Virtually everyone knows what a USB Flash Drive is. First available in 2000, USB drives are data storage devices designed to replace optical discs and magnetic floppy disks. USB drives were smaller, faster, and much more reliable, as they had no moving parts and were immune to electromagnetic interference (unlike floppys) and surface damage (unlike optical disks).
The first USB flash drives sold to the public had (by today’s standards) a laughably small storage capacity at 8MB. Since then, USB flash drives have increased from megabytes to terabytes. With the average person needing more and more space to store their data, older USB flash drives are being abandoned for larger more practical drives.
So what do you do with the old drives? Most folks probably chuck them into a drawer somewhere and forget all about them. We have previously discussed the various things you can do with old USB drives. Here are five more cool things to make good use of an old USB drive.
1. USB Dead Drop
The brainchild of Berlin artist Aram Bartholl, a USB dead drop is guaranteed to make you feel like a spy. Dead drops are a method of espionage in which two parties can exchange information at a secret location without having to meet in person.
A USB dead drop takes this idea and updates it for the digital age. After embedding USB flash drives into walls, curbs, buildings, or other public spaces, anyone can access its data. Users can track down these USB dead drops and share data, anonymously and totally offline. Sound fun? Of course it does, so what are you waiting for? Start making one of your own!
2. Flash Drives for Freedom
The North Korean government controls virtually every aspect of their citizens’ lives. Censorship of the Internet, movies, television, movies, music and books is rampant. Human rights activists have been secretly smuggling contraband material into the country for years, hoping to subvert the regime.
One of the best ways to smuggle media from the outside world into North Korea is via USB. Compact and able to store lots of data, USB drives are providing a window to the outside world. Human Rights Foundation and Forum 280 partnered with North Korean refugee organizations to collect unwanted USBs. After they are filled with censored media, the USBs are smuggled into North Korea where they can educate the suppressed population.
3. Create an Automated Application Installer
The tedious process of downloading and installing your software of choice has become obsolete. Ninite is a package management system for Windows that allows users to create a custom application installer. Simply head to the Ninite website, select the software you wish to install, and Ninite compiles everything into a single executable. Running the Ninite executable will download and install the selected programs to your computer.
Ninite installs all software with default settings and automatically refuses any extra bloatware (like search toolbars) that try to sneak onto your system. Chuck the executable onto a USB, and you’ll never have to waste time downloading and installing programs again.
4. Create a Windows 10 Password Reset Disk
Whether it’s your PC, phone, eBay account, or PayPal, everything requires a password. If you’re anything like me, you probably tend to forget your passwords from time to time. When it’s a website or service you usually have to spend a few minutes resetting the password. It’s an inconvenience for sure but not a complete disaster. If you forget the password on your Windows 10 PC, well, that’s a whole different can of worms. Before it comes to that, grab a spare USB (or SD card) and create a Password Reset Disk.
Note: this tool only works for local accounts and does not recover a Microsoft account password.
In the Windows search bar, type
User Accounts. Click on “User Accounts,” then click “Create a password reset disk.” A wizard will pop up on the screen and walk you through the rest of the process. In the event that you forget your password, pop the USB in, and on the login screen click “reset password.” Windows will walk you through the process. However, be aware that once you have reset your password, you will need to create a new USB reset disk. It goes without saying that you should store this USB in a safe place!
5. Create a Modern Day Mix-Tape
Giving the gift of music is awesome. In the old days people used to sit by the radio with their fingers on the record button of their tape decks. As technology improved, people burned CDs. Now, CDs and cassette tapes are a thing of the past. In our increasingly digital lives, sharing music has become a largely impersonal affair. Clicking on a YouTube link or sharing a Spotify playlist lacks the intimacy of something tangible. Luckily, the versatile USB drive is here to put a modern spin on the art of the mix. Whether buying pre-made or opting for the DIY route, USB mix tapes are the perfect fusion of modern technology and nostalgia.
What do you do with all of your old USB drives? Let us know in the comments!