iTwin USB Drive Review
The iTwin USB drive is a unique way of accessing and transferring files between two computers. Plug each half of the iTwin USB drive into an online computer, and you’ll be able to securely access, edit, download, and upload files between both computers. iTwin uses an end-to-end AES-256 encryption to enable a secure connection between any two computers in the world.
Aside from the fact it’s called the “iTwin”, the design is quite Apple-y. It’s reminiscent of the older iPod Nanos especially with its bright green aluminum outer shell. There are two identical pieces to iTwin and they both look like regular USB drives, but with one difference. The back of each drive has a connection port for the drives to connect to eachother. There is no cap to cover the USB port, it stays exposed. There’s an LED activity indicator on both sides of each drive.
How to use iTwin
The iTwin documentation is a bit deceiving. When I see “Plug’n'Play, No Setups, No Configurations Needed”, I think no setup required. Unfortunately, that is not the case. The iTwin software must be installed on every computer you plan to use the device with, and it’s only Windows compatible for now. Luckily, the setup is relatively quick and the install file resides on each iTwin drive. Each iTwin drive shows up on your Windows machine as a CD Drive, and only for the sake of installing the software. If you choose to register your email address during setup you will be able to remotely disable the connection between both halves of iTwin if you lose one. The halves of iTwin must be connected to each other and also connected to the computer to “pair” them for the first time. Once they’re paired they never have to be connected again.
Once the software is installed an iTwin “System Folder” will show up in My Computer. A tray icon is also installed; it only shows up when iTwin is plugged in. The tray icon allows you to access the “Local Files” folder or the “Remote Files” folder. You can drag files and folders to the local folder to share them with the other half of iTwin. If the other half of iTwin is connected, you can drag files and folders to the remote folder to send them to the other computer. Files from Local and Remote folders can be edited and deleted from either computer. You cannot share entire drives, but you can share every folder and file in a drive. The only user customizable setting available is the option to add a password to the drives to prevent unauthorized usage.
The iTwin works over the internet and can connect any two Windows computers (no Mac support yet). They make the comparison that it is like two ends of a cable, without the cable. You can access, edit, and delete any of the files you have already set up to share. You can also send files between each computer, making it easy to send all of your pictures home while vacationing. There’s no real limit to the amount of content you share aside from your computer storage. Internet bandwidth can be a limitation, on a slow connection it could take a very long time to transfer or view files. When both iTwin halves are connected to a computer they create a secure 256-bit AES encryption, which iTwin claims is comparable to military or online banking security. Additionally, you can set a password during the pairing process that will prompt you every time you plug in iTwin. Since nothing is stored on iTwin if you lose it, you won’t lose any of your stuff (as long as you’re password protected or you remotely disable to connection). When iTwin is plugged in, it will prevent your computer from entering sleep mode. iTwin still works if you lock your computer and it uses the same ports as your internet browser so there shouldn’t be any issues with firewalls.
The iTwin works very well for what it is, but the marketing can be a bit deceiving. You may think that when you insert the second half of iTwin into any computer and it will look like a regular USB drive with all of your files from home. This isn’t quite the case; firstly, you have to install the exe setup onto every computer using iTwin. If you’re using a public computer it’s not always possible to install setup files. Secondly, it doesn’t show up like a drive, it shows up as a “system folder” which gives you limited options when you right click on files. For instance, you cannot select all of your files, right click, and send them to a zip file or an email. Lastly, you can only access the content you set up to share prior to connecting. You cannot “share” an entire drive but you can share every file and folder inside of the drive.
One of the best reasons to use iTwin is for sending files home (or to another computer); it’s safe, effective, and you don’t have to worry about file size restrictions. It’s just as good for accessing or updating any files on the remote computer, though depending on your needs. If you’re looking to actually access your remote computer then LogMeIn remote access makes more sense. iTwin is not as practical of a solution for backing up documents as something like DropBox, where you always have a copy locally AND remotely. Once you lose internet, you lose any documents you were working on from the iTwin remote computer. Let’s also remember that there’s nothing quicker and easier than transferring files to a flash drive, there are even free tools out there for encrypting and password protecting your flash drive.
Even though we have gripes, with a proper setup and an understanding of how iTwin functions, it works very well. It’s an efficient and safe way to share, back up, and access files between computers. Just like flash drives, cloud storage, and remote access software, iTwin has its pros and cons. One of the big pros is that it’s a one time cost, no subscriptions. It retails for $99, though it can be purchased on Amazon for $89.60. It’s currently available in Gunmetal Gray and Lime Green.
The Good: Remote Disable if Lost, Password Protection, Encryption, Secure, One-Time Price, No File Size/Type Limitations
The Bad: Have to Install Setup File on Every Computer, Doesn’t Work Without Internet Access, No Mac Support, Limited to Internet Bandwidth Speeds, No Mobile Support, Can Only Access Files Previously Set Up to Share
Update 07/21/11: iTwin has told us that the Mac version will be released worldwide in August and that they have already launched the Mac version in Italy.