IronKey Workspace W300 (64GB) review

The IronKey Workspace W300 flash drive combines the convenience of Windows To Go with IronKey's solid security, making it a true Windows PC on the go.

Whether you’re a salesman on the road, a telecommuter shifting between the workplace and a home office, or just want the freedom to take your work environment from one PC to the next, the IronKey Workspace W300 may be the portable option you’re looking for. Like the previous Editors’ Choice Kingston DataTraveler Workspace (32GB), the IronKey Workspace W300 (64GB) is far more than a flash drive, certified for Windows To Go, a portable, bootable version of Windows 8 that lets you go from one system to the next without giving up your IT-certified operating system. And with a slim yet rugged design and IronKey’s renowned security, the Workspace W300 is our new Editors’ Choice for Windows To Go devices. It’s basically your PC in your pocket.

Design and Features
The Workspace W300 doesn’t stray far from the usual IronKey aesthetic, with a look that is similar to the IronKey Personal S200 ($79.00 list, 4 stars), with a rugged ABS plastic enclosure and epoxy filling to protect against both physical threats, like water, dust and shock and preventing any hardware tampering.

Available in 32GB, 64GB, and 128GB capacities, the drive measures 0.35 by 0.82 by 3.19 inches (HWD) and weighs only 0.7 ounce. Unlike the chunky Kingston DataTraveler Workspace, it’s small enough that it won’t crowd out adjacent USB ports. The oblong drive has a lanyard loop on one end, making it easy to attach to a key ring, while the USB plug is covered by a cap that snaps firmly into place, keeping out dirt and grime when the drive is not in use. There is no cap storage on the drive, however, so you will need to take care not to lose it.

Security goes well beyond the physical, with built-in password protection, and BitLocker 256-bit AES full disk encryption. It may not have the hardware-based access protection of the Aegis Secure Key, but the IronKey products have a well-deserved reputation as some of the best secure drives on the market.

Using the drive is a reasonably simple process. The drive plugs into any USB port of the host PC—USB 3.0 is preferred, but not necessary—and the host PC is then powered on or restarted, booting from the USB drive. This may require resetting the boot options in the host PC’s BIOS, or accessing a boot manager at start up. Once the boot sequence begins, you’ll see the Windows 8 logo, and you’ll be guided through a brief setup process. Accept the license requirements, log in with a Windows ID, and you’re good to go. The initial setup takes a few minutes, but afterwards, booting from the drive happens in a matter of seconds.

The drive itself is fast, with a USB 3.0 connection offering average read speeds of 300MBps and write speeds of 200MBps. By comparison, the Kingston DataTraveler Workspace has similar average speeds of 250MBps (both read and write). The speedy drive, when used with a USB 3.0 connection, is noticeably nimble.

Formatted in NTFS instead of the FAT32 used by most flash drives, the Workspace W300 is compatible with most Windows 7 or Windows 8 computers. Minimum system requirements are standard for Windows 8 and most Windows 7 machines: a processor with a clock speed of 1GHz or more; at least 2GB of RAM for 64-bit systems (or 1GB for 32-bit), and DirectX 9-capable graphics.

Once you boot to Windows 8 from the drive, all of the necessary drivers are already in place, letting you use the host PCs monitor, keyboard, mouse, and networking devices—but not the hard drive. The bootable OS stays isolated from the host PCs hard drive, keeping the user from snooping on the local machine, and preventing any transmission of malware from one to the other.

Though not made purely for storage, you do have some storage space on the bootable drive. Our 64GB review unit came with 46GB of free space, but you can also use a second flash drive or external hard drive for expanded storage space.

During use, you’ll be able to install and run programs as you normally would onto the drive, and Internet Explorer comes preinstalled. You can install Microsoft Office onto the remaining space on the DataTraveler Workspace, and use that to launch your Word, Excel, or PowerPoint files and work on them. Because it reads as a fixed drive, rather than a removable drive, you don’t have to install a special bootable version of the programs.

A couple of caveats: You won’t be able to access the Windows Store or any of the Windows 8 Apps available through the drive. Also, the size of your primary drive is limited to the remaining capacity of the flash drive. Aside from the differences in storage, the user experience is exactly like using Windows 8 on any other PC, though you may notice the occasional lag when connected via USB 2.0. Once you’re done, simply unplug the drive, and it’s like you were never there.

For the flexibility of a full operating system that you can use on any PC, the IronKey Workspace W300 is an excellent choice, though many people will be better served by the private browser on the Victorinox Swiss Army Slim Flight or the secure partition options on the SanDisk Extreme 3.0 (64GB). With all of the features offered by the Kingston DataTraveler Workspace, but with IronKey’s excellent security and a slimmer design. As a result, it replaces the Kingston as our new Editors’ Choice for Windows To Go devices.

COMPARISON TABLE
Compare the IronKey Workspace W300 (64GB) with several other flash drives side by side.

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Specifications
Storage Capacity (as Tested) 64 GB

Verdict
The IronKey Workspace W300 flash drive combines the convenience of Windows To Go with IronKey's solid security, making it a true Windows PC on the go.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc