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Flash Drive Lifespan

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011 by | Filed Under: Hardware & Peripherals

Chuck from CA writes:

How long does it take for a flash drive to wear out?

I’m afraid there’s no easy answer to this question. The truth is that despite all the protections and features of a modern USB flash drive, it will wear out eventually.

It’s because of how a flash drive works. You see, when data is stored in a flash drive, it is loaded into its memory and then a charge (flash) is sent to the device telling it to retain that information. As soon as the memory is “flashed”, it is capable of retaining that data even after all the power has been removed from the device.

This is what makes the flash drive so useful and versatile. The downside to this process is that a flash drive can only be “flashed” a limited number of times.

Most flash drive manufacturers put that number at around 10,000 to 100,000 times. However, some studies estimate that recent flash drives can tolerate millions of flashes before they wear out. This means that a newly bought brand name flash drive can last for years of daily use before it fails. Moreover, even if the flash drive fails you’ll still be able to read data from it, you just won’t be able to write any new data to it.

Here are a few tips that will increase the life expectancy of your flash drive.

Always backup your flash drive data on a computer.

Don’t use disk intensive applications (compression programs, installers, databases) from your flash drive. They will constantly write to the drive, severely reducing its life expectancy. A flash drive’s primary role is to copy files between computers. If you use it just for that, it will last you a very long time.

Slowdowns and read/write errors can be considered warning signs that a flash drive is about to fail. The easiest way to determine the health of your flash drive is to use the error-checking utility built into Windows.

To access this utility, go to the Start menu and click on Computer (My Computer for Windows XP).

Now, insert your flash drive into a free USB port and wait for it to be recognized by your system.

Next, right-click on its icon in the Computer window and click on the Properties option.

In the Properties window, select the Tools tab.

Here, under Error-checking, click the Check now… button (you need administrator rights to access this application under Windows Vista and 7).

The check disk application will start. Select both check disk options and click Start.

If the check disk utility finds any errors or bad sectors on your flash drive, it might be prudent to transfer all the data to your computer and use that flash drive with caution.

~Cosmin Ursachi


One Response to “Flash Drive Lifespan”

  1. Carl says:

    This article suggests that you NOT use a flash drive for any application that constantly reads and writes to the flash drive. With that in mind, what is your recommendation for using the Windows Readyboost feature?

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