At the risk of a necro-post here, I need to add to this discussion.
Anyone wanting to avoid proprietary BS would be well advised to build their own USB drives. Newegg.com and other reliable vendors sell products from Nippon Labs, Syba, Masscool, Sabrent, and other vendors that allow one to use a hard drive already in hand as an external. Enclosures, "docking stations" and other products are available that allow connection of laptop and/or desktop hard drives over USB and eSATA. Here's one example:http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817816003
For ten bucks you get the enclosure, its cable, all hardware, a Windows driver disk (makes a good coaster
)and a screwdriver to put it together with. Yeah, it's a special cable, but at this price, any laptop drive from 320 GB on down is now a fit-in-a-shirt-pocket portable that doesn't need a power brick. At that price, I'd pay to buy the entire kit just to get a spare cable if I needed one.
I've got two of these in service right now, one with the old 80 gig SATA drive out of my D620, and another with an old 160 gig SATA I acquired in a parts swap. Both are cookin' along just fine, and the 80 boots Full Monty for my laptop at work (for use as a recovery tool if XP ever goes belly up).
Nippon Labs also makes an IDE version of this same enclosure, but it's getting harder to find these days. Fortunately, Masscool and Sabrent are making very similar enclosures in the same price range, and, as I mentioned earlier, lots of others are out there.
There are other kits at Newegg (and elsewhere) that fit varying needs, so you don't have to put up with vendors that like to lock you in. I have avoided WD and Seagate/Maxtor like the plague for the past several years, preferring drives from Hitachi Global Storage Technologies for speed, reliability, and price.
Just my two shekels worth.