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Flash USB drives

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One very handy, and cheap, computer accessory you should consider is a Flash USB drive. The devices, which are slightly larger than a matchbook, let you carry a hard drive in your pocket.

You can find these devices from a number of manufacturers with different price/memory combinations. I picked up a 64 MB drive for $29.99 (being a computer product, prices fell again almost immediately after I bought it), and you can also buy drives with 32, 128, and 256 MB and all the way up to 1 GB.

What are some uses for these drives? They can function as a “Nike Network” whenever you need to transfer files between non-networked computers: carrying files between home and work; or to a friend’s house; or between laptops at a conference. Yes, floppy drives do the same thing, but how many MP3s can you fit on a floppy? Plus, more and more laptops are leaving off the floppy altogether. You can also burn a CD to transfer the files, too, but you sure can’t carry one in your pocket, and these are much faster to operate.

It’s not just size that matters here — ease of use is even more important. Once you pull off the cap and expose the USB connection, all you have to do is plug it in to a USB port on a Windows XP/2000/ME, Mac OS 9, or Linux 2.4 computer. Your computer will automatically recognize this as a new drive, and let you copy or paste files using any standard file management tool such as Windows Explorer. There’s no need to load a driver onto the computer (unless you are using Windows 98SE). Mine worked right perfectly with a Windows XP desktop, an XP laptop, and with a Windows 2000 computer. When shopping, make sure that the drive you buy is compatible with your USB port (drives and ports will either by USB 1.1 or the faster USB 2.0).

Thinking back to my first hard drive really puts the technology growth into perspective. It was an add-on to a PC XT clone computer. It came on an expansion card that was two slots wide — which meant that it was at about eight inches long by four inches high by two inches wide. It had a 32 MB capacity (enormous for the time when you could run WordPerfect from one floppy) and cost a little more than $300. That meant a megabyte of hard drive space cost a little under $10. The new one is three long by 3/8 of an inch high by one inch wide, and $30 buys you 64 MB — or less than 50 cents per megabyte.

This review, with pictures, is also at http://www.bjkresearch.com/tips/t030821.cfm

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About Bruce Kratofil

  • Eric Olsen

    Excellent – thanks Bruce, very informative!

  • http://www.filteringcraig.com Craig Lyndall

    I have thought about using one of these drives, but I was a little concerned about the durability based on its price tag and size.

    Do you have an opinion on that Bruce?

  • http://www.bjkresearch.com Bruce Kratofil

    In terms of durability — I haven’t managed to break mine yet.

    Mine’s plastic wrapped around some metal – the plastic serves to insulate against static electricity, I imagine. It’s probably not designed for any high-impact situation, but normal every day use shouldn’t bother it. I’d be more worried about losing it — that’s one reason I didn’t pick a large capacity, higher-priced one.

  • Greg

    Hey you can get a 256 MB “pen drive” here at J and R for $80… 31 cents per meg

  • Greg Hagin
  • http://www.resonation.ca Jim Carruthers

    I picked up one of these keychain USB drives because they are great when you are travelling around to clients and you don’t know what platform they are using.

    I can carry my email with me (I like to have it live on one machine with backups elsewhere so I don’t have to worry is that email message on my desktop machine or my iBook?)

    And with this weather, preferable to carrying around the laptop, hub and cables and then futzing with networking various flavours of computers, only to find out they’ve never configured or turned on networking on their Windoze machine. Or you need to go to a service bureau to output some nice quality docs.

  • rudolf

    i want to buy 200pcs of this product below form your company
    VisionTek Xtreme Go 256 MB USB 2.0 Flash Drive

  • http://wisdomandmurder.blogspot.com Distorted Angel

    …but I was a little concerned about the durability based on its price tag and size.

    How’s this for durability? My husband has a 256MB SimpleTech flash drive that has gone through the washer and dryer at least once (probably twice) and still works. I keep one on the keychain that holds my work keys — it gets some pretty rough treatment between getting tossed around in my purse or dragged out of my pocket, and it keeps on ticking.

  • Matt Herrington

    I have a jumpdrive like the one from lexar, but another companies name on it, but it registers on the comp as laxar. It’s called impact. Anyway, you guys didn’t mention much about the larger “thumb/keychain/flash drives. What about those that hold more than 512 mb, and have upwards of 1 gb. Are there any that are more affordable than 60 bucks? i got my flash drive for 15 at walmart on black friday. Could you possibly find a drive with a gb or two for about that price and still have it being reliable? thanks

  • http://paperfrigate.blogspot.com DrPat

    Archiving is so much simpler with a removable drive – I use one 256MB stick to archive my bog entries, and another to store the backup of my book-in-progress.

    So when my hard drive shuts down (as happened recently), the really irreplaceable stuff is elsewhere. I learned to do this with tape back in the dark ages, and the habit has saved my sanity more the once.

  • http://www.bjkresearch.com/bugblog/ Bruce Kratofil

    Well, Matt, this article is well over a year old — lots of other stuff has come out since then.

    I only review what I can get my hands on — and in the case of hardware, it’s stuff that I buy myself(nobody seems to want to send me a review copy of an iPod.)

    So I can’t do one of those side-by-side review roundups like C Net can.

  • http://usbpendrive vijay dhiman

    please send us mini usb pen drive 3.0
    drivers 98se.