Thursday, December 31, 2009

Maxell pendrive suckage

I had to reinstall the OS on my parents' computer during the Christmas holidays. I forgot to bring my external hard disk with me, so I decided to buy a pendrive to backup their files.

Unfortunately, I picked a Maxell Venture to do the job. Maxell puts this pendrive in their Business Range line. I learned about this later because this is not indicated on the packaging. If it had been, I wouldn't have touched the product with a ten-foot pole. I consider pendrives a commodity: they should present a standard interface, and the only qualitative differentiation I can imagine is sleek and/or durable design or novelty packaging (not that I care for the latter).

Apparently, some pendrive manufacturers think otherwise. Maxell decided that it would indulge consumers with "extra features", such as "security and file compression software". Unfortunately, this makes the pendrive interface non-standard. The pendrive shows up as two physical devices, one contains a small partition called SECRET, the other has a large partition called PUBLIC. Apparently, this feature is governed by the firmware. There is no way to repartition the device (which shows up as /dev/sdb and /dev/sdc at the same time), and it is impossible to get rid of these "features". An added bonus is that I found it impossible to make this pendrive boot: the BIOS of my computer was understandably confused about this whole arrangement.

Nice job, Maxell. I returned the pendrive to the store the next day. When I googled for a possible solution, I learned about a similar "extension" called U3, which is equally useless but at least it can be removed (albeit only using Windows), and the U3 folks are decent enough to offer removal software on their website. By the way, Maxell support still hasn't answered my e-mail.

I think that companies should be free to offer "features" that break pendrives, but they should be obliged by law to display this warning message:

You are purchasing a pendrive with a non-standard interface.
Generally, this sucks.
Do yourself a favor and buy from one of our competitors.


  1. Effectively: my thoughts exactly. Only that I cannot return it as I got is for a gift.


  2. I have wrote to Maxell with a complaint about it. They wrote me back in a few hours and sent an utility that allows to change this and other settings of the pendrive. Worked great. Contact or me.

    1. Could you send me that utility...? :)

    2. i know it was 5 years ago, but maybe...


    At the downloads section there is an utility which will deal with the problem. Good luck!

  4. Hi,
    There are many threats to your data other than stealing. You can secure your data by using USB Boot Drive

  5. Whoo! 3dfx, you rock! I now have a 4Gb single partition Maxell pendrive.