IronKey Workspace USB 3.0 Flash Drive Review

IronKey Workspace USB 3.0 Flash Drive Review

The IronKey Workspace USB 3.0 Flash Drive allows you to directly boot up Windows 8 from it like a Live USB. Made for the corporate market, the IronKey Workspace USB Drive would allow your employees to also work from home, consultants and other to work in multiple locations, and field personnel to access their corporate desktops from almost any PC.

This IronKey USB 3.0 Flash Drive is Microsoft Certified as a Windows-To-Go device to deliver a fully portable desktop running Windows 8. The Windows-To-Go feature can be booted up from a USB-connected external drive on computers that meet the Windows 7 or Windows 8 Microsoft certification requirements, regardless of the operating system running on the PC.

Another really cool feature for Windows-To-Go is that is allows you to suspend the session when the USB device is removed from the host computer. As soon as you plug it back in you can pick up where your left off and none of your data will be lost. The IronKey Workspace USB Flash Drive comes in a 32 GB, 64 GB, and 128 GB capacities. It offers either a 128 bit or 256 bit full disk encryption.

Users have to purchase the Windows 8 software separately. Windows 8 also requires 16 GB of storage for the 32-bit version and 20 GB of storage for the 64-bit version. So you’ll probably find yourself going with the higher capacity USB drive in this case. Here we will go over the IronKey Workspace USB 3.0 flash drive a little more in detail and discuss some of its performance results as well as its other features.

Windows 8 Bootable USB 3.0 Flash Drive

Live USB isn’t anything terribly new or exciting to the industry. Other USB drives like the Kingston DataTraveler Locker, Corsair’s Flash Padlock 2 and even the Imation Stealth zone allows you to boot up from a flash drive to a secure Windows 7 desktop interface. Apart from that, you’ve also been able to install Windows onto some of the flash drive to boot up on your own. The USB firmware needs to identify itself as a bootable flash drive which in some cases some don’t but most will.

As a plus, unless a USB flash drive is Windows-certified, Microsoft won’t officially support it. Then you’ll also have to consider that not every single flash drive is constructed to take on that type of workload that is required to run a full operating system regardless of storage capacity. Current NAND flash memory technology wears out fairly quickly without any dedicated firmware to extend its lifespan.

The IronKey Workspace USB 3.0 Flash Drive acts almost like an external hard drive would. Unlike normal usb flash drives, (where you could possibly write and read a file to it now then), you’re constantly working on it and you’re constantly reading and writing to it. IronKey actually claims that the USB runs slightly faster than a lot of internal flash drives. You could possibly speed up your computer by using it in a way.

But the IronKey Workspace lacks some of the administrative management features that other Imation USB drives offer. For example, Imation delivers the ability for administrators to remotely control access to or delete data on its Stealth Zone Flash drives, a feature that it hopes to add later on this year to the newer editions of the IronKey Workspace flash drive.

The USB drive can’t be used for any external storage meaning that you can’t create a separate partition for data storage. You also can’t run your computer’s native operating system simultaneously and store any data on it. That type of functionality is available for something like the Imation Stealth Zone USB drive and will most likely be available for the second generation of IronKey flash drives.

High Quality Security and Protection

IronKey was the first company to use a 256-bit AES encryption on their drives and their flash drive cases are just one piece of seamless metal. That means you can’t open them up and do what you will with the high-end flash chips inside. Arguably, IronKey makes the world’s most secure flash drives on the market today.

The company’s flash drives have also been validated by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to meet the stringent Level 3 criteria of FIPS 140-2. Together with the cloud based IronKey Enterprise Management Service, data Security can be managed and audited from anywhere internationally. The IronKey Workspace regrettably, is not FIPS-certified.

But what has separated IronKey from the other USB flash drives is that it utilizes a high end single level cell NAND flash memory chip as opposed to a multilevel cell, consumer-grade (MLC) NAND. SLC has better native performance over MLC and, perhaps most importantly, it has as much as 10 times the lifespan, up to 100,000 write/erase cycles.

Flash Drive Performance

The IronKey Workspace USB 3.0 flash drive is said to have a maximum average read speed of 300MB/sec. and an average write speed of 100MB/sec. to 200MB/sec. When we tested the boot times, the initial boot up from the USB drive was very slow, around 3 minutes. But this was easily attributed to the flash drive configuring itself for the first time. Following that, the boot time drastically improved to around 30 seconds. Shutdown was also very fast, around 2-3 seconds on average.

Setting Up the IronKey USB 3.0 Flash Drive

Since a PC will automatically boot from its internal hard drive, you’ll need to access your BIOS interface and change its settings to boot from your IronKey USB 3.0 device. Despite how it sounds, this is actually a very simple and straightforward procedure.

Insert your flash drive into one of the external USB ports while your PC is still powered off. You can also plug then USB in and restart your computer as well. Before Windows boots up, you need to press the shortcut key to access the BIOS mainframe. This is usually either the F2 or F12 key depending on the PC manufacturer. Once you’ve reached the BIOS setup screen, you can select to boot up from an external USB device from the boot options menu.

The first time you use the flash drive, your system will ask you to accept Windows licensing terms and conditions. Once you agree to the terms, you’re given the option to choose your background color and the ability to name the system as well.

Next up you have to choose either the wireless or wired network you’ll be using and then you’ll be asked to select your personal settings, such as turning on the “Do Not Track” feature in Internet Explorer and sharing with other devices on your network. But if you rather not bother yourself going through these options you could always select Windows Express Settings as well.

Finally you’ll set up your Windows username and password and then you’ll set and ready to go just like any other PC!


The IronKey Workspace USB 3.0 flash drive can be found on Imation’s retail site for $129 for the 32GB model, $215 for the 64GB model and $389 for the 128GB drive. Although you may be getting a high-quality external flash drive that will act as an internal hard disk, I really think the price should come down considering the lowering prices of Solid State Drives in general. Overall, I really enjoyed working with the IronKey Workspace USB 3.0 Flash Drive. It’s made by a reputable company and offers great security features and quality construction.

Vincent Clarke

Vincent Clarke is the Universal Serial Bus (USB) Guru for When he's not writing tutorials and catching up on the latest USB news, Vincent is busy preparing his next blog post and answering USB questions from his readers and subscribers.

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