Flash Drives - How to Buy a Flash Drive

Flash Drives – How to Get the Most Thumb Drive for Your Dollar

Called thumb drives, USB drive, flash drives, memory sticks, external hard drives, flash USB, or flash memory, they are all common terms for a 2 ½ inch stick of memory that plugs into a USB port on a pc or laptop. Getting the most flash drive for your buck is easy by following these quick how to buy a flash drive tips.

Decide how you’re going to use the flash drive. You can buy a thumb drive or flash drive for smaller storage space or an external hard disk for larger space. Flash drive capacity start at 128Mb and are as large as 64Gb. 64Gb! That’s as large as some of the hard drives on pc’s! Note that flash drives are easier to carry as compared to external hard drives. Flash drives don’t require external power supplies.

Document, picture and video transport and storage are the most common use of flash drives. Network administrators and pc techs love flash drives as they can be loaded with configuration information and software used for system maintenance, troubleshooting, and recovery.

Flash drives are the Swiss army knife in the PC repair field as a means to transfer recovery and antivirus software to infected PCs, while allowing a portion of the host machine's data to be archived in case of emergency. Thumb drives have replaced the need to carry a number of CD ROMs and installers which were needed when reinstalling or updating a system.

Flash drives can run “portable” applications that run on the host computer without requiring installation. These portable standalone applications don’t leave “foot prints” in your pc that can be used to track web surfing and document changes.

Most current PC firmware permits booting from a USB drive, allowing the launch of an operating system from a bootable flash drive.

Digital audio files can be stored and transported from one computer to another like any other document, and played on a compatible media player (with exceptions for files with security encoding). Increasingly home DVD and car stereos have USB ports available allowing file playback directly off the flash drive.

The availability of inexpensive flash drives has enabled them to be used for promotional and marketing purposes, particularly within technical and computer-industry circles. These logo memory stick drives are given away for free, sold at below wholesale price, or as a bonus with purchase of another product. The logo memory sticks have the company's logo, as a form of advertising to increase mind share and brand awareness. Sometimes, the drive is simply an ordinary blank drive for the customer's use, and simple advertising is the only purpose. Alternatively, the logo memory stick's memory is preloaded with graphics, documentation, web links, flash animation or other multimedia, and even free or demonstration software.

Data backup is becoming a common use for USB flash drives. Data is transferred to the flash drive at the end of the day and take offsite. It is relatively simple for the end-user and increases the likelihood that backups will be performed regularly (one of the most common reasons for a failure to backup is the complexity of the process). Because the drive is small, it is easy to carry offsite. Flash drives are very robust and reliable, compared to other tape and optical backup media. Large drives often permits backup of several images on a single flash drive. The use of flash drives as a backup solution is often far cheaper than alternatives, which may require additional hardware or recurring media costs.

For simple file storage and transport (docs, spreadsheets, text files) anything around 1Gb to 2Gb should suffice. For larger files (movies, video clips, applications) an 8Gb or 16Gb flash drive is the way to go. Bigger is always better. Currently, 64Gb is the biggest thumb/pen/flash drive capacity available.

Check out the physical dimensions of the thumb drive. Thumb drives come in a variety of cool shapes, but make them impractical for plugging into some pc’s and laptops. I stick to the rectangular shape, I want function over style. I was given a 64Gb pen drive that is oval shaped, runs fine, but it covers all 4 USB ports on the front of my pc! It would be impossible to use this pen drive on a laptop if I wanted to plug in an external keyboard and mouse.

Learn the features of the USB drive before buying. Does it have built in software for encryption or portable applications? Secure storage of data, application and software files is a common feature on better flash drives.

Once you have an idea of the storage capacity you want in a thumb drive, visit online stores such as, and, read the reviews on different thumb drives to find the most reliable and functional USB drives. Pay close attention to the number of bad reviews vs. good reviews on the thumb drive. Corsair, Sandisk, Transcend, Memorex, Verbatim, LG, Sony, Lexar and Iomega are some of the reliable brands that offer a variety of USB drives.

Decide how much $ per Gb to budget for purchasing the USB drive. Prices vary according to manufacturer, thumb drive capacity, and flash drive features. Prices on thumb drives tend to be exponential as the flash drive capacity increases. The 64Gb is the most expensive thumb drive, being the newest development in storage capacity.

Don’t buy a USB drive in a retail store. After comparing prices (retail vs. online), you’ll get more Gb per dollar even after adding in shipping.

USB flash drives are a cheap alternative for file storage. Flash drives enclosures are nearly impervious to the scratches and dust that were problematic for compact discs, ZIP disks, and floppy disks, and the solid-state design means they often survive accidents like a trip through the washing machine. Flash drives are ideal for transporting personal data or work files from one location to another. USB support is on all modern computers means that flash drive files can be accessed almost anywhere. Flash drives are also a relatively dense form of storage, where even the smallest (128Mb) will store dozens of floppy disks worth of data. Many can hold more data than a CD (700MB) or a DVD (4.5GB) and flash drives with 64 GB are becoming common. The power consumption of a flash drive is very low as compared to the portable hard disk, which requires external power. Flash drives have no moving parts, offering greater portability. Flash drives implement the USB mass storage device class, meaning that most modern operating systems can read and write to flash drives without installing any extra software. Some flash drives can retain their memory after being submerged in water. Letting the flash drive out to dry completely is the key to recovering your flash drive data. Flash drives have been cooked, run over, frozen and shot out of cannons just to prove the data on the flash drive could be recovered even after the flash drive housing was damaged.

Flash drives have a limited life span only having a number of write and erase cycles before failure. Under normal conditions thumb drives will have several hundred thousand cycles, although write operations will gradually slow as the device ages. Consider this before using a flash drive to run applications or an operating system. Several companies have developed software to optimize use on a flash drive. Portable applications such as Firefox and certain Linux operating systems minimize read/writes to flash memory buy using the pc’s RAM for temporary storage. Most USB flash drives do not include a write-protect mechanism, although some have a switch on the housing of the drive itself to keep the host computer from writing or modifying data on the drive. Write-protection makes a flash device suitable for repairing virus-contaminated host computers without risk of infecting the USB flash drive itself.

In the past, compared to other portable storage, particularly external hard drives, USB flash drives have had a high price per unit of storage and are only available in comparatively small capacities; but in the smaller capacities (4Gig and less), USB flash drives are much less expensive per unit of storage than the hard drives they have replaced. At the speed technology is developing and prices dropping, flash drives seem to be the future replacement for the mechanical internal hard drive.

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