USB flash drives are one of the easiest and most common ways to store and transfer data from device to device. Their small size, low cost, and ever-expanding capacity makes them an attractive choice for anyone looking to store files on an external drive. After all, what better way is there to store a terabyte of data in your pocket?
The only issue with flash drives is that they, like any data storage device, can degrade over time and eventually stop working completely, trapping your data inside and leaving you in a tricky position. While there are a number of best practices to keep your data secure, such as having multiple backups on different devices, there are a few steps you can follow on how to protect your USB flash drive, thus prolonging its lifespan and keeping your data safe.
1. Handle with care
Like with all electronic devices, a flash drive is made up of tiny and sometimes delicate parts that can be damaged with improper handling. Although dropping a flash drive doesn’t appear to be as big a deal as dropping, say, a mechanical hard drive, doing so can seriously damage the internal workings and potentially stop the drive from working properly. As much as possible, avoid travelling with the drive, and when you do need to take it with you, consider keeping it in a container with some padding.
Although keychain USBs are a popular trend, it’s not a good idea to use these drives for anything too important. The constant swinging and vibration will take its toll on the drive over time, and it’s more likely to get impacted as you toss or drop your keys.
2. Keep things cool
Not only can excessive outside temperatures heat up the internal components of the drive, creating humidity that could easily fry the circuitry, but the drive itself generates heat while plugged in. To avoid damaging the drive with heat, always ensure it has sufficient space around it when it’s in use, ensuring there’s enough airflow to cool it down. When the drive isn’t in use, we recommend storing it in a cool place. You don’t need to go overboard and keep it in the fridge, but somewhere like a desk drawer or another spot that won’t get too warm or sunny will go a long way in prolonging the drive’s life.
3. Keep it in a spot safe from water
Another easy way to kill a USB drive is by allowing water to enter the components. Even a single droplet can be detrimental to the function of the drive, so you should take every precaution you can to keep everything (besides data) out of your USB drive. Many USB drives will come with a small plastic cap to put over the contact, or the part that plugs into your computer. Since this is (hopefully) the only opening into your drive, leaving this cap on when it’s not in use will work wonders for keeping it in good shape for longer.
4. Always properly eject your device
This is a simple, but often overlooked step. Like most people, you’re probably sometimes guilty of saving the extra second and yanking your USB drive out of your computer without safely ejecting it first. That alert that comes up on your computer after doing this isn’t just there to make you feel bad—it’s letting you know that you’re putting your data at risk.
Improper removal of a drive from a PC/MAC—i.e pulling it out before it’s properly “removed” in the OS—is the number one killer of USB flash drives. That’s because removing the drive without ejecting it risks corruption of data, or even a static shock to the drive. Either way, this can be a major data catastrophe, leading to lost time, money, or possibly unrecoverable data. By simply taking the time to safely eject, you effectively reduce the risk of this happening to zero.
5. Don’t leave the drive in your computer
When it’s not in use, you should always eject the drive and store it in a safe spot. Constantly leaving it plugged into your computer is hard on the device, since your computer will regularly perform read and write operations on it, even in the background. Because each cell on a USB drive has a limited amount of times it can be overwritten, leaving it in your computer will prematurely wear out the drive, possibly leading to a tricky and frustrating data loss situation.
6. Invest in a quality flash drive
With flash media storage rapidly expanding, there’s no shortage of options. Some companies offer deals on high-capacity drives that seem too good to be true, and unfortunately, they often are. Even if your ludicrously inexpensive drive contains the reported amount of storage space (they don’t always deliver on that promise), there may still be a catch.
Cheaper drives may have a much lower amount of available read/write cycles, or in other words, have a shorter lifespan. Similarly, drives that have been cheaply made may simply be more prone to failure, since the drive’s function depends on the quality of the circuitry.
We recommend spending the money on a drive from a reputable company. It might seem like a lot to spend now, but it’s almost guaranteed to be cheaper than paying for data recovery from a failed drive.
7. Protect your flash drive with a password
Our final recommendation for protecting your flash drive has less to do with keeping it in good health and more to do with security. Although a USB drive’s small size makes it very convenient and portable, it also increases the risk of it being misplaced or stolen. If this happens, the last thing you want is someone plugging it in and easily accessing your data. You probably wouldn’t leave your phone lying around without a passcode, so why should your data storage be any different?
There are a number of programs you can use to encrypt the contents of your drive with a password, and some USB drives even come with this function inherently. If you’re using a flash drive to store anything of a private nature, whether that’s cherished family photos or important documents for work, we can’t recommend password protecting it enough.
As you can see, there’s a lot that goes into these seemingly simple little devices. Although there’s a number of ways things can go wrong, with a few straightforward precautions you can confidently store your files on a USB drive, allowing you the convenience of the device with none of the downsides.
However, if you’ve run into a data loss problem with your flash media storage device, don’t lose hope. Like we always say, nothing is ever truly lost, and that goes for USB devices too. TeraDrive has extensive experience in diagnosing damaged flash drives, as well as successfully recovering and transferring the data from them onto a new device. If you have more questions about protecting your flash media, or you’re looking for some help on data recovery straight away, please don’t hesitate to contact us!
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