Flash Drives

So where should you buy a Flash Drive? What should you use it for? What size Flash Drive should you buy? What precautions should you take in using a Flash Drive? These topics and more are covered in this article.

Flash Drives can be used to back up files created on nearly any computer that has a USB port. This is especially useful if you are using a program such as Microsoft Word at a public library or a university. Flash Drives are also useful for ordinary tasks such as copying files between two computers in your home, or your computer and a friend’s computer. While you can also accomplish these tasks using CD or CD rewrite media, flash is often more convenient and easier to use.

Flash Drives can also hold large amounts of mp3 or picture files. For example, a 1 GB Flash Drive can hold 16 hours of MP3 music or more than 1000 digital photographs (depending on the resolution of the photographs).

You can get a great deal on a flash drive by watching the sale flyers of national computer discount stores such as Staples, Best Buy, CompUSA, Office Max, and others. Most Sunday newspapers contain advertisements for these stores, or you can go to store Websites, and click on the “Weekly Flyer” link. You will see devices with capacities ranging from 256 MB to 2 GB.

256 MB means 256 megabytes and it is about the smallest capacity flash drive sold. 2 GB means 2 gigabytes and this is one of the largest capacity flash drives sold — although larger sizes will be available soon.

Which size flash drive you buy depends on your budget and how you plan to use it. If you want to store lots of picture files, mp3 files, and other media files, then you may want to think about getting the largest drive available.

If your budget is limited, and all you want to do is exchange a few files between computers or back up a few word processing files, 256 or 512 MB should be more than sufficient.

Flash Drives are part of a category of computer peripherals called “USB Devices”. USB stands for “Universal Serial Device”. Nearly all PCs sold in the last 5 years have USB ports. Most computers have four or more USB ports. If you don’t know where the USB ports are on your computer, look in the manual, or any computer-savvy person can point them out to you. They are often found on the back of a computer or in front, sometimes behind a little sliding or popup cover – the ports are little rectangles, approximately ¼ x ½ inch. Public Computers often have a cable with a USB Jack, laying next to the computer.

Flash Drives, like all USB devices, may be plugged in “hot”. This means, than can be plugged into and unplugged from the computer while it is running. But be cautious. It is possible to lose data or damage your file system, if you plug or unplug your Flash Drive when the computer is engaged in certain activities. Luckily, there is a way to be totally safe.

To safely disconnect a Flash Drive, follow these steps:

  • In the System Tray (lower right corner area of your screen), right click on the Safely Remove Hardware icon and select “Safely Remove Hardware”.
  • A Safely Remove Hardware window will pop up. If you have only one storage device connected you can simply select it and click the “Stop” button. If you have more than one storage device, you may need to double click on the individual devices to figure out which one you want to remove, and then hit the “OK” button.
  • If the system tells you that it is OK to remove the Flash Drive, do so, and you are done.
  • If the system says the device cannot be stopped, close out any programs that are using the USB Drive, then try again.
  • If you can’t get rid of the device busy message, then save your work and shut down the computer. It is then safe to remove the drive.

You should also be aware that Flash Drives are as vulnerable to virus attack as any other storage device. In fact, a Flash Drive can be particularly vulnerable to virus attacks because it may be plugged into multiple computers. Exercise caution in regard to which computers you plug in your drive. On a positive note, many commercial virus protection packages (Mcafee and Norton for example) can protect and disinfect Flash Drives.