XYZ needs two drive letters, letter “F” is available, etc.

by Michael Smith

A message similar to this many have been getting when inserting hardware encrypted USB drives into PCs running Windows XP ever since around April 2008.

This happened to me with a Sandisk Cruzer Enterprise and, as readers may recall, I hence assumed that the stick was broken, especially as the Blockmaster Safestick kand the Stealth MXP devices from MXI performed perfectly.

However, having recently come to test a Kingston Data Traveler Black Box the same happened on the XP machine. Oops!

It turns out that the Cruzer Stick is NOT broken and nor is or was the DTBB. Both use an executable with which Windows XP has an issue ever since a patch that was installed by most users around April 2008. Microsoft has a hotfix on its website that is supposed too cure this but, alas, it does not on my system.

When the issue occurred with the DTBB I called Kingston and one of their engineers kindly directed me to the hotfix which, as I said, does not fix things on my system. The whys and wherefores as to the lack of fix beats me.

Prior to Adriane, the engineer of Kingston, coming back to me with the link to Microsoft I had successfully set up the DTBB on an old Windows 2000 system and it was a faster set up than I have seen on XP. This does, obviously, brings to mind the question as to why MS every changed from WIN2000.

I have also tested the DTBB on an XP system that belongs to a local authority and there is no issue with that one.

In the meantime I have also gotten myself a new laptop with Windows Vista installed and no problem with the DTBB and also, after finally finding it my desk drawer again, neither with the Sandisk Cruzer Enterprise.

I must say, and I am not too proud to do so, that I do owe Sandisk an appology as regards to the Cruzer stick as it is not broken and the issue lies wholly with Microsoft and one of their patches.

I have tried uninstalling the patches and could do that with all but one which was installed around April time; one patch cannot be uninstalled and I assume that to be the culprit. Therefore, it can safely be assumed that all systems that have that patch and may have an issue with the hotfix not applying will not be able to run any drives that have one of the five or six executables to run the encryption programs.

It is not the sticks but a Windows update/patch that causes the issue. Once again my apologies to Sandisk and I hope that readers will come to understand, as did I, where the problem does lie.

While it is always being advised that one should always apply the patches to the system the more I am seeing as far as Windows is concerned the more I am concerned about this.

I have now more than once seen the problem caused by those patches and a fair number of years ago some computer experts, including those in IT security, advised me not to take each and every patch. Some even advised entirely against patching the OS and suggested to just keep all the security software up to date and to patch all other applications. Maybe I should have listened?

© M Smith (Veshengro), November 2008