The best flash drive
A flash drive remains one of the easiest and most portable ways to back up and transfer data. Modern flash drives offer impressive amounts of storage and faster transfer speeds, making them versatile tools to complement your cloud storage or external drive. Flash drives vary in storage size from 128MB to 1TB, and the storage capacity typically correlates directly with price. Some models may even have security features like encryption.
Whether you need a simple way to move files from one computer to another or you are looking for a highly portable backup device, you can find a flash drive that fits your budget. Our favorite is the Samsung 32GB Bar USB 3.0 Flash Drive, which features a tough metal case and a sleek design.
Considerations when choosing flash drives
Flash drive basics
A flash drive is a small storage device that connects to your computer or other device via USB. Data is stored using flash memory, which has no moving parts for high-speed data reading and writing, similar to the storage found in solid-state drives (SSDs). While flash drives are compatible with any operating system or game console, they may have to be reformatted after storing data from a particular operating system to use the flash drive with another operating system. This results in erasing all data, which is not a desirable outcome. You should use your flash drive for backing up a computer or quickly transferring data from computers with the same operating system. In addition, flash drives can be used with printers to print files without connecting your computer to the printer.
More storage space is better, but it also increases the price of a flash drive. As storage space has gotten less expensive to produce, the capacity of flash drives has increased. The smallest flash drives offer around 128MB of storage, while the biggest may be capable of holding 1TB of files. The amount of storage space you need depends on what types of files you plan to store and whether you use your flash drive as a backup device or just as a way to quickly transfer files.
The speed of a flash drive is the rate at which it can read and write data. This is largely dependent on the connection type of the flash drive. USB 2.0 flash drives have maximum speeds of 40Mbps, while newer USB 3.0 drives max out at around 640Mbps.
Flash drives may be able to store encrypted data that can only be accessed with a password, or they may have a password input on the flash drive itself, though this is a more expensive option. If you plan to store sensitive files on your flash drive, consider an option with security features.
Flash drive prices
For $5 to $12 are mid-range USB 2.0 and 3.0 flash drives with up to 32GB storage capacity.
Flash drives for $12 to $40 may be USB 2.0 or 3.0 flash drives and have from 32 to 128GB of storage capacity.
The most expensive flash drives cost $40 and above and offer up to 1TB of storage. Larger capacity flash drives are a fairly new development and do not always meet performance expectations, but other flash drives in this range may have rugged designs and additional security features.
Q. How long do flash drives last?
A. The cells in the flash storage of a flash drive have a limited number of write cycles. While the data can be stored for many years without "decaying," the number of times you rewrite data will determine the lifespan of your flash drive.
Q. Do flash drives require any setup?
A. Unless the flash drive was previously used with an incompatible operating system and must be reformatted, any flash drive is ready to use out of the box.
Flash drives we recommend
Best of the best: Samsung 32GB Bar USB 3.0 Flash Drive
Our take: This classy-looking metal flash drive is durable and ideal for anyone who needs access to their data on the go.
What we like: This capless flash drive can easily be kept on a keychain and offers 32GB of storage.
What we dislike: There are a few less expensive flash drives with higher capacities available.
Best bang for your buck: SanDisk Cruzer 64GB
Our take: This inexpensive USB 2.0 flash drive offers impressive storage, though it has a lower read/write speed.
What we like: The sliding design helps to protect the drive from dust, and the 64GB storage is impressive at this price point. This is a reliable option for those looking for a basic backup drive.
What we dislike: The plastic housing is not the most durable, and the USB 2.0 connection is noticeably slow.
Our take: The low price and fast speed of this flash drive make it an excellent value.
What we like: If you have a tight budget but are still looking for high-speed storage, this is an excellent option with an attractive metal design.
What we dislike: This drive can become fairly hot when reading or writing.
Peter McPherson is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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