StrongDisk lends itself to easy daily use, but getting started was a real pain. The documentation was inadequate and the program lacked step-by-step help. Some sort of tool tips or instructions in each window would have been helpful.
Some of StrongDisk's functionality isn't available if you use NTFS as the file system for your archives (NTFS is only available to WinNT users; WinNT includes Win2000 and WinXP). Also, I could not find any information on how to delete an entire archive. Deleting individual files from an archive manually was not a problem.
After I picked the destination directory for StrongDisk Pro, it prompted me to select the type of electronic key to use with the program. The options, "iButton Touch Memory" and "iKey USB token" were not explained, so I used the default option.
The program adds a handy icon to the system tray. I opened the program by clicking the icon, and then chose to create a new protected disk. I picked a location for the disk's image file and used the default size of 3MB. There was an option for "Floating-size disk" that wasn't explained. The program's Help files indicate that this option allows the disk size to increase as the disk is filled. This can cause problems, however, because the program doesn't check to determine if there is actually free space on your hard drive before increasing the size of the virtual disk. This can result in lost data.
I tested the program by opting for a stable-size disk and the FAT32 format, which should be available on all Windows operating systems from Windows 95 forward. The minimum size for a FAT32 virtual disk is apparently 33MB, so I used that and all the other default options.
In order to create the protected disk image I had to refer frequently to the help file, where I found numerous notes and caveats for some of the settings. Since these could prove very important to a user, I strongly recommend keeping the help file open while creating your first disk image.
I encountered a couple of problems in using the program. After entering my 24-character text password and confirmation, the text fields in the password window were cleared if I switched to another window or attempted to pick a location for my file key in response to a prompt. Eventually I figured out that the StrongDisk Pro did not intend the "file-key" field to be used to create new keys. Also, after formatting my disk and filling it with random data, StrongDisk told me I couldn't create a disk larger than 3MB because I was using the unregistered trial version. (Registration is required if you want to use the software after the 21-day trial period.)
I retraced my steps and created a 3MB FAT16 virtual disk, which appeared as a tab in the StrongDisk main menu marked "Z," and in My Computer as drive "Z." I tested the encryption process by copying a couple of files to and from the virtual disk, without any problems. Once it was created, it behaved just like any other hard drive or floppy disk.
StrongDisk also added a "Data Burner" to my desktop, supposedly for secure data deletion. Double-clicking the Data Burner tells you that you can delete files securely by dragging them onto the Data Burner, or selecting "Burn" from the context menu that appears when you right-click the mouse.
I also tested the process for mounting and dismounting the disk, which was easy. You can dismount a disk from the drive's tab in the StrongDisk main menu by right-clicking the drive and selecting Dismount, or by setting up and using an Instant Dismount hotkey. If the program is closed, you can mount the drive and start StrongDisk by double-clicking the image file or creating an auto-mount hotkey. If the program is open, the disk can be mounted by using the Mount button on the StrongDisk main menu. Mounting requires a password, of course.
In short, StrongDisk seems to do its job, but I had to refer frequently to the often inadequate documentation to figure out how the program worked.
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