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Most people carry a USB drive around for storing files on-the-go, but that’s not all they are good for. A free (for non-commercial use) program called Predator will actually let you use a USB drive as a key for your computer. Basically, when you remove the drive the computer will lock itself, and it will be unlocked the next time you insert the drive.

How it works is simple:

  1. You insert the USB drive
  2. You run PREDATOR (autostart with Windows is possible)
  3. You do your work
  4. When you’re away from your PC, you simply remove the USB drive – once it is removed, the keyboard and mouse are disabled and the screen darkens
  5. When you return back to your PC, you put the USB flash drive in place – keyboard and mouse are immediately released, and the display is restored.

There are some things you might naturally be concerned about, such as what happens if you lend out your drive to someone and they copy everything on it? Well, you can set up the app to require a password in order to unlock your computer, but that may not be necessary. Predator will update your key from time-to-time so that any copies are invalidated. If you’re worried about losing your USB drive you can always designate a secondary drive, that uses its own key, that can be used in an emergency.

The free version of Predator is only for personal, non-commercial use. If you do buy the app you’ll also get some advanced features such as Twitter or SMS notifications in the event that someone tries to “break into” your computer. For most home users I’m guessing the logging options really aren’t necessary.

Predator Homepage (Windows only; Free for non-commercial use)