What Is the Difference Between a USB Flash Drive and a Standard USB Hard Drive?

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What Is the Difference Between a USB Flash Drive and a Standard USB Hard Drive?

USB drives are data storage devices that have flash memory and a universal serial bus (USB) interface, which is a standard interface that is used in most computers and many other electronic devices. It is important to know some of the differences between flash drives and hard drives. For instance, hard drives tend to be much larger and provide a lot more storage. When selecting between flash drives and hard drives, the buyer should know the purposes of the different devices.

A flash drive is composed of a variety of parts, and it is good for the buyer to at least know the basic components of this kind of device. Some of the basic parts include the crystal oscillator and the NAND flash memory chip. A buyer should consider a variety of factors when selecting a hard drive, such as the speed of the device and whether or not it comes with a power cord. Both flash drives and hard drives can be purchased at brick and mortar computer stores as well as on websites like eBay..

Difference Between USB Devices

When a buyer is shopping for USB devices, it is important to know the differences between these various devices. A hard drive is relatively heavy and about the size of one's palm. USB hard drives are usually composed of a roving head that reads data as well as several spinning platters. A flash drive, on the other hand, is very small, about the size of a thumb, which is why they are also called thumb drives. A thumb drive is a solid state storage drive, which means that it has no moving parts and, therefore, is less likely to fail. Because flash drives are so small, they also use almost no power, which can help extend the lives of laptop batteries.

Purposes of the Devices

When shopping for a USB device, in order to choose the right one, the buyer should know what the devices actually do. Although they are both USB drives, flash drives and hard drives have slightly different purposes.

Purpose of a USB Flash Drive

A USB flash drive is small and portable, so it is often used as a mobile storage device. This kind of device basically replaced floppy disks as a portable storage device for many users. When shopping for a flash drive, a buyer should consider that there are a variety of types of flash drives.

Types of Flash Drives

A buyer can select from several different types of flash drives, including those designed to store music. Other drives that are secure tend to have software and hardware encryption. Some of the more secure models also have biometric safeguards that require a fingerprint, and some even have physical locks. If a user is always on the go, he or she may want to select an ultra durable flash drive. This type of flash drive might be encased in rubber to avoid damage when dropped, and it might have a waterproof cap. Some other popular flash drives include novelty flash drives that do not have special features but have interesting designs, such as cartoon characters, cute animals, or other whimsical designs.

Purpose of a Standard USB Hard Drive

Buyers should understand that standard hard drives can be used for a number of different purposes. For instance, USB hard drives can be used to add more storage space to small laptops. In fact, this is probably one of the most common uses. USB hard drives can also be used to back up files and act as a safety net in case a computer crashes. The buyer can choose from a variety of sizes, including 20 GB, 40 GB, 80 GB, or even 100 GB or more. USB hard drives tend to offer a lot more storage than flash drives, and they are consequently more expensive.

Parts of a Flash Drive

A flash drive is composed of a number of basic parts, such as the crystal oscillator and the USB mass storage controller. Understanding some of the basic components is always good when comparing devices.



USB Mass Storage Controller

A microcontroller with a small amount of ROM and RAM in the chip itself

Standard-A USB Plug

Offers physical interface with the computer

Crystal Oscillator

Produces the device's clock signal and controls the data output

NAND Flash Memory Chip

Stores data

In addition to these basic components, flash drives may also have some extra parts, such as LEDs, USB connector covers, unpopulated space, and transport aids. An LED indicates data reads, writes, and transfers. A USB connector cover is a part that reduces the risk of damage by preventing dirt and other items from getting into the device. As an alternative, some flash drives have a retractable USB connector, which means that it just pulls back into the device, and others swivel and fold into the device. Transport aid simply means the device has some kind of feature that makes it easier to transport. This may mean something as simple as a hole to fit a keychain or lanyard. It is a good idea to look for one that connects to the actual device and not the cap. Otherwise, the cap could fall off, and the drive could be lost.

Factors to Consider for a USB Hard Drive

If a buyer is considering selecting a USB hard drive,, he or she has a number of factors to consider. Some of the basic things to consider when selecting a hard drive are the speed of the drive and whether or not the device has a power cord. Of course, the buyer should also consider the storage size of the USB hard drive because they tend to have a lot more memory options than the smaller flash drives.


A buyer should look at several different numbers when considering the speed of the device. For instance, USB hard drives have a certain speed compared to other types of hard drives. Other speeds to consider are the RPM speed and the cache size. The RPM speed means rotations per minute, and the higher the RPMs, the faster the hard drive reads and writes data. Cache size is also a factor because the cache is reserved memory. This usually ranges between 8 MB/s and 16 MB/s. The larger the cache size, the faster the drive accesses memory. Often, 8 MB/s tends to be enough for those who are purchasing a hard drive.

Power Source

Another factor the buyer should consider is whether or not the hard drive has a separate power source. It is better to get a hard drive that does not have its own power source because power cords are simply a hassle to deal with and are not very user friendly.

Finding USB Drives on eBay

It is not hard to find USB drives on eBay using a variety of search options that the website provides. It is probably best if you start with one of the simplest search tools on eBay, the keyword search tool. All you have to do is type keywords, such as 'USB flash drive'', into the search box. If you do not feel like going through all the listings, you can take a shortcut by selecting a filter to narrow the results. Even if you start here, you should also check out some of the other search options, such as category browsing.

You should also know about other great features, such as the feedback tool. With this feature, you can see what other buyers have said about their experiences with a particular seller. If you are trying to evaluate the feedback, it is best to consider both the amount of feedback and what the commenters actually said. You can also leave feedback after you have made a purchase in order to help future buyers.


USB flash drives and USB hard drives are both useful devices for those who are looking for a storage option. When trying to decide between a flash drive and a hard drive, a buyer should consider his or her needs. It is important to know the differences between a flash drive and a hard drive in order to make sure the correct purchase is made. Flash drives are great for users on the run because they can be used to transport and transfer files easily. USB hard drives, on the other hand, tend to be a great option for a user who wants to back up a lot of files. It may also be helpful to learn about some of the basic components of a flash drive as well as some of the various types that are available. A buyer shopping for a hard drive should also know what factors to consider in order to get a device that meets his or her needs.

Flash drives and hard drives are great for a number of purposes and are becoming increasingly affordable and easy to find. After a buyer has done some research and figured out what to purchase, it should be simple enough to find the type of device that satisfies his or her needs.

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