At first blush, the idea of the Isostick might not seem that amazing. In simplest terms, it’s a USB flash drive that your computer detects as an optical drive. But who needs something like that? Nowadays, just about every computer on the market can boot to a USB device, be it a flash drive or an external hard drive. This lets you boot into a Linux-based operating system or run system repair software on your computer without using a disc drive.

However, if you’ve played around on laptop or desktop computers from three or four years ago, you may have run into a few that simply don’t want to acknowledge your USB-pluggable storage. That can cause a lot of headaches when you want to re-install your OS or load a new one, since many of us don’t bother to keep recordable optical media lying around any more.

The Isostick takes care of this problem by taking a page from the old U3 flash drives. Inside the stick are two “disks:” the bootable optical disk, and the expanded flash storage into which you can load your CD and DVD .ISO files. When the Isostick boots up, you’re given a menu that lets you choose which of your .ISOs you’d like to boot.

Sure, you can hack something like this together yourself using tools like ISOLINUX, but the Isostick takes a lot of hassle out of the process. If you’ve been trying your best to make sure half a dozen Windows CDs and DVDs don’t get scratched up and leave you in the lurch, the Isostick is well worth a purchase. The Kickstarter project is rapidly closing in on its $25,000 funding goal, so you’ll be able to pick up your drive very soon. Right now, an 8GB drive is yours with a $75 pledge — and you’ll score some free stickers, too.

Just make sure you don’t accidentally put it through a wash cycle.

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Lee Mathews

Computer tech, blogger, husband, father, and avid MSI U100 user.

7 replies on “Isostick is a USB flash drive your computer thinks is an optical drive”

  1. The only reason I would be needing this is to install Window in a Mac. It annoy that I need a physical disk to install Window on a Mac.

  2. I think this is a very innovative idea that will be great for those computers without an optical drive or don’t have room to carry one. I hope they get enough money to get it made.

    1. It would be even nicer if they make it an optional internal feature to replace the need for an optical drive and would let computer makers include the recovery ISO.

      Right now, since many stopped including the recovery disc, most limit us to the recovery partition, which if it either gets corrupt, accidentally deleted, or the drive fails leaves us with no backup. But a backup on one of these will let end users even replace the main drive and just restore it as needed.

      Among other possible benefits…

        1. Yes, usually how it works, the more they buy then the cheaper they can provide it once they reach certain quantities.

          It’ll be even cheaper if they make it part of the system and solder it to the motherboard as a permanent feature.  Since then they wouldn’t have to deal with the cost of the casing.

          The BIOS could then be configured to turn the drive on and off.  So it’ll easily last for the life of the system and only be accessed as needed.

          Let’s hope someone in the industry has the same idea…

      1. FWIW, Apple has been shipping USB recovery media on the Macbook Air since the fall 2010 update. I haven’t checked, but I bet the new Mac mini also includes USB recovery media.

        1. Yes, I know, USB recovery drives is not new and people have been making their own for quite awhile.  However, it’s still almost unheard of to get one out of the box from the manufacturer and we shouldn’t be limited to certain products if we want that feature.

          Besides Apple is probably going to stop that now that LION can just be downloaded and the restore can even operate over the Internet.

          This drive is also a little different in that it will be seen by the system as a disc drive and can mount user supplied ISO files to essentially operate as a virtual disc drive and allow the end user to customize the backup by simply providing the ISO they will use.  So can cover custom setups as well as original OEM restorations without needing the user to go through any special procedure to set it up.

          The USB dongle version in this article is as Brad mentioned useful for those using older systems that may have problems with many existing USB methods.

          While, if they can get it to work with the OS as well, like the U3 Brad mentioned, then it could also double as a virtual disc drive for those who still occasionally need to use a disc and/or avoid needing to do a nodisc hack just to get something running like a game.

          Right now we’re limited to using virtual drive programs to accomplish this and they don’t always work as they should and would not provide a separate space to store the ISO(s).

          The primary benefit is this is simpler to operate than many of the existing methods and having a backup out of the box helps those who may not realize they should make a backup before doing anything with their new system.  Something that happens quite often unfortunately.

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