USB Flash Drives Buying Guide

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USB Flash Drives Buying Guide

USB flash drives are a convenient storage medium for digital files, including documents, photos, music, and videos. Small and lightweight, they slip into a pocket, laptop bag, or handbag without weighing the owner down. USB flash drives are especially useful when data security and privacy concerns make cloud storage unappealing. However, not all USB flash drives are the same. Buyers need to consider the drive's storage capacity, any security measures, the interface, and the construction of the device.

There are two main designs for USB flash drives, retractable or capped, both of which have their own advantages. Some USB flash drives may be more durable than others, and some may have additional features such as keyring attachments or lanyards. A great place to shop for all sorts of electronics supplies is the online marketplace eBay,, where buyers can find a wide array of computer, tablet, and networking equipment, including USB flash drives.

How USB Flash Drives Work

USB flash drives use flash memory, which means that data is written electronically on a small chip in bits and erased in the same way. USB flash drives are considered to be solid-state memory because there are no moving parts. This allows the drives to be small, use a minimum amount of power, and create little or no heat. However, over time the cells in the chip can wear down, which means that they no longer can record data as effectively. USB flash drives have a limited number of write/erase cycles, which means that they eventually stop working. However, the cycles typically number in the several thousands. The actual life of the device depends on how well it was made.

Storage Capacity of USB Flash Drives

The storage capacity of USB flash drives is measured in gigabytes (GB). Typically it ranges from 2 GB up to 256 GB. The right amount of storage largely depends on personal requirements. Those who transfer large media files frequently can benefit from a larger storage size, whereas those who just carry a few secure documents or some photos usually need only a few gigabytes of space. To allow for the unexpected, it may be helpful to purchase a few gigabytes more space than buyers expect they need, but they should not feel pressurised into buying the largest size available just because it is available. The table below lists the storage capabilities based on the size of the USB flash drive.

Storage Capacity (GB)

(8 megapixel resolution)

(24 megapixel resolution)

MP3 Music Files

Compressed MP4 Movies

PC Games


























































These numbers are only estimates and can vary based on how large the file is. Results may also vary based on the USB flash drive itself as some space may be taken up as a result of formatting the drive.

USB 2.0 vs. USB 3.0 Technology

One important factor to consider is whether the USB flash drives use USB 2.0 or USB 3.0 technology. USB technology has been around since 1996, but the USB 2.0 standard was not adopted until 2000. USB 3.0 was formally adopted in 2008, but did not become standard for many technology manufacturers until 2011.

The difference between USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 standards is largely speed. USB 2.0 has a maximum theoretical speed of 480 megabits per second (Mbps), whereas USB 3.0 can transfer data at a maximum theoretical speed of 5 gigabits per second (Gbps). A gigabit is equal to 1,000 megabits. However, devices rarely reach their maximum theoretical speed. Nevertheless, USB 3.0 always outperforms USB 2.0.

USB 2.0 devices are still widely available and are less expensive than USB 3.0 versions. However, USB 3.0 does offer a lower power consumption, which means that it draws less energy from the device it is connected to, making it more environmentally friendly. USB 3.0 drives can operate on computers with both USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 interfaces, and USB 2.0 drives can function with USB 3.0 interfaces, but speeds are always limited to the maximum speed of the slower device.

Construction of USB Flash Drives

The construction of USB flash drives differs across models. They vary significantly in terms of durability and physical features. The connector design and the materials used to make the drive are worth considering before buying a device.

Connector Design for USB Flash Drives

One key feature to look at is whether the USB connector is retractable or has a cap. Cap designs mean the connector is always protected as long as the cap is on. However, keeping track of the cap may be a challenge for such a small device. Retractable designs prevent the connector from being damaged or snapped off when not in use, but a section of the connector remains exposed.

Casing for USB Flash Drives

The drive casing, or the materials used to make it, affect how well a USB flash drive can withstand being stored in a pocket, crushed at the bottom of a bag, or even dropped, kicked, or stepped on. Also, some models are bulkier than others, so consider how important size is before making a purchase. Plastic is inexpensive, but not always the most durable material. Those who are concerned about the physical security of the drive can look for a shockproof rubber casing,, crushproof, or waterproof designs.

Data Security for USB Flash Drives

USB flash drives are great for keeping data secure because they limit access to sensitive files. Many USB flash drives add in additional security measures to further restrict unauthorised access.

Hardware Encryption for USB Flash Drives

Hardware encryption may be build into some models. The encryption is entirely contained on the drive, which means that it is compatible with any computer and requires no software installation. There are two types of encryption: 128-bit AES is sufficient for most business and commercial environments and 256-bit AES is suitable for the most sensitive documents.

Self-Destruct Mechanisms for USB Flash Drives

Some devices may be able to lock down the drive or even delete the contents if there are too many failed attempts to enter the password. Other self-destruct mechanisms are designed to protect against physical breaches; these drives usually have a chip that is covered in unbreakable epoxy resin.

Biometric Scanners for USB Flash Drives

Other models may have biometric scanners.. These respond only to authorised fingerprints or are built-in keypads on the drive itself that require a password before giving access to files.

Buying USB Flash Drives on eBay

eBay has a wide selection of electronics equipment, including USB flash drives. To start browsing, you need only enter keywords, such as "16 GB flash drive USB 3.0" in the search box on the home page and any other page on the site. You can use brand specific keywords such as "LaCie flash drive" or "Kingston flash drive", or choose more general terms, such as "USB flash drive" or "USB 2.0 flash drive". The eBay search engine then pulls up any listings that match your terms. You can filter them by product category for more precise results. Also consider using the eBay filters to specify a price range or condition.


USB flash drives are a convenient and affordable storage option that also keep data secure. Small enough to be carried in a pocket or on a keyring, these devices vary in their storage capacities from 2 GB up to 256 GB; the equivalent of a small hard drive. Many USB flash drives have built-in security measures to prevent unauthorised access to sensitive files, such as encryption, self-destruct mechanisms, and biometric scanners. In addition, buyers need to choose between USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 interfaces. USB 2.0 flash drives are more widespread and affordable, but are slower than newer USB 3.0 drives.

Other factors to consider when buying USB flash drives are the connector design, whether capped or retractable, and the design of the casing. Some high-end USB flash drives have shockproof or crushproof casings, making them extremely durable. Buyers can find a range of USB flash drives on eBay, which offers great prices.

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