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IsoStick turns a flash stick into an optical drive

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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.

3 Responses to “IsoStick turns a flash stick into an optical drive”

  1. Stuart

    UMAZone and IO-Data are two companies that do something similar but with an HD-Drive so you can store lots more ISOs. It seems funny that such a device hasn’t been made already since it’s something that could have helped IT departments for years.

  2. Steven

    @Luscious – Unfortunately, not every ISO, on the other hand, is keen on being on anything other than their intended optical media. Be that a computer game or an OS. Either by design, or by limitation. In addition, while booting from USB is supported by most BIOSes these days, you’ll still want something bootable on there, where this will have a nice bootloader to pick any of the ISOs on the storage medium. Lastly, it has a read-only switch, in those cases where you want to poke at (an infected) computer and don’t want things writing to the drive, while not needing to install a driver first. I agree that it’s a niche market, as there’s tutorials available online that allow you to get to 95% of what the IsoStick does, and that will be just fine for most people. But getting to that last 5% is why I’d back this.

  3. I’m not sure what the point is in making a USB stick emulate a CD ROM drive – every notebook BIOS I’ve looked at lets you set USB in the boot-order list, even netbooks without a built-in burner. If your system goes down because your hard drive’s heads have crashed, your system won’t be able to be rescued PERIOD.

    It’s fairly easy nowadays to create a full-system backup and keep it on a bootable USB flash drive. Short of any physical damage, you’ll be fine for most emergencies.