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USB Flash Drive Duplicator Review Receives A+

CD and DVD duplicators have been popular for so long; however, with the optical drive no longer sold in nearly all computers, the only device left for moving files around are USB flash drives. With that in mind, we took a look at a USB flash drive duplicator and wanted to provide observations and opinions.

The benchmark we are comparing the USB duplicator to is the speed compare to burning a DVD. With a 16X DVD recorder it will take between 6-7 minutes to burn a full disc, which is 4.7GBs. A common size DVD duplicator is seven optical drives which means seven copies every seven minutes. However, today’s file sizes are getting larger and a data load can easily be over 5GBs. A dual layer DVD which is 8.5GBs would take nearly 27 minutes.

The USB duplicator in this review is a 16 target USB 3.0 duplicator manufactured by Nexcopy. We selected this model and manufacturer because it was the most popular in search results, and honestly – looks the coolest. This flash memory duplicator will make 16 copies at 1GB under minute which translates to 16 copies in less than five minutes. In the dual-layer DVD example that would be 9 minutes to make 16 copies. Clearly a USB duplicator is more efficient than a DVD duplicator.

As with CD and DVD duplicators, if you had a dozen to make, you would make them one-at-a-time on your PC or Mac. Same with USB flash drives. You can copy and paste files in Windows or even use a DD command prompt in a Linux computer. These are not robust solutions however.

OVERVIEW

The model in today’s review is the USB160PC. This is a Windows PC based system which runs on Windows 7 or Windows 10. The copy speeds are the same as designated standalone systems. Below is a picture of the Nexcopy PC based system compare to a similar sized standalone system.

The standalone systems are easy to operate. Very much like a photocopier, simply push a button and duplication begins. However, these systems are limited in features because there is no interaction with them.

USB Duplicator Nexcopy

The USB160PC is a flexible system and has six copy modes which a company can chose which copy method is best for their needs. Copy modes are:

  • File Copy
  • Copy Add
  • Device Copy – Data Only
  • Device Copy – Full Media
  • IMG Copy
  • Unique Data Streaming

We will cover the copy modes a bit later in the review.

The Nexcopy software has a data extraction feature which gives the user the ability to extract data off the drive and make a data dump to a location on the host PC. When we asked about this feature, Nexcopy said it was a feature built for a school district in Colorado and also a law enforcement agency in Oklahoma.

The PC based USB duplicator is fast and flexible to work with and provides excellent user feedback during the duplication process. The GUI (Graphical User Interface) ties in the obvious information such as USB flash drive total size, bytes used, percentage done during duplication and pass/fail response. Nexcopy uses their own Drive Manager software (trademarked) and provides lifetime software support and updates for free.

The GUI does an excellent job of identifying the USB device shown in the software with the USB socket on the duplicator. This is one problem with any home-grown duplication system, like connecting flash drives to a USB hub – the only way to identify a drive is by disconnecting it until you’ve found the one in question. The USB160PC gives you the tools to quickly identify each USB drive connected.

drive manager software by nexcopy

The bonus information from Drive Manager is the second tab of the GUI. This page shows the device serial number, the VID (Vendor ID) the PID (Product ID) and device descriptor information. The tech folks will appreciate this feature.

drive manager software developed by nexcopy

HARDWARE

The physical USB duplicator is light weight and portable. Weighs 5 pounds. The USB duplicator has blue LED lights to show power is connected to each USB socket and also has a green LED which blinks during activity. The GUI will provide performance feedback and status about the copy job and process. The power supply is auto-detecting and will automatically work in a 110v or 230v environment, which is nice because there is no need to make a manual power setting switch with the physical box. The USB duplicator has a 5v fan on the back side to provide air flow for cooling; although we didn’t experience any heat during testing and operation.

The duplicator is very well made. The power supply inside is a 150watt MeanWell brand power block, which is a brand used by medical companies so power will never be an issue. This also means the 150watt power supply can support 16 USB hard drives.

usb copier by nexcopy

SOFTWARE

As mentioned before, the Drive Manager offers six copy modes. Some are obvious and some are sneaky convenient. What we noticed right away is, somehow, Drive Manager does not use drive letters. Said a different way, when you plug in USB drives to the duplicator, it does not use a Windows drive letter. Which is great because if you have network drives, the duplicator doesn’t take up those.

Here is a break out of each copy mode:

File Copy – Point the software to a folder and Drive Manager will “copy and paste” those files to all the flash drives. Best suited for small data loads with a limited number of files. For example a 200MB data load and say 100 or less files.

Copy Add – This is a sneaky convenient feature. This allows you to add data to a USB which already has content on it, or update a file already on the flash drive. Best way to understand this is through example: You have a set of 16GB flash drives with 10GBs of data on each. Someone realized a critical file is wrong on the flash drive. Rather than re-duplicating all 10GBs of data (estimated time is 10 minutes) you can replace the incorrect file with Copy Add function in much less time – maybe even seconds.

Device Copy, Data Only – This is a binary copy process and will copy only the data clusters on the drive. For example, you have 16GB media with only 10GBs of data. This copy process will copy only the 10GBs of data and not spend the extra time copying 6GBs of no data. This binary process will copy boot code, file system and files – yes it makes bootable copies. This copy method is described as one of the quickest copy methods Drive Manager offers.

Device Copy, Full Media – This is a binary copy process and will copy all sectors on a master flash drive. This copy method is used for proprietary file systems or multi-partition masters. This is also one of the quickest copy methods Drive Manager offers. This binary process all makes bootable copies.

IMG Copy – Drive Manager comes with an imaging tool to make digital, binary copies. This is the best method for USB flash drive duplication because the master data is digitally stored on your computer hard drive. The computer hard drive is the most reliable disk drive to store data, thus for best duplication results (although copying from a physical USB flash drive is extremely reliable too). The image tool will allow you to make a binary digital copy to the hard drive of the host computer. Point the Drive Manager software at the master IMG file and all copies will be an exact digital copy. The image tool will copy boot code so when an IMG file is used for duplication a bootable copy is made. The one benefit of digital image files is being able to mount them as a drive letter and make changes or updates to the content. Once the image file is unmounted, it can be used for USB duplication.

Unique Data Streaming – Another sneaky convenient tool offered up by Nexcopy. This feature gives the option of making each USB flash drive unique. For example, from the 16 targets of the USB160PC, each USB flash drive will have different content. We didn’t have the option to test this feature because the solution does require programming to push unique data streams to the Drive Manager software and those programming skills are outside the scope of this reviewer {wink}. However, with our phone call with Nexcopy, they indicated this solution is used in the medical industry and also software fulfilment business. Basically, if your business plan requires data to be “built and copied on demand ” to a flash drive, this is the only game in town.

OTHER SOFTWARE FEATURES

Drive Manager software has more than just copy, verify, format functions. Additional features we noticed while testing include:

  • Utility to make IMG files
  • Turn on/off Windows drive letters
  • Protect against indexing (Windows indexing files on flash drive)
  • Control Disk Signature updating
  • Detect SCSI devices
  • Save duplication jobs as ini files
  • Assign a password to restrict operators from changing the job ini files
  • Extract USB serial numbers from the devices
  • Scripting such as: Erase, Format, then copy data
  • Secure Erase function to wipe flash drive clean (single pass or triple pass)

UPGRADE SOFTWARE FEATURES

The USB160PC can be upgraded to the USB160PRO software version. The upgrade is not a hardware upgrade but a software upgrade. The PRO version of software gets into some really advanced features of flash drives. Probably worth a separate review just on the PRO software. A quick list of advanced functions with the PRO software include:

  • Write protect USB flash drive so the device is read-only
  • Partition the USB for multiple drive letters, done at the controller level
  • Set write protection for a single partition or multiple partitions
  • Make a CD-ROM partition so the USB appears as an optical drive
  • Edit/update the USB serial number
  • Edit/update the Descriptor Fields such as VID, PID, SCSI Name and SCSI Vendor information
  • Create USB serial numbers with static and dynamic values

BENCHMARK SPEED

We performed a data load of 10GBs to 16 flash drives. From the screen shot below you can see it was done in 4 minutes 40 seconds.

usb duplication speed

To compare the PC based USB160PC we took that same blue standalone duplicator from Nexcopy in the original picture and performed the same data load. We made 15 copies in 6 minutes 29 seconds (one less, because one USB port is used for the physical master).

Are you surprised the PC version is faster than the standalone version?

usb duplicator systems by nexcopy

After the data load testing we ran the data extraction test and for the same data load of 10GBs it took 11 minutes 36 seconds. At first this slower time threw us off, but this is not a binary read process it is much similar to a File Copy process so the Windows OS spend extra time updating the file allocation table during the read process. In addition, it is easier for a computer to process a signal going out to multiple devices rather than a computer receiving multiple signals coming in.

usb flash drive data streaming

The USB160PC is backward compatible to USB 1.1 and USB 2.0. We did some smaller testing with USB 2.0 media and did see copy speeds equal to that of the USB 2.0 specification.

CONCLUSION

PROS

USB flash drive duplicators are more productive and efficient at making digital copies than any other method. The PC based systems outperformed the standalone duplicator systems with regards to copy speed. The PC based system from Nexcopy, the USB160PC, comes with their proprietary Drive Manager software loaded with features and tools to make any data loading job quick and efficient. Although the standalone systems are easier to use from an operator’s standpoint, that simplicity does not outweigh the benefits of the PC based system.

CONS

We did not see a benchmark feature to test the speed of a single flash drive with the USB160PC to better qualify the read/write speeds of a device.

OUR DECISION

This product was impressive and the software features are extensive. Given the speed is faster than standalone systems and the cost is less, we recommend this type of product.

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