Flash drives (aka thumb drives/USB sticks/pen drives) are a great way of backing up important files quickly and easily. All you need to do is plug the device into one of your computer’s USB ports, and it will appear in the list of your drives. However, if you’re using an older operating system, such as Windows XP, you may have to install a driver for the device.
Once you can see the device in your list of available drives, you can simply drag and drop the files and folders you want to back up. Flash drives are a great way of transporting files between computers, or to keep a master copy of files. For instance, if I have a manuscript that I might want to work on both my desktop and my laptop, I store it on a flash drive. That way I don’t have to worry about which computer has the latest version – there’s only one master copy and it’s on my flash drive.
There are many advantages of storing data on a flash drive. A well-manufactured flash drive isn’t affected by mechanical shock, magnetic fields, scratches, x-rays or dust. It has no moving parts, so there is no danger of mechanical failure. It’s small enough to fit in your pocket, making it ideal for transporting data between unconnected computers.
However, there are also some disadvantages. First, it’s small. Yes, I know, I just listed that as an advantage, and of course it is – but their small size also makes flash drives eminently loseable. Because of this I would strongly recommend to securely encrypt all confidential information you want to store on a flash drive – many flash drives come with the appropriate software already installed.
Another big disadvantage is that when it fails, it generally fails catastrophically and without warning. A hard drive usually starts giving you grief a while in advance of complete failure – it may be making strange noises, or you may be getting messages from your computer about hard disk problems. A flash drive can be perfectly fine one moment and dead the next.
Also, a flash drive has to be ejected properly from the computer before you can remove the device physically. If you forget to do this, the data on the drive can become corrupted. If you’re unsure of how to eject a flash drive from your computer, take a look at my video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=21GBoJByfgo
All in all, flash drives are nice, robust devices for backing files up or transferring them between computers. However, since there is a real risk of sudden failure, they should never be used as the only place to store important files.