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EDC USB drive - what do you carry, what's on it, and why?


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#1 DJ

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Posted 27 July 2016 - 01:28 PM

I have a computer science background, but I haven't been using those skills for a while, and my real-world experience was very focused on enterprise integration and service-oriented architecture projects.  Not so much individualized support.

 

Now I work with small businesses, helping them with anything they need help with (e.g., accounting, processes, compliance, systems integration, strategy, marketing, etc.), and I am often asked to fix small random IT tasks, like helping them log into a Windows system where the user forgot their password.  Sometimes these little problems are a roadblock to the bigger problems I am trying to address.

 

Therefore, I want to create a "beefy" EDC Swiss-Army-type USB drive(s) to keep on me.  So I was wondering what the community's thoughts were, especially if you have a lot of experience in IT support type activities, regarding:

  1. Type (e.g. SSD or non-SSD) and size of drive(s)?  Other considerations for the drive(s)
  2. Have one drive with many partitions, with many software programs, or a few different USB drives with different purposes (like some bootable - I believe you can have a bootable partition with non-bootable partitions on a single drive, but I don't know for sure, or the pros/cons)?
  3. What software utilities do you recommend based on your experiences and why?
  4. Anything else your experience has taught you...

My hope is to get a lot of responses, with people's unique experiences, to help me and other interested people within the community, create the best EDC USB drive(s).  I view this similar to how everybody shares their contents of their EDC bags, which is really cool, because it gives you so many ideas of what you might need when putting together your own.

 

Thanks!


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#2 Scott

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Posted 27 July 2016 - 02:11 PM

So I work off of a usb 3.0 drive when I'm editing programs (not running simulations). I use this drive https://www.amazon.c...rds=corsair gtx

 

The thing i like about is 1) its fast (almost as fast as sata 3.0 ssd) 2) beefy (won't break) and has a really good drive indicator light when its writing to disk.  THe one thing I dont like is it is easy to lose the cap. 

 

1) For me, I need at least 128 gb  of space. If a similar drive came out in 1 TB i'd be all over it... I dont want to have a cable to connect my drive, I like that its a thumbstick

 

2) I only have a single partition on my drive.

 

3) I'd like the ability to have a "back up to cloud" button on the usb drive that I can set in software. 

 

Another thing is it would be worth looking at having it be thunderbolt 3/usb-c 3.1 instead of straight usb 3.0. You can push much more power to it that way since thunderbolt 3 is a much more powerful port and it will be just as fast as a non-PCIE internal drive. 



#3 DJ

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Posted 27 July 2016 - 03:07 PM

Wow...that is beefy!  I remember back in 2008 when my wife bought a 4GB USB drive for work, and it cost about $140....  I'll definitely check that one out.

 

What programs do you keep on it (work or play) and why?  Ultimate/Hiren's Boot CD?  Other images/utilities?  LiberKey?



#4 Roger Heath

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Posted 27 July 2016 - 11:33 PM

Lexar S75,128GB thumb drive, USB3.0.  These were actually on sale at Costco not too long ago... I think it was something like thirty bucks.

 

Anyway, I use a "hacker's toolkit" version of Linux-- Bauer-Puntu 13.04 as a live USB.  It's an older distro, but it still suits my needs reasonably well.  The thumb drive is split into two partitions, one for the live bootable OS, and one for file storage.  It's all work, no play, strictly to get and keep people out of trouble.

 

I've got you beat-- I remember back around 1995 when a four MEGAbyte memory module cost somewhere around $140.  And a 1.2GB internal IDE hard disk cost $300.  Back in the good ol' days when going online meant 28.8kbps dialup. :lol:



#5 DJ

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Posted 03 August 2016 - 04:53 PM

Bauer-Puntu, that's pretty cool.  Does it work well with windows environments?

 

I was thinking large USB 3.0, and partitioning it, one for live boot and the other for files/utilities etc.

 

I guess there are not many IT EDC folk on the site and board.  Oh well....  Out of curiosity, what cords, tools, etc. do you also carry with you when you're out and about getting your geek on?

 

Aside for a flashlight, knife, and multi-tool, I've been thinking:

- Mini drill (I had to drill into a stripped laptop screw to add RAM this morning....freakin scary....)

- Ethernet cables

- Precision screwdriver kit (phillips and slotted)

- Spare USB drives

- Micro SD to SD to USB kit or thing

- USB to Mirco-B/Mini-B/Micro-B SuperSpeed adapter or a bundle

...?

 

Thanks again for your feedback!   :)



#6 fflyer036

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Posted 21 August 2016 - 09:41 AM

Silicon Power 64GB Jewel J80 USB 3.0, goes nicely on a keychain. You can get it on Amazon.

 

I use it primarily to carry photocopies of my travel documents (passcode protected), because I have lost them before and it's quite annoying.

 

 

51siPR4iLCL._SX425_.jpg



#7 Mikey Bautista

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Posted 21 August 2016 - 10:38 AM

Silicon Power 64GB Jewel J80 USB 3.0, goes nicely on a keychain. You can get it on Amazon.

 

I use it primarily to carry photocopies of my travel documents (passcode protected), because I have lost them before and it's quite annoying.

 

 

51siPR4iLCL._SX425_.jpg

 

I'm using this same drive, but don't have much on it except media (music/movies) as most of my important stuff is in the cloud. One of those I like keeping on me to easily make file transfers when I'm on machines not my own.



#8 Wolfhunter

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Posted 22 August 2016 - 02:44 PM

Hey DJ!
 

As a start: I did some 10-12 years in IT before shifting over to law enforcement. When I did IT it was as a IT-technician and later as a SystemTech/Admin in the healthcare field working mainly with radiology (X-ray) systems.

 

My thoughts and ideas in this post is based around my experience from above employments, and even if those jobs included working with 4500+ clients, centralized software distribution / desktop management I think some of might be applicable to smaller IT-enviroments. Also, they are based on the angle of you using tools in your professional career. Shortly mentioning my private USB-setup at the end of the post.

 

As english is not my primary language - and I'm a fast typer - I ask that you please excuse any errors in grammar and/or spelling :P

 

Have one drive with many partitions, with many software programs, or a few different USB drives with different purposes (like some bootable - I believe you can have a bootable partition with non-bootable partitions on a single drive, but I don't know for sure, or the pros/cons)?

Type (e.g. SSD or non-SSD) and size of drive(s)?  Other considerations for the drive(s)

 

I've used a SSD-drive with a home made boot-prompt that allowed you to choose which image to apply to a computer, for easy resetting should anything happen to a client that needs to get back up into production asap. I'm quite sure you could add - for example - a lightweight linux-distro of some kind to a bootable partition and use that to perform changes on clients, should you need to. You could also use a USB-stick with a bootable LIVE-distro of some kind of linux on.

 

We acctually used more USB-sticks with different tools on and such than we did single drives. The reason for this being that it was easier for us to keep the separate tools updated and if one needed tool X and another tool Z they didn't have to pass the SSD around.

 

The only problem I see with using USB-sticks instead of actual harddrives are that some older computers can't USB-boot. On the other hand I vaguely remember Windows 7 seriously disliking being booted from external USB-harddrives, if it was even possible back when I was at it.

 

You could absolutely have a bootable partition and then some other partitions with tools for example Windows and what not on them. Should be no problem. Choose USB-boot in the BIOS or Firmware if you want to boot from the disc at startup, if not, the other partitions with the tools will be visible in the computers own OS when you've started the original OS, provided the operating system supports the format of the disc (FAT, HFS and what not). Actually this sounds like a pretty decent solution for you.

 

...also, don't forget about the awesome Hiren's Boot CD which can be downloaded for free. It's a good tool for diagnosing computers as long as they have a CD/DVD-reader (or potentially can boot from USB if you want to fiddle with applying the .iso to a USB-stick). Hiren's also contains tools for lost Windows-passwords and whatnot ;)

 

What software utilities do you recommend based on your experiences and why?

 

For hardware diagnostics there are often tools provided by the company that builds the computers, at least if it is Windows-based machines. I know DELL and such have service-partitions that you can boot on to and use to diagnose your computer. The problem I have with these "provided" tools are that I've used them many times and gotten no errors reported back to me, but when I later check for example what I suspect to be faulty RAM-modules with another tool, say MemTest or something, I get loads of errors. So I wouldn't trust them to babysit one of my kidneys, should it spontaneously fall out.

 

The project Portable Apps is a software suite built to be run from a single USB-stick worth checking out. Although not bootable it contains tools for many different kind of things and also things like OpenOffice, and it's completely free. One problem with this is if your employer or system administrator has disabled using EXE-files not vetted by a central management (like an Active Directory, Novell or something), but if you - like I did - work for the IT-department then it should be possible to use "Run as Administrator" to get it to start.

 

There are of course tools for mostly everything. For network / TCP-based monitoring and diagnostics I'd suggest using WireShark which is an excellent tool to analyze TCP and UDP trafic.

 

If you are in need of tools for something more specific please ask and maybe I can give you a hint.

 

Anything else your experience has taught you...

 

Keep a spare copy / backup of your toolbox. Ie. an image of the disc or sticks that you use. It doesn't have to be a spare identical physical disc (costs and so on). I once worked on a computer with a drive that had faulty sectors on it or something and in the process of reformatting the drive accidently formatted my own "tool-drive". Felt like an idiot and a couple of hours added to the whole mess was the result of that, and an important lession learned.

 

I prefered to keep the disc / sticks together with tools (screwdrivers of all kinds, plyers, flashlight, tweezers, a can of compressed air and what not) neatly organized in a pouch or small bag. The EDC-freak in me kept it neat and tidy and that way you also know that you have both the soft(ware) and the hard(ware) tools that you need should you find yourself in a situation where you need to remove a case, a disc, straighten out the pins in a DVI-connector or what ever.

 

Also, you can never have ethernet-cables that are too long (or well... you CAN but you get my point).

 

On a more personal level

 

At the moment I do not carry a USB-stick but that's mainly due to my old one breaking. I have a USB-stick at another location than home with insurance information, copies / pictures of prized posessions with their serial / IMEI-numbers and stuff and also copies of mine and loves ones passports / ID-cards and insurance and healthcare info for my pets.

 

Wow, that was a lot of text. Hope it helps somewhat.

 

Stay frosty.


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-- Wolfhunter

Security is not an option, it's a way of life...


#9 Mike

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Posted 25 August 2016 - 04:39 PM

Op,

 

Like with EDC itself, the best EDC drive is going to be the one customized for you.

 

I have two I carry with me everywhere.  

 

A Lacie 64G usb that I have in my smartkey setup. For content I keep

- backups of all my in progress manuscripts and critiques.

- personal ssh keys

- putty

- a darkwrite word processing app I use and modified to run entirely off the usb drive.

- My game write-ups so I can have my needed info and run anywhere I can get a plug and screen.

 

I also carry a Seagate 1T USB3

- 1 partition with a mutliboot grub option for

-- Kali linux

-- Ophcrack

-- Windows PE boot iso's for win7, win8.1,win10

- personal ssh keys

- putty

- server list

- backup access codes for services in case two factor goes down/isn't available.

- portable keepass & backup of pw list


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#10 DJ

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Posted 26 August 2016 - 04:02 PM

Hey Wolfhunter!

 

Thank you so much for your "verbose" answer (I don't think anybody can ever provide too much detail :) ), as we have very similar backgrounds.  I've been in IT for approximately 12 years as well, but the smaller businesses I've been working with have are in the healthcare industry, so your "former life" is very interesting and relevant feedback for me.

 

You also stumbled upon my next question  :D which is, what other every day carry gear do people find critical, as well as any suggestions on EDC bags/packs for a person that does some IT stuff.  I agree that you can never have too many Ethernet cords, air cans, and computer tools when helping someone.

 

On another note, since you moved on to law enforcement, I would love to know what your experiences have been with flashlights for EDC?  I would like something small enough to carry, but bright enough for dark situations outside.  Then, factor in battery type, and there are many derivations of options at many different price points.  I can't spend too much, and I have found myself searching for hours to get nowhere close to an option I feel comfortable buying (right now I am stuck between special batteries that supposedly last longer versus regular batteries [AA or AAA], but are more affordable and accessible).

 

After figuring out the flashlight, I then need to find an EDC knife......  I guess its obvious now how I found this site and forum!!!   :D

 

Thank you for all your suggestions, and thank you to everybody else.  I definitely have some excellent ideas and a list of programs to check out.


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#11 ElGiganteJake

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Posted 22 September 2016 - 09:21 AM

Background:

Been doing the IT thing for about 25+ years now, including 2x doing consulting on my own support small businesses as an MSP (managed service provider).  I've been a cable jockey, sysadmin (Novell/Wintel/xNIX), DBA (mssql and some DB2), developer (.net/java/multiple scripting languages) and more.  For many years now I have focused on CRM in both financial services and manufacturing environments.  My current role is managing a global CRM sales and service solution from the functional business side with teams in the US, UK and China.

 

EDC:

From an IT perspective, obviously M-F my EDC includes my work laptop.  These days I'm not on call as much, but unless I am out of town on personal business/vacation, my laptop is always at least in my daily driver.  I also keep a slew of jump drives with me.  I generally pick up them up from Microcenter and use their house brand as they are cheap and usually pretty reliable. I always have a backup of my backup.  One drive has personal stuff on it (also backed up on dropbox) like multiple targeted versions of my resume, etc.  Others have data on projects I am currently working as well as past projects that I can use for reference.  I also keep another jump drive that is used for the pc repair of friends.  On it I keep an AVG install, CCleaner, Malwarebytes and a rotating variation hijack removal software.  



#12 Mason Delpino

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Posted 13 October 2016 - 04:54 PM

I'm not an IT person by any means, but I have a Monster Digital USB 3.0 drive I use which I've attached a quick-detach clip to (I'll post a picture later), so it's always with me ready to transfer media. For me, it's perfect because I just keep it on my keychain and it's always with me ready to be used

#13 Dydimus

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Posted 08 March 2017 - 06:25 AM

I recently bought a Symlis Swallow (https://www.symlis.com/swallow/). It doubles as storage device (Micro SD Card) and charging cable.

I mostly carry class material (.pps presentations and papers/books for my students), a back up of the papers I'm working on, and a few of my favorite music albums.


EDC


#14 Joe

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Posted 16 March 2017 - 04:49 PM

I carry a standard Kingston Data Traveller 64GB keyring drive. I keep it backed up for non-standard occasions. That means...

WORK

It has backups of all the files I'd usually need to do my job, on the go. Fonts, images, templates, presentations. My job means I'm OOO a lot. 

 

ENTERTAINMENT

A movie (Stardust) and a couple episodes of The Office (US). I like the movie, the girlfriend likes the show. Both are things we can happily rewatch. I also have a few small indie games, the sort that would always bide the time, such as Neo Scavenger, Cave Story, FLAPP. I also have a few game soundtracks, which I like to listen to as I work. 

 

PERSONAL

I have a bunch of things backed up to it that I'd never want to lose. Photos of my nieces and nephews. A copy of the best man speech I gave for my oldest friend. It's just another bit of redundancy. I also have a copy of my CV and headshots on there, so I can always easily apply for a job or pass my details to someone, which I find I need to do more than you may expect. 

SOFTWARE
I have a bunch of portable versions of apps and software, mostly via Portableapps.com that would be helpful for either using strange/old PCs that may not have internet (such as 7Zip, Chrome, Infranview, VLC, LibreOffice, etc) or which I could use to diagnose problems with my own PCs if needed (Malware Bytes, AVG, Recuva, etc). I also have all the software needed to open all the other files on the drive. 

LINUX
Linux is handy in a pinch, but I'm aiming for redundancy - the sort that could run on the oldest PCs but still be usable. I opted for a persistent SLAX install. 

SURVIVAL
You can never be too careful, so I downloaded a collection of survival books as PDFs and MOBIs. Military guides. Maps of the country. Notes on dangerous plants. It's probably overkill, but it all comes in at less than 10MB. 

EVERYDAY

I have a copy of Keypass Portable, which syncs to an online backup, to hole all my passwords and details. The drive isn't password protected, but this file is. 


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#15 DJ

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Posted 16 March 2017 - 05:46 PM

I carry a standard Kingston Data Traveller 64GB keyring drive. I keep it backed up for non-standard occasions. That means...

WORK

It has backups of all the files I'd usually need to do my job, on the go. Fonts, images, templates, presentations. My job means I'm OOO a lot. 

 

ENTERTAINMENT

A movie (Stardust) and a couple episodes of The Office (US). I like the movie, the girlfriend likes the show. Both are things we can happily rewatch. I also have a few small indie games, the sort that would always bide the time, such as Neo Scavenger, Cave Story, FLAPP. I also have a few game soundtracks, which I like to listen to as I work. 

 

PERSONAL

I have a bunch of things backed up to it that I'd never want to lose. Photos of my nieces and nephews. A copy of the best man speech I gave for my oldest friend. It's just another bit of redundancy. I also have a copy of my CV and headshots on there, so I can always easily apply for a job or pass my details to someone, which I find I need to do more than you may expect. 

SOFTWARE
I have a bunch of portable versions of apps and software, mostly via Portableapps.com that would be helpful for either using strange/old PCs that may not have internet (such as 7Zip, Chrome, Infranview, VLC, LibreOffice, etc) or which I could use to diagnose problems with my own PCs if needed (Malware Bytes, AVG, Recuva, etc). I also have all the software needed to open all the other files on the drive. 

LINUX
Linux is handy in a pinch, but I'm aiming for redundancy - the sort that could run on the oldest PCs but still be usable. I opted for a persistent SLAX install. 

SURVIVAL
You can never be too careful, so I downloaded a collection of survival books as PDFs and MOBIs. Military guides. Maps of the country. Notes on dangerous plants. It's probably overkill, but it all comes in at less than 10MB. 

EVERYDAY

I have a copy of Keypass Portable, which syncs to an online backup, to hole all my passwords and details. The drive isn't password protected, but this file is. 

 

Nice!  What's in your survival books list?  I don't think it's overkill, but smart  



#16 Joe

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Posted 17 March 2017 - 04:50 AM

Nice!  What's in your survival books list?  I don't think it's overkill, but smart  

 

Well, there's a whole bunch of PDFs and files, most of which I grabbed in a PDF bundle from a survival website ages ago and some that I've read before and added because I know they are good. 

The individually vetted stuff includes US army guides to survival, booby traps, navigation and combat first aid, as well as book of fishing and sailing knots, a list of UK radio frequencies and a Ray Mears survival manual, plus maps of the area I live in. 

The bundle is about 50+ more specific guides, ranging from foraging guides to DIY dentistry. 

 

I also have some fiction eBooks. Sci-fi books I picked up in an Humble Bundle ages ago. Always good to have something to read. 



#17 Billy

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Posted 17 March 2017 - 11:19 AM

Silicon Power 64GB Jewel J80 USB 3.0, goes nicely on a keychain. You can get it on Amazon.

 

I use it primarily to carry photocopies of my travel documents (passcode protected), because I have lost them before and it's quite annoying.

 

 

51siPR4iLCL._SX425_.jpg

 

So cool! Need to get onto this!



#18 Tony

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Posted 19 March 2017 - 09:02 PM

I usually carry 3 flash drives with me. 2 PNY usb 3.0 128gb drives. One for storage. The other I have a Yumi boot drive. I have a linux bootable distribution. Windows 10 installer, Windows 10 PE Live boot and other bootable images such as ultimate boot cd on it. I also carry a sandisk 32gb USB 3 OTG drive to transfer items from my android phone. 

 

 

For work I have a guanhe usb flash drive case with multiple flash drives and 500gb usb 3 drive.


My EDC

 

sortitapps-black.png


#19 International Man Of Mystery

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Posted 27 March 2017 - 01:50 PM

I use this Corsair 256GB Survivor (waterproof, etc.) USB 3 key and a smaller one for Tails.



#20 PsychGuy

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Posted 02 April 2017 - 08:52 PM

I have a 32GB Kingston DataTraveler that I keep all my stuff on encrypted and password protected. It's nowhere near "full."  I rarely insert it in an office computer and never a public access computer.  Why?  I want to protect it from malware as much as possible, and in the event I can't access a cloud and my home data stores have been destroyed, I want access to certain things.  General preparedness really.  There are also myriad manuals and books should a SHTF scenario ever arise, not that I believe it will, and society somehow leaves me with a functional computer, LOL.  

 

I also have an 8GB Transcend I don't recall the model of that I use to move documents from one computer to another.  I also keep several applications saved on it including PortableApps, CCleaner, DSL, and others.  Why?  It's the more expendable thumbdrive, and I like the apps.  






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