- TREK introduced the first 8MB consumer-level flash USB drive in 2000
- Flash USB drives can carry malware and spread infection between PCs
- USB Flash Drives typically have a lifespan of ten years
- Not all USB Flash Drives have encryption, posing a risk if lost
- Alternatives to Flash USB Drives include keypads, password data entry devices, flash hard drives, and cloud solutions
Flash Universal Serial Bus (USB) drives are trendy, but are they really worth it? Despite their rock-bottom prices, portability, reliability, and storage capability, USB Flash drives are not that good. We’ll look at the reasons to Avoid a Flash USB Drive, but first, here is some background information.
History of Flash USB Drives
The late 1990s saw exponential year-over-year sales growth for personal computers in the workplace and personal households. Computer users wanted the ability to swap files quickly and easily. The technology of the time, a 3.5″ Floppy Drive, could contain 1.44MB of data. Data transfer speeds were slow, approximately 100-250kbps.
Technology breakthroughs are littered with lawsuits, counter lawsuits, winners, and losers. The Flash USB Drive story is the same. Multiple technology companies claim they were the first to invent Flash USB drives. What is abundantly clear is that TREK introduced the 8MB consumer-level flash USB drive in 2000.
Afterward, different tech companies began offering their versions of USB Flash Drives. Today you can find many USB Flash Drives. Each model is configured for different budgets, speeds, storage requirements, and USB configurations. Let’s delve into Flash USB drive specifics.
|Type||Transfer Speed (Read/Write)||Common Size Capacity|
|USB 2.0||10 Mbps 3Mbps||64GB – 2TB|
|USB 3.0||60 Mbps 10Mbps||64GB – 2TB|
|USB4||4200 Mbps/2800 Mbps||Coming Soon|
|USB C||100 Mbps/ 30Mbps||32GB – 1TB|
Why Avoid a Flash USB Drive?
Every good reason to use a USB Flash Drive is coupled with multiple reasons not to use these devices. We still have USB Flash Drives in our household for personal use. Professionally USB Flash Drive has largely gone the way of the Floppy Disk.
Flash USB drives can carry malware and spread infection between PCs when they connect to a network. When booby-trapped, they can take over keyboards while running in the background, an you wouldn’t even notice something is wrong.
It’s great to share files among family, friends, and colleagues through a USB thumb drive. Unfortunately, a virus can corrupt the files on the USB Drive. Some of the malware can copy data from any attached memory device. If you have data, presentations, spreadsheets, photos, or movies on your Flash USB drive, you’ll need to think twice before giving your flash drive.
Easy to Lose
USB Flash Drives are great because they’re so small. The drives are so small that they’re straightforward to lose. Have you noticed that many USB thumb drives are sold in packs of two, four, or ten? Even the manufacturing companies know that you’ll lose the drives. We’ve attached our USB flash drive to a keychain to make it more visible.
A Flash USB Drive typically lasts for ten years. How long a drive lasts depends on usage and handling. A reasonable expectation is up to one million read-and-write events. Is a device’s projected lifespan a good reason to avoid a new USB Flash drive?
Not all have Encryption
USB Flash drives are small and easy to get lost. Once we acknowledge this fact, we must ask the obvious: What kind of data will you keep in a Flash Drive? If you’re like us, maybe you’re keeping data that needs to be encrypted. (Spreadsheets, financial reports, movies, etc.). However, not all have encryption. If yours gets lost, someone could find and access the files on your USB drive.
Different Manufacturing Quality
Flash Memory computer chip manufacturing is a race to the bottom of the pile. The first company to release a “bigger and cheaper” model will reap the financial windfall. Most companies know that consumers will go for the cheapest product. Some, ut corners to speed up the chip manufacturing and mechanical assembly.
Prone to Mechanical Damage
Be kind to your Flash USB Drive! We own (at least) one flash drive that only works when we push down on the drive after it’s inserted into the computer’s USB port. Poor handling can loosen connections between the USB and memory devices. Ultimately, this makes drive unusable.
Alternatives to a Flash USB Drive
While security and virus risks are paramount in the office, you might feel more flexible at home. Like many, you pass files back and forth on unsecured Flash USB drives between “home” laptops. If you do that, it helps to maintain an active virus-scanning subscription.
Some people no longer use Flash USB Drives because their security risks outweigh their benefits. A good solution would be password-protected, hardware-encrypted USB flash drive. Below are some practical alternatives worth considering.
A keypad is one option to provide another layer of protection. If you have used a keypad in the past, you know it’s reasonably functional. Just make sure you remember the passcode!
Password data entry device
A password data entry device allows the user to input the password after accessing the flash drive. A password data entry device is a great option depending on how well you manage your passwords.
Flash hard drive
The Flash Hard Drive is a step up from the smaller “thumb drives” but provides good security with expanded drive space.
You can also use password protected cloud based services. Here are some good options.
- Google Drive allows us to easily share “everything” digitally with anyone we give access to. We have shared folders and individual folders. We’ve transitioned from USB devices to Google Drive. We share spreadsheets and folders daily. There’s no mucking around with a USB Flash drive. We routinely use the application on our iPhones.
- DropBox is our “goto” storage for historical documents and photos. We’ve stored all our archived data on DropBox. We’ve used it for over a decade and had no issues. The user interface is easy to navigate. We’ve shared folders with business partners from our cell phones.
- Shared Drive Space: Stack and rack your files in a “Sharepoint” like an internal company drive.
Signs You Need to Avoid A New Flash USB Drive
- You’re prone to losing things. Do you know where your car keys are?
- You plan to use the thumb drive as a portable hard drive forever. It’s not a hard drive; it’s a mobile device. Take files from Computer A to Computer B and transfer them immediately (OK, move them “soonish.”)
- You dislike or aren’t willing to perform a virus scan before extracting content from a flash drive to your device.
- You’re tough on your toys. Let us know that you’re planning to stick a USB Flash Drive on your keychain, and we’ll immediately tell you that you might not be a great fit. While USB Flash drives are hearty, they’re not indestructible.
Wrap-Up: Reasons To Avoid A New USB Flash
While Flash USB Drives are helpful for transferring files, they’re also not entirely faultless. We can’t overlook the inherent security and virus risks associated with these devices. Of course, their best years are behind them like good old text books! The proliferation of affordable and easy-to-access cloud-based storage has made USB Flash Drives redundant.
|Security Concerns||Can carry malware and spread infection between PCs|
|Easy to Lose||Small size makes them easy to misplace|
|Shorter Lifespan||Typically lasts for ten years, depending on usage and handling|
|Not all have Encryption||Not all USB drives have built-in encryption, posing a risk if lost|
|Different Manufacturing Quality||Quality varies due to race to produce cheaper models|
|Prone to Mechanical Damage||Poor handling can loosen connections and make the drive unusable|
|Alternatives Available||Keypads, password data entry devices, flash hard drives, and cloud solutions|
The image featured at the top of this post is ©Sombat Muycheen/Shutterstock.com.