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Buying USB Flash Drives

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USB flash drives, often called "thumb drives," have become ubiquitous in home, school, and business settings. These drives allow you to carry a great deal of information with you in a very small space. In fact, they are so small that I found I was losing my drives so I finally put mine on my key chain so that I literally can't go home if I left my drive in a classroom (I am a psychology professor).
The most common capacities are currently 4GB, 8GB, and 16GB. These can all be purchases at or lower than $1 per GB. I would strongly recommend the larger sized 16GB as we are often surprised at how much we want to carry with us. Less common sizes are 32GB and 64GB and these sizes typically still sell for more than $1 per GB. I use the $1 per GB as a price point that represents a good deal on a thumb drive. You will occasionally find what seems like a great price on a flash drive only to find that the shipping cost moves the total price for the drive well above $1 per GB.
All of the common name brands represent good values. Kingston, Centon, HP, A-Data, and other familiar brand names are going to be good quality drives.
Some flash drives have retractable connectors and I recommend that you do not buy these. The ability to retract the connector has the effect of making the drive slightly smaller. These retractable drives tend to break and you find that you have to hold the drive very carefully in order to insert it into a USB slot. Eventually the union where the connector is connected to the small circuit board may fail and your data will be lost. Flash drives are available in very small sizes if that is what you need. Stay away from a flash drive that has any kind of mechanical part.
Over the next few months I believe we will see the 32GB flash drives come down to less than $32 and when they do they will represent a good value. Even the 64GB and the 128GB drives will come down as manufacturing provides the economies of scale necessary to get the selling price below $1 per GB.
A final bit of advice: Always backup your flash drive to a folder on a laptop or desktop. If you do lose or break your flash drive you will be very relieved to know that you have a full copy of the drive ready to copy onto your replacement drive.

erick99 posted Feb 14, 2012

what about now they make them in the cutest designs?! and into key chains i have seen in stores. it's amazing how the flash drives have evolved through out the years. its so convenient and small to carry around, who would not want to own one right?

gangstabarbie (rep: 21k) posted Feb 14, 2012


Honestly, I think flash drives are no longer a very useful piece of technology. Yes, they have their place, but that place is becoming more and more limited.

With services like Dropbox (a cloud-based file storage service, with 5gb or more of free storage) becoming more and more popular, you can move your files more easily, never worry about losing files or having your drive stolen, and take less time to transfer files (no more waiting for files to copy over to your device).

If you need less storage, you can use emails, or even the file upload service provided in Google Docs, which allows up to 1gb file uploads, which you can share with anyone.

If you need more storage, external hard drives represent a better value. You can get much more storage per dollar, and the portable drives are pocketable, so unless you really hate carrying things, there shouldn't be a problem.

When are flash drives useful? When you need between 10 and 32 gb of storage, or when cloud-based storage just isn't an option (such as plugging in the flash drive to a TV or other hardware that doesn't support your cloud-based storage.

In college, I had a few flash drives, and used them occasionally. I had up to a 4gb flash drive, and never really needed more (if I was moving movies or tv shows, I'd use a much bigger external drive). I switched to cloud-based storage, and honestly haven't felt a need for a flash drive in about 3 years.

Just some thoughts.

DanFinance (rep: 12) posted Feb 15, 2012


I can't use dropbox because I teach at a variety of colleges and they have different I.T. policies about what sites can be accessed from the classroom computers provided for lecture. I imagine that other work sites have the same issues. When I have used dropbox I often run into the problem that a 1GB video takes too long to download. I need to be able to pop the flashdrive into a USB site and getting going right away.

erick99 (rep: 432k) posted Feb 15, 2012