IsoStick turns a flash stick into an optical drive

Imagine being on the road and having your laptop completely crash to the point that it’s not even usable. For many tasks, you might be able to turn to a smartphone or tablet to keep on working or browsing. But if you really need that laptop and don’t have some kind of backup plan to get it restored, you’re out of luck.

A new Kickstarter project called the IsoStick aims to change that with a small USB flash drive capable of re-installing your laptop’s operating system. HackADay found the project, which is a memory stick containing all of the software and drivers needed to essentially trick your laptop into thinking that the device is actually an optical drive, not a flash drive.

Tech savvy readers likely already know how to make a flash drive “bootable”, so the IsoStick isn’t necessarily for them. I’ve already created a flash-based boot drive with OS X 10.7 Lion (s aapl), for example, even though the operating system installs a recovery partition on my Mac Book Air’s solid state disk drive. But for a mainstream consumer who doesn’t want to configure their own operating system backup plan by hand, the IsoStick would be handy.

This approach beats carrying a bunch of optical disks, and in some cases, a portable optical drive because it saves space and weight while mobile. A keyring keeps the IsoFlash on a belt, bag or keys and there’s a “read-only” button to keep images safe and sound. Aside from carrying a full operating system, I don’t see why any other software installs from CDs or DVDs could be transferred to the IsoStick in case a reinstall is needed for any reason.

The project will be funded if it raises at least $25,000 by August 22 and as of this writing, I see 54 backers committing a total of $7,716, so the IsoStick is off to a good start.