Daemon Tools USB lets you access and share your remote USB devices. Daemon Tools made a name for itself with simple, no-nonsense optical drive emulation software that allows your disk libraries to go from cake boxes filled with silver platters to immediately accessible disk images stored on your hard drive. While commercial upgrades have appeared over the years, the free version retained most of the handy features and became a staple power user's tool. The company's focus has barely shifted over the years, with variations on platform support and paid features as the only real changes since the first version of Daemon Tools rolled out. Their latest product, Daemon Tools USB (£5, 20-day free trial), is a modest attempt to move away from the emulation business with a utility that allows remote access to USB-connected devices as if they were plugged in locally. See all Software reviews.
The ambitions here are modest and comfortably met. By running a copy of the software on a host system, you gain access to USB-connected devices such as thumb drives, printers and hard disks on other systems also running Daemon Tools USB. You can specify passwords and configure custom port numbers and proxy servers, so security (if not particularly robust security) is provided. See all software downloads.
The interface is a model of simplicity, but this is less of a compliment than a consequence of its singular purpose. Access speed is swift and reliable under most circumstances, although this is largely dictated by network bandwidth. Despite its simplicity, I still had trouble accessing a few devices, such as a SanDisk portable USB drive that refused to allow remote access, while others worked perfectly.
The interface is a tabbed window that allows you to specify and configure local USB devices for sharing and to access remote devices you've added to your server list. Under most circumstances, simply sharing the same device over a network via the normal OS route would duplicate this functionality.
There are a few scenarios that Daemon Tools USB simplifies, however. Printers and webcams often require a direct USB connection for access to management software, for example. Daemons Tools USB is a good fit for these situations. Not too many people need to share devices under those circumstances, however.
This brings up the next problem: price. While £5 doesn't seem a lot of money, Daemon Tools USB doesn't do much. Sure, it's just the price of two cups of coffee at Starbucks, but I like coffee and enjoy it every day. I doubt I could say the same about a £5 investment in Daemon Tool USB. I'm sure there are people out there looking for the solution this software provides; I just haven't met them yet. That makes the price a bit of stretch, especially since no free modes of use exist beyond the 20-day initial trial.