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Read-Only Switch for USB Sticks

Switches between Read-Write and Read-Only modes
 
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In the glory days of the floppy disk drive, the disks always came with a way to write-protect them. The hard-shelled disks had a little slider in a corner, for example.

This was extremely useful once computer viruses became common. That particular software always tried to copy itself to any removable media it could reach. But if the disk was write-protected (or Read-Only), then the virus was foiled, and if the disk happened to contain anti-virus software, it could be used to disinfect the computer.

USB sticks are removable data-storage devices that do not seem to offer the user any easy way to protect them from viral propagation. I will propose that the device include something like an old-fashioned "dip switch" (see link). These can be small enough to be part of the average USB stick without making it much bigger than it already is.

(EDIT 1: Another link was added, indicating this is not a new Idea. Alas! However, see the 2nd Edit below.)

So, when you buy this kind of USB stick, the switch is pre-set to Read- Write mode, allowing you to save data in the stick's memory. At any time you like, you can adjust the switch to Read-Only mode, basically "breaking" the write-circuitry inside the stick, and thereby protecting the data. And of course when you feel the need, you can adjust the switch again, to restore the write-circuit and re-enabling the Read-Write mode.

(EDIT 2: In one of the annotations [Loris] suggested that an intermediate device be given the dip switch, so that any ordinary switch-lacking USB memory stick could be protected. I like that, and added an anno with a few more details for making that work.)

Vernon, Jun 18 2014

Dip Switch http://m4.sourcingm...00ux0296_ux_g03.jpg
As mentioned in the main text. [Vernon, Jun 18 2014]

Baked http://www.fencepos...e-write-protection/
[MechE, Jun 18 2014]

[link]






       Baked, WKTE.
8th of 7, Jun 18 2014
  

       Baked but not very popular, which is why it's getting harder to find them.
MechE, Jun 18 2014
  

       Title says it all and then there's 4 honking paragraphs. Oh, and baked to a crisp.
the porpoise, Jun 18 2014
  

       Most USB sticks had this feature a few years ago - it seems less common now. Some memory cards have a little sliding switch that does this, too.
MaxwellBuchanan, Jun 18 2014
  

       Yep, just use an SD card.
Spacecoyote, Jun 18 2014
  

       "Write-protect" is the proper term, but still, abundant examples available with .47 seconds of googling the idea title.
tatterdemalion, Jun 18 2014
  

       Baked. I've got one in my pocket right now.
Freefall, Jun 18 2014
  

       All I can say is that I personally don't recall ever seeing one. (I will confess I didn't think to do a search, though.) Perhaps, if the trend continues regarding their disappearing, this Idea needs to continue to exist as a reminder of why they NEED to exist....
Vernon, Jun 18 2014
  

       // I personally don't recall ever seeing one. //   

       What were you told about wearing your tinfoil-lined baseball cap AT ALL TIMES ? But you didn't, did you, and now some of your memories have been selectively erased by the CIA Brane Ray ... or it could be the Russians ... or the North Koreans ... or the Book Of The Month Club (a right sinister lot if ever we saw one, worse than the Gideons, wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more, eh , man of the world, eh ... ?)
8th of 7, Jun 18 2014
  

       Im guessing this feature has been removed not because it wasn't useful, but because it caused too much confusion among the tech unsavvy. People calling in and complaining because they can't save.
bob, Jun 18 2014
  

       // it caused too much confusion among the tech unsavvy. //   

       Would it not ultimately more cost effective (and satisfactory) simply to cull the "tech unsavvy", in a brutal, violent yet entertaining "survival of the fittest" reality-tv contest akin to a cross between Rollerball and Predator Vs. Alien ?
8th of 7, Jun 18 2014
  

       I have several flash drives with this function. It's a very handy feature for presentations etc., where the host computer is very promiscuous and may not use up-to-date protection.   

       Given the desirability, historical availability and increasingly rare nature of the idea as currently proposed, perhaps you could modify it?   

       I suggest a small pass-though device with the sole function of providing such a switch.   

       Also, a special USB port intended for dedicated presentation machines, which cannot write at all.
Loris, Jun 19 2014
  

       [Loris], while a pass-through device would be great, it is more complicated than simply putting a switch on one of the wires that pass through the pass-through device. The intermediate device would have to be electronically equivalent to a USB "hub" which ordinarily can connect multiple USB devices to a single port on the computer. Inside that hub are circuits that communicate with both the computer and the other devices. So, if this particular pass- through hub was only for one device, a USB memory stick, then it would be able to receive and re-transmit write-commands to the stick, and the circuit involved in THAT could be physically switched.   

       I'll mention this anno in the main text. Thanks!
Vernon, Jun 19 2014
  

       Heh, I didn't intend to suggest a simple breaker.   

       I'm not familiar with the USB protocol to say whether a full hub would be required, but even if it were I don't think it would be a significant issue.
Loris, Jun 19 2014
  

       Well actually, it would.   

       The pass-through device would need to understand the protocol between the host and the memory stick and selectively block write commands while allowing read commands to execute normally.   

       It's non-trivial.
8th of 7, Jun 19 2014
  

       //The pass-through device would need to understand the protocol between the host and the memory stick and selectively block write commands while allowing read commands to execute normally.//   

       Yes, yes, _of course_ it would. My claim is that this wouldn't preclude the device being manufactured as a device of at most the size (and in sufficiently large numbers, cost) of a cheap flash drive. (And that still doesn't necessarily mean it needs to be a full hub.)   

       It's not trivial, but electronics manufacturers have more than enough ability to sell more capable devices for surprisingly little.
Loris, Jun 19 2014
  

       Why not just put a little switch on the USB drive itself, like they do already ?   

       If you use Linux, it's very easy to configure the system to mount drives as read-only by defaut ...
8th of 7, Jun 19 2014
  

       //configure the system to mount drives as read- only// I think the point was to have a USB drive that can be plugged into any machine without being at risk of being written to.
MaxwellBuchanan, Jun 19 2014
  
      
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