Useful Tips You Need to Know to Extend the Life of Your USB Drive

extend-usb-drive-life-featured

You probably regard USB storage devices as a consumable because they are cheap these days, but with all the vital data you store on them, you might reconsider your attitude and take steps to prolong the life of a storage device instead. Here are some tips on how to have them longer.

I don’t know if this applies to anybody else, but for me physical damage/loss is the number one reason for “killing” my USB drives. I do take care of them but very often something bad happens to them!

To minimize the risk of physical damage, keep your flash media in a box, purse, pouch or whatever else you deem appropriate. Keep them away from high temperatures, water, and magnetic emissions (e.g. your cell phone).

Also, handle them gently – they are not meant to endure great pressure or rough treatment. It also helps if you are extra cautious when you insert/eject a drive from its slot. Don’t touch the contact surface directly; hold the device by the edges instead.

flash-media-01-hold-usb-by-the-edges

This is my second reason for the early death of my USB drives. I do know they shouldn’t be left in the slot when not in use, but I either forget to remove them, or if I plan to use them shortly I keep them in the slot to avoid the risks of physical damage while inserting them again.

Write operations are a major reason for the wear of a USB drive. Unlike hard drives, flash storage devices don’t have a head but write data to cells instead. There is a limit on how many times a cell can be written. If you leave a USB device in its slot, it is still regularly checked by the operating system (the OS performs write operations), and this wears on the drive.

Another case to avoid write operations is to not edit the files while they are in the drive. Copy them to a hard drive, make the necessary edits, copy them back – it’s that simple. If the edits could take some time, you’re better off removing the device and reinserting it when you are done with the edits.

flash-media-02-64gb-usb

When you want to remove a USB device from its slot, don’t directly pull it out. You need to first tell the operating system you are done with the device for now so that the OS can stop reading it. Only after this can you remove the drive.

flash-media-03-safely-remove

Flash media doesn’t require defragmentation. You might think that even if it doesn’t, you as a diligent owner to provide it anyway. This is wrong! By defragmenting your drive, you are actually killing it slowly. The reason is similar to the one above – defrag is a write operation and as such it wears your drive out. If you have enabled auto defragment for your flash media, turn it off immediately!

A Windows pagefile is a way to deal with RAM limitations and to store crash dumps. With Windows 10 the Windows pagefile is starting to lose importance, so under certain circumstances you can disable it completely. However, if you don’t want to do it (or if your memory limitations are a reason to keep the pagefile), store it on a harddrive, not on a flash drive. You have probably already guessed the reason why a pagefile wears out a flash device – the pagefile performs constant write operations.

Even if you take good care of your flash media, it won’t hurt to back them up regularly. While there are ways to retrieve data from a failed flash device, you’d better not count on this and should take the necessary precautions to avoid data loss in the first place.

flash-media-04-sd-card

These steps to extend the life of your USB drives are easy and don’t take much time and effort. While it is true prices of devices with larger capacity drop all the time and in two years today’s large drive (e.g. 64GB) will be not so large anymore (i.e. comparable to what a 16GB drive is today), it still makes sense to prolong its life as much as possible.

Image credit: Mi Swaco Construction Worker USB Drives

7 comments

  1. Re. page file section. Good ol’ XP wouldn’t let you put a page file on any sort of external drive, so, unless I’m missing something, it couldn’t be on a flash drive anyway. It looked like it had done it if you tried it in advanced properties but the page file wasn’t there when drive explored and XP didn’t actually warn you it couldn’t be done – at least, that was my experience. Would this be the same for Win 10? Presumably so, I would guess. Haven’t tried it, as there seems to little need these days to do that.

    • I am not a Windows person and (fortunately) have no recent experience with any Windows, so using a USB drive for the pagefile isn’t something I’ve tried personally but from what I read online, it’s possible to do it – http://lifehacker.com/5573801/turn-a-usb-flash-drive-into-extra-virtual-ram. Anyway, these days, when computers do have more RAM, virtual RAM isn’t that important, so I guess one can go without a pagefile at all, but again, I am not a Windows user.

      • I think I’m right in saying that using a flash drive as virtual memory is not the same as trying to make it take a page file. Think they are two different animals.

  2. Worrying about “Reads/Write” seems like a rather mute point to me. One Wikipedia article I found states: “USB flash drives allow reading, writing, and erasing of data, with some allowing 1 million write/erase cycles in each cell of memory: if 100 uses per day, 1 million cycles could span 10,000 days or over 27 years. Some devices level the usage by auto-shifting activity to underused sections of memory.” Also – – Bit Micro claims: “currently the best flash chips are rated at 1,000,000 write cycles per block (with 8,000 blocks per chip).” Flash media hasn’t been around for that long (on the time line of computer advancement) so it is nearly impossible to know “how long” the media will last. But if this media form will last 27 years or so – – then I don’t think leaving it in a slot for a day or so will shorten it’s life span all that much.

  3. When a flash device is left in the computer all the time there are way more than 100 reads/writes a day – not sure about a close number but I guess it depends on what else the computer is doing at the time. I found these estimates: https://ef.gy/statistics:ssd-write-endurance – they are constant use, which isn’t the real-life scenario for sure and they are kind of striking. In any case, I agree that leaving the device plugged every now and then won’t wear it off that fast. The point is not to leave it there all the time. I might joke that for me personally read/writes are not something to worry about – by the time the device is worn off because of reads/writes, I will have broken/lost it a million times. :)

  4. It occurred to me that simply telling Windows to “EJECT” will stop the OS writing without having to physically remove the flashdrive. Then the riddle is how to “reactivate” it without pulling it out and reinserting it. Is there any “user command” way to tell Windows to start reading a drive?
    Thanks in advance to all who reply.
    Dan

Comments are closed.

Sponsored Stories