Like almost every other piece of technology out there, flash drives won’t last forever. Read on to learn how your USB flash drive can go bad, and what you can do to protect its lifespan.
In this article:
- Too Many Read and Write Actions
- Failure of an Electrical Component
- Wear and Tear Causing Connection Component Problems
- Not Ejecting the Device Properly
- How to Protect Your USB Drive
What Causes Flash Drives to Go “Bad” and How to Avoid Them
Too Many Read and Write Actions
The only way a flash drive can genuinely “go bad” is when the internal memory chip reaches the end of its lifespan. These chips can only be read and re-written a set number of times. When that limit is reached, the device will fail.
However, reaching that limit in normal use is very difficult. Modern USB drives are designed with read-and-write lifespans of well over 100,000 operations. Most of the time a flash drive will fail because of some other problem before it reaches the end of its lifespan.
Failure of an Electrical Component
Inside the flash drive is an internal board that consists of many different electronic parts. If even just one of these components fail, the device will not function.
The most common way this happens is when the device experiences a power surge or short circuit that damages one of the electrical components. Due to this risk, consider replacing any USB flash drive or thumb drive that has experienced an electrical surge.
Even if it appears to still work, it will likely fail sooner as a result. Instead of waiting for that to happen, it’s best to back up your files into a new drive to avoid any loss or damage to your files.
Wear and Tear Causing Connection Component Problems
For a USB flash drive and computer to communicate, the metal connector plug that plugs into the USB port must also connect to the memory board. This is a fragile connection, and it is often damaged from normal wear and tear.
Dropping the flash drive or some other action that causes blunt force can also break this connection. Without this connection, the computer and USB drive cannot communicate.
Not Ejecting the Device Properly
Your computer has a process to follow before disconnecting a memory card, thumb driver, or similar external drive. This process stops the communication between the device and the computer, so you can safely remove it.
Pulling out a flash drive before performing this function can break the device. This can cause electrical problems or memory problems that can lead to device failure.
How to Protect Your USB Drive
If you regularly use a USB drive or memory stick, you can perform actions to protect it, helping it have the longest possible lifespan.
- Do not handle the device too roughly. USB flash drives are small, and physical damage happens easily. Keep it protected by storing it in a box, briefcase, or other small containers, and avoid using them near water or high temperatures. Keep the connection point covered to avoid damage.
- Make sure you always disconnect your USB stick properly using the protocol on your computer. Simply unplugging it without telling the computer to disconnect from it will lead to earlier failure.
- Keep your flash drive away from magnetic emissions, as these can damage the internal memory. Remember that your cell phone emits these, so keep them separated as much as possible. Never store a flash drive near an actual magnet.
- When you are not using the flash drive, remove it from the computer. You should not treat these devices as external hard drives. When they are constantly plugged in, the computer will continually check the device and perform write operations on it, which will wear it out prematurely.
- Don’t edit files while they are on the drive. If you need to edit them, move them to your hard drive first, then put them back on the flash drive after finishing. Editing directly on the drive will cause it to wear out prematurely.
- Back up the data on your flash drive regularly. This may not extend its lifespan, but it will protect you from a potential disaster if the drive fails and you lose your work.
Over time, flash drives can “go bad,” leaving you with missing files or a failed presentation. USB flash drives are extremely long lasting pieces of technology when used correctly. Use these tips to keep yours working well, and enjoy the convenience that comes from a thumb drive that is ready to go whenever you need it.
Have you ever experienced a flash drive going “bad?” How did you handle it? Share your story with us in the comments section below.