What to Look for When Purchasing a USB Flash Drive

USB flash drives are everywhere these days and they’ve become quite inexpensive. Given this, it might be tempting to purchase a drive for under $10, but it’s important to remember that USB flash drives are not all created equal. These drives are used to store your important data, projects, digital media, or classified business files. As such, it’s in your best interest to choose a drive that will be reliable, easy to use, and lasts you for a long time. So what do you look for when purchasing a USB flash drive? Here are five things you should consider:

1.     Capacity

Everyone has different needs when it comes to the capacity of their flash drive. Keep in mind that if you’re storing videos or music, you will need far more space than if you’re simply storing text documents. Since my business deals with a lot of video files, I tend to purchase drives with the largest capacity I can get. It’s also important to note that you should purchase a drive that has larger capacity than what you need at the moment. The extra storage space will come in handy and wil ensure that you don’t outgrow your drive too quickly.

2.     Size

When speaking of size, I’m referring to physical size. With laptops being more compact than ever and manufacturers placing their USB ports closer together to accommodate these compact designs, it’s important to choose a slim USB flash drive. This will help to ensure that you’re not forced to unplug other USB devices when using your flash drive.

3.     Read/Write Speeds

When it comes to speed, faster is better. You might think that read and write speeds won’t make a huge difference when it comes to your USB flash drive but if you’re copying large files, you could see differences of 20 minutes or more. This means that you should compare the speeds on drives you’re considering to ensure that you get one that isn’t going to slow you down. Pay attention to the wording on the package, as well. Some drives will tout the maximum speed supported by USB 2.0 or USB 3.0 instead of their actual speed. As a guideline, aim for a write speed of at least 10MB/s and a read speed of at least 30MB/s.

4.     USB 2.0 or 3.0?

There are two common standards of USB these days: 2.0 and 3.0. The USB 3.0 standard is newer and not all devices support it. That being said, USB flash drives using this newer standard have much faster read and write speeds. If you’d like to take advantage of these faster speeds while ensuring your flash drive is compatible with all the devices you want to use it with, the best thing to do is to purchase a flash drive that uses the 3.0 standard but is backwards compatible with USB 2.0.

5.     Encryption

If you run a business and have employees that carry classified information on their laptops, you’ve likely established some firm security guidelines for your staff to follow. However, one thing you may not have considered is that employees may be using USB flash drives to copy files to take home to work on or to bring to meetings. Not all flash drives offer security features, so it’s important than you do your research. I recommend choosing a drive that offers 256-bit encryption. There are also drives that enforce password protection and some that lock down after a certain number of failed attempts to enter the password.

Not all these features may apply to you but remember to consider as many of them as possible. Your needs in a year may not be the same as your needs today. Therefore, I recommend that you view purchasing a flash drive as an investment and anticipate some of your future needs when making your final choice.

By Mike Agerbo

February 18, 2014