finger and the right thumb. To store a fingerprint, users slowly swipe both fingers three times on fingerprint reader on top of the device. This is done by placing your fingers down flat on the device and slowly but firmly sliding them towards you. The silicon reader is sensitive and it may take one or two swipes before the drive accepts the prints. According to LaCie, the movement of a finger over the sensor eliminates any traces of the print, making it difficult for unauthorized users to duplicate.

Once the fingerprints have been recorded and user details stored, the drive can then be 'unlocked' and the LED lights turn green. The drive can then be used as any other external drive.

On subsequent attempts to use the drive, once the drive is connected, it will prompt the user for a fingerprint scan in order to display the drive contents and properties. There are however, no retry limits on the number of times an incorrect fingerprint can be scanned.

One thing we did find is that unplugging both the USB data cable and the power cable caused the device to 'lock'. But only unplugging the USB data cable didn't 'lock' the device. This meant that we were able to plug the SAFE drive into our desktop PC, access the contents of the drive, then unplug only the data cable and plug it into a laptop - and the drive appeared on the laptop with its contents displayed, bypassing the biometric security. LaCie have remedied this issue in a firmware update.

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