Internal Secret USB Stick With Hidden Switch

About: Random creative stuff. Strong weakness for Upcycling, Open Source Hardware / Software and Industrial Vintage Design.

Recently I had the problem that I wanted to have Tails OS* as a second operating system always with me. But I did not want to carry a USB stick and a permanent hard drive installation is not intended by the developers.
So I came up with something else ...

In the free mini-PCI Express slot of my notebook, I have installed a corresponding USB adapter and then plugged in a USB stick. In order to avoid visibility in normal operation, I have additionally installed a small switch in the Kensington security slot.

What can I say ? It works. And you feel a bit like James Bond with this "secret" switch. ^^

That's how I realized this:

* You could also use it as a hidden Drive for your personal Data. ;-)

Step 1: Parts and Tools

Parts:

  • Mini-PCI Express to USB Adapter
  • Small USB-Stick (about as wide as a USB port)*
  • Small Switch (I have found a suitable in my "junk" box)
  • Some Wire
  • Shrinking Tube


Tools:

  • Soldering iron
  • Desoldering braid / pump
  • Hot glue gun
  • Screwdriver
  • Lighter (for the shrinking tube :D)

* Don't buy the same as i did, it has a pretty slow write speed. :x

Step 2: Testing the Setup

Before I made the tinkering, I first wanted to know if the adapter and USB stick work.

Since the USB stick was too big to plug in, I had to remove the case. Fortunately, because it was just snapped together, it worked without complications.

In order to avoid a short circuit with the WLAN card in the test run, I used a piece of antistatic foil as insulation.

As you can see he was recognized without any problems. Yay! :)

Step 3: The Switch

First, I removed the small metal plate of the Kensington security slot and soldered two cables to the switch.

The switch was then stuck with hot glue in the sheet and both re-installed in the notebook.

As you can see you should be a bit careful, it is quite narrow and my switch is not quite straight. :x

Step 4: The USB-Board

After I knew the pin out of the USB connection*, I removed the USB connector. Of course not without first marking the voltage line. Better safe than sorry.

The three cables (Gnd, Data +, Data -) which lead directly back to the USB board and the switch cable (V bus), were then soldered to the USB connector. Since the installation can be somewhat fiddly, some shrink tubing and the fixation with hot glue can not hurt.

The other switch cable and the three cables of the USB connector were then soldered to the USB board. Again, I have the cables generously fixed with hot glue.

To avoid a short circuit, the USB board was packed in antistatic foil and everything was installed.

* USB Pin Out Graphic Wikipedia

Step 5: Finish

As you can see, the tinkering was successful. :)
The USB stick only becomes visible when the switch is pressed and Tails OS can only then be selected / started in the boot manager.

Some final thoughts and links:

I used a normal USB stick because I wanted to use the possibility of perstiency. A no longer writable medium would of course be even safer here. There are USB sticks with a hardware write-protect switch, unfortunately, these were quite expensive and large in my short research.

Of course, it can be found out that such a mini PCIe to USB adapter is installed and the switch is on closer inspection also found. A reed switch would be a remedy here. Disposal of the USB stick is also not possible in an emergency. But my problem is solved and for my application, the setup is enough. :)

Happy tinkering!

Tim Schabe @schabenstolz

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    2 Discussions

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    audreyobscura

    19 days ago

    That's a clever design! Thanks for sharing it on Instructables!

    1 reply