Rohos Logon Key for Mac v2.3
Good use for surplus USB drives
Inelegant; expensive for what it does
US$32 (around $35)
If, like me, you often find it hard to remember passwords and happen to have a whole bunch of old USB drives lying about, this handy Mac app may just kill two birds with one stone.
Rohos Logon Key for Mac turns any USB drive into a security key for your Mac – you can even use an old iPod if you want. Once set up, your Mac will only function when the USB device is connected. (You can opt to have your password unlock the computer too.)
Installation takes only a few minutes, and a measly 2 MB of space. Then it’s as simple as turning it on, selecting a USB drive, and away you go.
There are options to lock the computer, log out, put it in sleep mode, or even shut down when the USB is removed. While each option might appeal to different users, log out seemed useless to me, as it has to quit all applications first, and might as well just shut down – however, if you have multiple users on a computer, it could be a good option.
When I first set it up, I opted for it to lock the desktop when the USB key was removed, and unlock again only when the key was put back in. I promptly had a minor heart attack after it failed to recognise the USB key when it was taken out and plugged back in. However, a few tries later, it did let me back in to my precious documents.
There is also a further option to require a PIN of choice as well as the USB key – if you feel you need that level of protection.
For the most part, Logon Key works as expected – my only problem is the inelegance of how it works. Every time I unplugged the USB drive, the standard “The disk was not ejected properly” message popped up before the screen was locked. And every time I plugged the drive back in, it took a few too many scary seconds to register and unlock my MacBook. The interface for the application is also clumsy – with separate On/Off and preferences windows, that live neither in the dock nor system preferences, so if they get lost behind other windows, you have to go hunting for them (there is an option to show the icon in your status bar, though this is not on by default).
Another concern – highlighted every time the eject warning message pops up – is what might happen if the drive becomes corrupt. I’d hate to be unable to log in to my computer because a cheap/old USB drive decides to die.
Australian Macworld’s buying advice
The Logon Key is a handy security layer for anyone who is particularly worried about keeping their data private, or too forgetful to remember strong passwords. But if you fall into the latter category, then you’d better hope you can remember where you keep the USB drive. For US$32 (around $35) – plus the price of a reliable USB drive – it’s much more expensive than a good, memorable password. However, outside of a single-person computer, I can see that it has some valid applications – for example, handling the admin accounts of a whole office full of Macs. There’s also a fifteen day free trial, so you can check it out for yourself.