iStorage diskAshur PRO2 Review: The Keeper of Secrets

The iStorage diskAshur PRO2 is like no other portable drive I've reviewed. Note the numeric keypad.
Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech The iStorage diskAshur PRO2 is like no other portable drive I’ve reviewed. Note the numeric keypad.

There are secure portable drives with hardware encryption options, like the Samsung T5 or the WD My Passport, and then there’s the iStorage diskAshur PRO2. This digital storage device is so secure that Donald J. Trump would probably pick it to store his tax returns when he could grasp the significance of “digital.”

OK, so chances are he won’t, but if you catch my drift, the point is the diskAshur PRO2 is an ultra-secure storage device. It’s a tamper-proof vault, complete with a numeric keypad, that has an ample storage space on the inside. Yet, it manages to remain almost as compact as a regular portable drive.

Not everyone needs a drive like this, but if you want to make absolutely sure that the information you carry along safe from the prying eyes, look no further than the diskAshur PRO2. And the data better would be critical since, among other things, the drive isn’t cheap. The 2TB version I tested, for example, carries a price tag of some $350. (The drive is also available in 500B, 1TB, 3TB, 4TB, and 5TB capacities.)

iStorage diskAshur Pro2 Portable Hard Drive

7.9

Performance

8.5/10

Features

9.0/10

Ease of Use

7.0/10

Value

7.0/10

Pros

  • Genuinely secure
  • Fast performance
  • Compact design with built-in USB cable

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Keypad combos take some getting used to
  • No USB-C support

iStorage diskAshur PRO2: Beautiful and practical design

Out of the box, the diskAshur PRO2 immediately caught my attention with its built-in numeric keypad on top. There are ten number keys (0-9) and three special keys — lock, unlock and shift – for you to operate the drive’s security mechanism.

These keys have helpful tactile responses and are a pleasure to press on. They only register when the drive hooks to a computer’s USB port since its security mechanism requires power to work – more on this below.

The second cool thing about the diskAshur PRO2 is its chassis that has smooth metal on top and bottom. Around the drive’s waistline — if you can call it so — is a soft rubber-like material that offers a good grip. On the right side, there’s a little groove that houses a non-removable 5-inch (12cm) long USB cable. Pull this cable out, and you’re ready to plug the drive into a computer.

By the way, the drive uses a regular USB-A connector and not USB-C. It supports USB 3.1 and is bus-powered; no additional power adapter is necessary. In all, the diskAshur PRO2 looks cool and feels rugged in hand. Considering it houses a regular hard drive on the inside, though, you should still handle it with care.

iStorage includes with the package a stylish-looking pouch that offers another layer of protection when you want to carry the diskAshur PRO2 round. Not exactly enough to justify the high cost, but the little bag is still a nice extra.

The built-in USB cable makes the diskAshur PRO2 super convenient to use.
Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech The built-in USB cable makes the diskAshur PRO2 super convenient to use.

iStorage diskAshur PRO2: Data security above all else

Considering the design, it’s quite clear that storage takes data security seriously with the diskAshur PRO2.

Ultra-secure all-hardware encryption

The diskAshur PRO2 features AES-XTS 256-bit hardware encryption and is always encrypted. You can’t use it without a PIN. Out of the box, the default Admin PIN is 11223344, which you can use to unlock the drive as well as changing the Admin PIN itself and making a new user PIN. The user PIN can even be set to have read-only or full access to the drive.

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Unlike other secure portable drives that use software to manage the security function, on the diskAshur PRO2, everything is done using its keypad — the drive’s security mechanism is hardwired on itself. The upside of this is the drive’s security feature is software-agnostic — it will work with any operating system. All you have to do is plug it in and open it with the correct PIN, and it will work, just like any generic portable drive. There’s no need to install software or driver beforehand.

By the way, out of the box, the diskAshur PRO2 is formatted in exFAT, making it ready for virtually any platform, be in Windows, macOS, or Linux.

The indicators on top of the keypad correspond with the key combos to show the statuses of the drive.
Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech The indicators on top of the keypad correspond with the key combos to show the statuses of the drive.

Stiff learning curve

The downside of this security design is, well, you have to follow the user manual to the letter. There’s no way you can figure out how to program a new PIN, or even enter a PIN, without reading the instructions first. Also, considering a PIN has the minimum requirement of 7 numbers (up to 15 numbers,) it can be a nuisance each time you need to access the drive’s content, especially when you’re in a hurry.

On top of that, there are a lot of key combos to perform other features of the drive. Examples of these are the Admin mode, setting user PIN policy, and so on, with combo patterns that can get rather intricate. And all you have to work with are the keypads and the three indicator lights — lock, unlock, and Admin — on top that flash or light up in specific ways to respond. As a result, even with the manual at hand, you can easily make a mistake. The bottom line is it will take some time for anyone to master the drive’s key combos.

During my five days of testing, I ended up having to reset the drive a couple of times — effectively erasing all of its content. Which brings us to an interesting fact about the diskAshur PRO2: It’s not a safe place for data that you want to keep intact.

The iStorage diskAshur PRO2 includes a nice-looking pouch.
Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech The iStorage diskAshur PRO2 includes a nice-looking pouch.

Data privacy vs. data integrity

Since the diskAshur PRO2 is extremely good at protecting information against unauthorized access, it’s not exactly a great device to keep your data. There are just so many ways to destroy its content.

First of all, the drive is tamper-proof; if someone tries opening its chassis, it’ll automatically destroy the data on the inside. If someone tries guessing the PIN, after a certain number of tries, the drive will reset itself, which erases all the data. You can set up a self-destruct PIN to destroy the data, in case you have to. And finally, there’s a way to manually reset the drive via a relatively easy key combo, which anyone can perform at any time to, again, completely wipe all the content.

In other words, diskAshur PRO2 keeps your data private at the expense of its integrity. Do not use this drive to hold the only copy of your essential files, nor should you use it as a backup drive.

iStorage diskAshur PRO2: Fast performance

The diskAshur PRO2 is very fast for a hard-drive-based portable storage device, topping the chart on writing performance at almost 130 megabytes per second. In reading tests, it was a tad slower at 127MB/s. In all, this drive is the fastest among I’ve tested.

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Keep in mind that, once unlocked, the diskAshur PRO2 requires power to remain unlocked. That said, if your computer goes into sleep mode (or hibernation), the drive will be offline and therefore becomes locked. You can prevent this by changing the computer’s setting for it to keep charging USB-connected devices even when the system is off.

Conclusion

The iStorage diskAshur PRO2 is not for everyone. It’s expensive, a bit hard to use, and won’t work well as a backup destination or even the extra storage space. But if you’re looking for a device that will keep your data secret, this drive will give you absolute peace of mind. And for that, it’s well worth the investment.

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