Anyone who does audio on a laptop knows this problem: Where do you keep your iLoks and USB dongles so they don’t get damaged? I’ve seen mixers and engineers carrying them in pockets, Altoid containers, or just loose in a bag or backpack.
I thought my iLok was safe in a pocket in my padded laptop bag. One day, I opened it up and the iLok was in two pieces. Luckily, it was just a cracked casing (which I managed to slip back together) but it was enough of a scare to know I needed a better solution for iLok storage.
The Pelican Case Solution
What I came up with is a USB hub in a Pelican case. It houses my iLoks, USB drives (including one I use for my Waves licenses), and a USB receiver for my Bluetooth keyboard and mouse. I also keep a spare 1/8″ to 1/4″ headphone adapter in there (cause you can never have too many of those, right?! Where do they go, anyhow?)
The idea is for it to remain closed most of the time. You could hook other devices to the hub but I find it clunky to work with the lid open.
You do need a drill or Dremel tool to make the notch for the cable so the lid can close (there’s a photo below). The rest is pretty easy.
Parts needed to make a USB Hub Case
- Pelican 1020 Micro Case (readers have also used Pelican 1015 or Pelican 1010 cases)
- USB Hub (more info below)
- Pelican 1022 Pick N Pluck Foam for 1022 case – or similar foam
Anker USB C Hub is basically the USB C version of the hub I made mine with.
USB 3.0 Hub
Anker doesn’t make the USB 3.0 hub I used anymore but a reader used this Anker 3-port hub with a Pelican 1010 case. A similar hub (in layout/size) is Atolla CH401. I haven’t used this brand before and the cable is shorter (around 6-inches) but it does have an 18-month warranty.
USB 2.0 Hub
You could use a USB 2.0 hub if you’re not planning to plug in any drives. I have found a thumb drive to be useful (if you have an open port).
Thumb drive add-on!
I usually leave a thumb drive in my hub. This has been really useful for things like temp backup, storing documents related to a project, transferring files, or even common used sound fx. Slim USB drives are so cheap now this can be an easy way to get some bonus storage.
Here’s how I have the foam arranged (plucked out)
What it looks like without the foam (the hub will slide around). It houses my Logitech dongle (for Bluetooth devices), an old USB drive for Waves licenses, and an iLok (with a slot open for an extra USB drive)
The notch cut out is for the cable so the lid can close. The blue rubber piece has a small cutout, also.
Tips if you want to try other parts
A couple people have made their own storage cases using different size Pelican cases. Pelican 1015 is the same width as the 1020 but narrower. It’s probably what I’d buy if I did this again (but double check measurements first).
The main problem I found testing different hubs for this is they would slide around in the case. I wanted something that stayed in place for maximum protection. If you don’t mind it moving around, a slim hub would probably work fine. You could put it on foam or maybe come up with another option to keep the hub in place (velcro, maybe…)
If the USB cable output is near where the notch will be, this will keep things more tidy as well.
The USB cable should be part of the hub (not removable). I tried one that was separate pieces and the case would have needed a massive hole (vs a small notch).