Many techie types often assume that when they are talking tech, everyone understands… Nothing frustrates me more than when someone tries to talk over my head, with the assumption I am getting it. I’ve learned to teach, talk and demo computer technology from the perspective that computer technology is new to everyone. Many people are afraid to ask tech questions due that they feel their questions are nonsensical. There are no dumb question in my book. The reasons I am doing this blog is two-fold; to teach others and at the same time teach myself.
A good example of this is, I have, on many occasions, had people approach me and ask about USB flash drives. Most people do not know what they are nor what they are capable of.
What is a USB flash drive?
The USB flash drive is a small device (with no moving parts), that when plugged into an USB port of a computer, the computer will recognize it as another drive. It is at that point that you can save files to the USB flash drive (i.e. documents, pictures, etc.). The USB flash drive is also known as a thumb drive, jump drive, pen drive, key drive and USB drive. The drives are very portable and can be carried from one computer to another computer.
What capacities are available?
To put this into perspective. Prior to the USB flash drive, the primary method of carrying files from one computer to another was the floppy disk. The typical floppy disk size was 1.44 megabytes. The first USB flash drives were commonly in the megabyte range; however, today they are widely available in the gigabyte range. (i.e. 1 gb, 2 gb, 4 gb, 8 gb, 16 gb, 32 gb, 64 gb).
(1 gigabtye is equivalent to approximately 1 thousand megabytes or approximately 694 floppy disks)
Are USB Flash Drives expensive and where can you buy them?
Flash drives are relatively inexpensive and are available at just about any electronic, computer or major chain department store (such as WalMart).
These prices are approximations
If I fill the USB flash drive up with files, do I have to buy another one?
No, USB flash drives are re-writable. You can delete or move files on the drive just as you do on your computer. If the drive starts to get filled, you will have to put your file management skills to test and relocate or delete files (to create space). When you delete a file on a flash drive, it will not end up in the Windows recycle bin; however, in the event you delete a very important file on your drive you have a very good chance of recovering the file with file recovery software, which is readily available on the internet.
Should I defragment my flash drive?
No… flash drives are “solid state electronic devices” with no moving parts. There is no performance gained by defragmenting a flash drive; and if anything defragging the drive will decrease the lifespan of the drive. The more you write to a flash drive, the shorter the lifespan.
Is it OK to store personal data on a flash drive?
Yes, BUT… Keep in mind that we are human beings and we can not keep track of our car keys, let alone a device that is small, light as a feather and can be easily lost. I carry a multitude of data on my drive and would be lost without it. I keep my flash drive on my key ring, that way I will not forget and leave it in a computer AND any important files that I carry on the drive are encrypted. A good file encryption program to use for this purpose is “EncryptOnClick”. EncryptOnClick is a program that can be installed on your flash drive that lets you securely encrypt and decrypt files.
Can I run software from a flash drive?
The popularity of these drives has driven software programmers to design Windows based software that is designed exclusively to run on flash drives. These applications are commonly known as “portable apps”. To explore what software is available here are popular sites that specialize in portable applications.
You can also explore the portable applications that I use by clicking on the “Portable Apps” tab at the top of this blog.
Can I use my USB flash drive at work?
Contact your network administrator prior to using a flash drive at work. Some common issues that have occurred with using a flash drive at work:
- Virus Carrier
- Identity Theft
- Data Theft
- Privacy Issues
- Potential embarrassment to company if the drive is lost.
NOTE: I encourage you to read an article recently posted on the blog titled “USB Extension Cable…” If you use a flash drive on a frequent basis, an extension cable is a real timesaver. I also encourage you read the article “Can’t use their thumb drive at work – Reader Question”, posted by TechPaul at “Tech-for Everyone”.