From the June 2000 issue of Startups

You're a laptop-toting professional. But unless you're independently wealthy, you probably didn't buy one with 128MB RAM, a 14GB hard drive and a built-in disco ball. Your budget-notebook hard drive probably fills up faster than a kiddie pool in August. Luckily, you have options when expanding your computing elbow room.

Adding laptop storage can be a complicated-and expensive-proposition. We'll skip popping the hood on your little precious and instead look at external and PCMCIA upgrades that will give you more storage capacity. We've narrowed down the field to hard drives and removable media. If you like the swap 'em-out floppy-style convenience of Zip disks, then take a look at the Iomega Clik! drive and Castlewood Orb drive. For good ol' extra hard-drive space, consider the Procom ATOMLite drives, Microtech PortableDrive or Road Warrior Bullet Drive Express. And if you like Star Trek, check into the FlipDisk.

Whatever jibes with your storage style, you'll be set to back up important files. When shopping, compare weight, size and convenience. You don't have to mess with an extra cable if you don't want to. The 40MB Iomega disks may be all you want or need, or you might prefer getting into the gigabyte range with hard-drive-style storage.

ATOMLite-523 MB

Available in 523MB ($479) and 1GB ($630) sizes, the Procom ATOMLite drives require a Type III PCMCIA slot. Double-check what your laptop will hold; you might have to pull out your modem card to fit the ATOMLite in. The drive is removable for convenience and security; the whole thing fits in the PCMCIA slot. If you don't like extra peripherals hanging off your laptop, then you'll want to consider this drive. It offers the power of a hard drive rather than just removable storage media.

Manufacturer: Procom Technology

Model: ATOMLite-523 MB

Street price: $479

Phone:(800)800-8600

Web:www.procom.com

PortableDrive 25 USB

The Microtech portabledrive 25 USB bears a striking resemblance to the Road Warrior Bullet Drive Express. It works on the same principle: It attaches via a USB slot with a cable and is available as an empty hard-drive casing or with a hard drive included. The bundles range from 6GB ($499) up to 10GB ($939). If you provide your own 2.5-inch IDE drive, the case-only comes in at $100, about $30 less than the Road Warrior. Otherwise, the drives are comparable in price, storage capacity and technology. They're even about the same size. Look for the best deal if you decide to go with one of these.

Manufacturer: Microtech

Model: PortableDrive 25 USB

Street price: $100

Phone: (800) 340-0197

Web:www.microtechintl.com

Orb External USB

The Orb is like a zip drive on steroids. Each removable Orb disk holds 2.2GB. SCSI interface comes standard, and the included smart cable provides USB connection. At about 1.2 pounds, it'll add a little heft to your portable package. Each Orb disk costs $40-not bad for the huge capacity. The Orb is a good choice for portable storage if you want to have the convenience of removable disks. You get a lot more room for the money than you do with the Iomega Clik! disks, but the trade-off is added size and weight.

Manufacturer: Castlewood Systems

Model: Orb

Street price: $280

Phone: (925)461-5500

Web:www.castlewood.com

Click! PC Card Drive

Iomega's Clik! disks are small 40MB cards, the most compact storage we looked at for this column. That tiny size is a boon for portability. The entire Clik! PC Card Drive fits in an open PCMCIA slot, no cables required. If you want low-profile storage, this is it. You won't be able to back up your whole hard drive, but select files will fit just fine. Like CompactFlash cards, the Clik! disks are removable. Extra disks come at a street price of $30 for a pack of two. The Card Drive includes the drive, one Clik! disk and IomegaWare software.

Manufacturer: Iomega

Model: Click! PC Card Drive

Street price: $199

Phone: (800)MY - STUFF

Web:www.iomega.com

Bullet Drive Express

The Bullet Drive Express from Road Warrior is an external hard-drive enclosure. The street price is just $130, but like the Microtech, you have to purchase the hard drive that goes in it separately. Road Warrior also offers bundles that include the hard drive. Available sizes range from 3.2GB ($416) up to a very huge 14GB ($1,429) drive. Connection is through a Type II PCMCIA slot, leaving your other slot free for whatever. With Windows 95/98, the drive is hot-swappable so you don't have to turn off your laptop to add or remove it. Toll-free tech support and a one-year warranty are included.

Manufacturer: Road Warrior International

Model: Bullet Drive Express

Street price: $130

Phone: (800)274-4277

Web:www.roadwarrior.com

FlipDisk

This little gadget from Amacom is pretty cool. The FlipDisk looks kind of like a communicator from the original Star Trek. The PCMCIA connector is hinged to the drive. You just flip it out and plug it into an open slot. A range of hard-drive sizes is available, starting at $350 for a 2.1GB, up to $730 for a 10GB-a savings of more than $150 over the 10GB Microtech PortableDrive. An 18GB is also available for $830. The ingenious design means no cables to tangle with, and it's fairly lightweight at just over 11 ounces.

Manufacturer: Amacom

Model: FlipDisk

Street price: $350

Phone: (877)262-2668

Web:www.amacom-tech.com