I’m always on the lookout for a small, quality USB drive that can survive the punishment of being attached to my keys. I don’t really need high capacity or speed, simply a device that can made available at a moments notice in meetings, etc.

Unfortunately the majority of USB drives I have tried over the years tend to fail within the first few weeks, normally with the clip breaking, resulting in a lost drive.

Thankfully there is one USB drive that meets my needs perfectly! The Apple USB Restore Key that was provided with every Mac notebook during OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard era.

Apple USB Restore Key

The drive is very small, with a strong enough clip to ensure it won’t break easily. Best of all it looks great and I happen to have four of them!

The primary purpose of this drive was to provide a restore image of OS X and iLife. However, the need for this drive has now been replaced by the Mac App Store and standard recovery partition. The one issue is that by default Apple lock the drive so that it can’t be erased. Thankfully the unlocking process is very simple!

Ironically, to proceed you will need access to a Windows PC (either physical or virtual). I completed the process using Windows 8.1 running on VMware Fusion 6.

  1. You will need to download and launch a free Windows application called “sm32Xtest.exe”.
  2. Once complete insert the Apple USB Restore Key.
  3. You should see the drive appear in one of the Ports (probably Port 1). If the drive does not appear automatically click “Scan USB”.
  4. Click the “Start” button (top right).
  5. The drive will now be unlocked.
  6. Once complete you can erase the drive like normal, for example using Disk Utility on the Mac.

That’s it! You now have a great USB drive available for use.