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Holy Crap - SanDisk Thumb Drive Turns Computer to Mush!

Filed under: General — Charlie Summers @ 1:34 am

I purchased this evening a SanDisk Cruzer 4G thumb drive (flash drive, whatever you want to call it) so I could transfer some files between the computers here. Should have been a no-brainer; plug in the drive where Windows installs a driver, copy files to the drive, remove the drive, move to other computer, lather, rinse, repeat.

Instead the computer went bonzo installing some bizarre computer program…without my knowledge or permission, and trying to remove the drive stops the computer from properly restarting! Seriously, avoid SanDisk items of any kind until they have enough respect for their customers not to pull this crap on them.

I have never seen anything like it…it threw up a big button on the machine, an item marked “U3″ in the notification area, and demanded I restart the machine. But any time I tried to remove the drive, it not only failed but then when I restarted it would hang before Windows Explorer was finished loading.

Holy crap. (Details after the jump.)

Now understand, U3 may be the greatest thing since sliced bread (although based on a brief read it seems to be some useless system to run applications from a thumb drive, something we can already do without the application and overhead and proprietary bullpucky), but no one runs damaging software on my computer without my knowledge and permission! Parse that again…identical to a virus or trojan, the software and special drivers ran without my permission, without the packaging even telling me it was going to install someone else’s idea of necessary software. When someone or something installs software to a computer without your permission, that is the very definition of a trojan!

Gets better…because of the drive hanging at shutdown and reboot so often, a drive check of the drive (My Computer:Select Disc, Properties, Tools, Check now) is “unable to complete,” meaning the drive’s filesystem is damaged and once I get this bloody garbage off the f*$#&@^!!! flash drive I’m going to need to boot from the startup disc and run the Recovery Console on the drive (see my earlier rant about how Microsoft should make that available to all).

But apparently I’m not the only one to discover this crap:

How do I remove the U3 Smart Software from my Sandisk Flash Drive? - Another satisfied customer…

Removing U3 (and associated bundled software) from the SanDisk Cruzer Micro USB flash drive - particularly read the comments here, they are very eye-opening. (My Favorite: “I’m sure ‘U3 Smart Technology’ is like the tastiest chocolate cake, but however delicious it is, I don’t like to have it rammed down my throat.”)

Gets worse…I can’t get the u3 website to properly give me the uninstall mojo in Firefox the way I have it set up (and if you think I’m going to let these morons run more unaudited code on my machine, you are out of your mind!) And, of course, the built-in uninstaller keeps telling me it only handles one drive at a time (sure, sure, but I only have one, and right now wish I didn’t have that one!).

So first I’ll try “ejecting” the non-existent drives for my built-in card-reader…nope, that’s no good. Ok, try downloading the SanDisk uninstaller…nope, still no joy. Ok, ok, suck it up and download the u3 uninstaller with Internet Explorer, knowing how dangerous running that software is…ah, that’s a little better, at least I can download it and hopefully not get any javascript viruses. It tried to convince me that I didn’t want to make my flash drive “dumb” (yeah, broken reboots are so very “smart”) and then began to remove and reformat the drive. Problem is, I don’t have any idea how long it will take to reformat the 4G drive; I would think not very long, but the uninstaller seems to be running one whole heckuvalot…after over an hour, I used the Task Manager to kill it. But you guessed it…trying to Safely Remove the drive caused the computer to lock up.

Yeah, getting ticked off now…restart the machine yet again, and it hangs on shutdown. Force-reset the computer (man, am I gonna need the Recovery Console!), and…ok, this is promising, the computer properly restarted, although it’s acting a little slow at the point where Windows Explorer launches. Now let’s put in the SanDisk Cruzer, and…

SUCCESS! It’s a “normal” (read, “Doesn’t crash the frelling machine!”) flash drive again!

Ok, I’m going to go off and run the Recovery Console’s chkdsk on the drive now that everything is back together, and after that I’m going to restore to a system checkpoint two days ago just to make certain there’s no evidence of the evil u3 crap in there anywhere. So instead of getting a good night’s sleep, I spent the evening battling with this evil and unnecessary software.

What we should take away from this:

1) Do Not Purchase anything from SanDisk until they stop requiring their customer’s machine to run programs without their permission or even possibly their knowledge, and

2) If you see anything with the u3 logo on it, burn it before it burns you.

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8 Responses to “Holy Crap - SanDisk Thumb Drive Turns Computer to Mush!” »


  1. tfk Says:

    Thanks for the warning! I was considering getting some flash drives, and SanDisk, being a big name, was one of the options. Not any more, it isn’t…

    I was looking at MP3 players to get my Dad for Christmas (I’m going to preload it with some old-time radio shows). SanDisk players were one of the options, but I saw too many negative reviews, some mentioning that it locked up, with one saying that this happened after they accidently dropped it on a carpeted floor. I spent a little more money and got a CreativeLabs Zen player. Hopefully, that will go well. It’s too bad, I had to go out of my way to get the Zen, while the SanDisk players were available at RadioShack.

    After your experience with the SanDisk, I’m avoiding all of their products.

    I have an old Lexar JumpDrive with a secure partition. It installs software, too. It didn’t require a restart, though…

    – Tom


  3. Frank McGurn Says:

    I have 2 Travel drives (Flash Drive , Thumb Drive or what ever) a 500 MG SanDisk and a 1GB Memorex. Both work great but I like the Memorex the best. I fimd that the best way to transfer data is use Widows explorer. I drag files from the C Drive to the Flash drive (E or F drive)and drop it. I have my date base of over 10,000 OTR programs on the SanDisk and loads of pictures on the memorex. You can also use “sent to” to move files etc.

    I also have Thunderbird e-mail on the Memorex so I cam get all my e-mail as long as I use a comuter that is on line. I love the flash drives. Just have use care in ejecting by clicking on the U3 Icon on the right hand section of the lower tool bar after you closed any open programs.
    Frank McGurn


  5. Charlie Summers Says:

    The idea that I am required to have that U3 garbage running on my computer, the same software that hard-crashed the machine and forced me into the Recovery Console, is laughable. I’m thrilled you “love it,” but that’s only because you haven’t yet had a problem with it. When I buy a thumb drive, I expect to use it for what I wish, not be forced to run insecure proprietary applications over which I have no control.

    No one runs software on my computer without my permission. Period. Look, I’ve been using thumb drives and memory card readers since 128k was a big deal, and I have never seen anything as invasive as this crap. I bought a Verbatim 1G a year or two ago, and it came pre-installed with some security software (V-Safe). It didn’t force itself on me, and removing it would have been as easy as deleting it from the thumb drive (it was useful, so I kept and use it)…the U3 stuff can not be removed by anything other than U3’s uninstaller, and will waste additional drive letters (you have a CD-ROM containing “0 bytes” whenever you stick in a drive with this nonsense on it). So you have demonstratively-dangerous software that you cannot remove without the author’s permission!

    A well-behaved thumb drive is removed with the Remove Hardware widget, not some unaudited proprietary application. The idea that you can’t use the Remove Hardware widget without risking your hard drive implies the software was written so poorly as to be dangerous…just as I inadvertently proved.

    You want Thunderbird on your jump drive? You don’t need U3’s garbage…just go to and download it. It took me no time at all to install it on a flash drive (I used the Verbatim since I had it in the drive anyway) and subscribe to this blog’s feed with it. (I don’t use it for email, preferring to use a very old application on a very old computer, completely eliminating the possibility of viral infection; but I do recommend Thunderbird to those who are…er…less paranoid.) With PortableThunderbird, “we don’t need no stinkin’ launcher,” I can just double-click on the EXE just like any other. And look at the selection of portable apps available for install at - cool stuff, no proprietary launcher to screw up your computer, no bullpucky, just useful stuff.

    And if you absolutely must have an integrated menu system (I find they get in the road more than they are useful), has one of those, too. And it runs when you want it to, not when it decides it will.

    (Also while I was here, fixed broken URL in main story above pointing to the Removing U3 (and associated bundled software) from the SanDisk Cruzer Micro USB flash drive blog entry. Strongly urge you to read it and the comments therein before you assume that U3 software is a “good thing.”)


  7. Nostalgic Rumblings » “D*mn…no power.” Says:

    […] So even though the holidays are coming, all of the material I planed on posting is trapped on computers that have no electricity (including an excellent copy of The Campbell Theater’s A Christmas Carol with our friend Arthur Anderson in a featured role, provided by another friend, Jerry Haendiges). I’ll try to get everything out once power is restored, but for now, please understand I’m doing the best I can, keeping pipes from freezing and running to a local cafe to occasionally connect to the Net and get some work done. (In a future post, I’ll tell you how I’m using PortableApps, an open-source, freeware, and completely safe version of the dangerous U3 flash drive software, to manage this crisis and maintain some bit of sanity no matter what computer I’m using where.) […]


  9. evanigma Says:

    Um, how about you just remove u3?


  11. Charlie Summers Says:

    evanigma Says:

    Um, how about you just remove u3?

    Er…you really should catch up a little bit. Since you apparently didn’t read the post, let me refresh - I did exactly that, after struggling with the damage this crap inflicted on the computer, having to run the Recovery Console, and then researching the issue myself since no one bothered to tell me that this garbage was on the drive, nor how to get rid of it once I discovered it. And when I ran the uninstaller to which you point, I ended up crashing out of it after it ran for over an hour. So pardon me for not trusting one d*mned thing U3 creates.

    There are two separate issues here:

    1) U3 software is specifically designed to be so “smart” the user has to follow finely-detailed instructions to do anything, including something that should be simple, like removing the drive from the computer, and

    2) there are no instructions provided with the brain-damaged U3 software, nor with the SanDisk flash drive paperwork.

    Surely I cannot be faulted for not being so prescient that I didn’t realize the bizarre steps required to remove a U3-infected flash drive with no instructions and no warning. The proper way to remove a device is with the Safely Remove Hardware widget, which is exactly what I attemped and exactly what hammered the file system on the computer.

    So in conclusion…a bloated proprietary software (which depends on open-source applications to actually do anything anyway) trashes my drive, requires extraordinary and undocumented steps to remove the drive from the computer, throws huge icons over my desktop, forces a run without my permission and consent, and is licensed by a company which does everything it can to hide the also-proprietary infection-clearing application and makes certain the download system won’t work with a protected Firefox requiring an open and unprotected Internet Explorer to get to the uninstaller which doesn’t run properly on my computer anyway, where an Open-Source System plays by the rules, causes no damage, and is easily removed with standard tools (format the drive and its gone). And I’m the knucklehead for not knowing all of this when I bought a flash drive just to carry information from one machine to another?


  13. l dubya Says:

    I just got a SanDisk 4 gig thumb drive a couple of days ago and wanted to get rid of all that crap too. I tried deleted everything shown on the drive (even with hidden and system files visible) but the files kept showing up every time I plugged it back along with the U3 icon in the tray. No problems with ‘unsafe removal’ but the nag dialog box would pop up. I discovered this site and found the answer — thanks to evanigma — The uninstaller worked fine the first time and now it works like I want it to.

    The older 1 gig SanDisk I got a year or so ago did not have any bundled software included that I remember(if it did I did not have any problems deleting it).


  15. olly Says:

    Another problem to watch out for. Tried to copy data from my old PC to a new Vista one and the U3 installation software started to format the old 2GB Cruzer without warning. Data now lost and recovery software wouldn’t work. I don’t think I’ll be buying Sandisk again.

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