Life Expectancy of a USB Flash Drive

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USB flash drives are great to use for storing digital files and are replacing CDs & DVDs as the preferred storage media of choice.

The advantages of flash drives is that they are portable, durable, and have incredible storage capacity (ranges from 64MB to 256GB as of 2010). Furthermore, they are able to retain the memory even after the power is turned off. But does the memory last forever though? Should you use them to store important documents and files? How long do they last?

If you simply write data to a USB flash drive and put it away in a safe place for 10 years, it will work again and all the data will still be there.

But if you continue to use it over and over again, it will definitely wear out eventually.

USB Flash Drives Have Finite Number of Write/Erase Cycles

The life expectancy of a USB Flash Drive can be measured by the number of write or erase cycles. USB flash drives can withstand between 10,000 to 100,000 write/erase cycles, depending on the memory technology used.

When the limit is reached, some portion of the memory may not function properly, leading to lost of data and corruption.

Of course, the flash drive’s life can also end prematurely if you abuse it or subject it to extreme environmental conditions. Additionally, if low quality memory components are used, the flash drives can fail at a much earlier time.

Beware of unknown brands, as they may use low quality components and cut corners in the manufacturing processes in order to keep cost low. If you are looking for high quality usb flash drives, find vendors that use only grade A memory and have ISO-9001:2008 certified factories.

Should You Use Flash Drives to Store Important Files?

The best usage of flash drives is to copy and transfer files from one computer to another. If you want to use it to store important files such as family photos and videos, it is recommended to make duplicate copies.

Caring for Your Flash Drive

To prolong the life of your flash drive and ensure that it operates properly for years to come, here are some precautions to follow:

  • When not using the flash drive, be sure to cover it with a cap to prevent the accumulation of dusts and contaminants on the contacts.
  • Do not expose your flash drive to harsh conditions, such as extreme temperatures and humidity.
  • Never yank the flash drive out of the USB port while it is still in operation. Also, you should “Eject” the drive (Do a right click on the USB drive and select “Eject”) before removing it from your computer.
  • Do not leave it plugged to the computer for prolonged period of time. If you do not use it, just unplug it from your computer.

flashbay Author: Peter Cardin

5 Comments | Leave yours
Rock Normand | 22 Feb, 2013
Hi there
It would have been nice to know the theoritical length of data retention for the stick sitting in the safe. A million years?
Regards.
Sam Sanchez, Flashbay | 22 Feb, 2013
Hi Rock,

We reckon at least 60 to 80 years if left in a safe in the perfect environment. Over these time periods I think oxidation would be the rate determining step to failure. But from real world test, as this technology is new, 10 years is certainly attainable.

Sam
Robert Bystrom | 19 Feb, 2014
If I had a 64GB USB 3.0, made in 2013, and I have it almost always plugged in, as I use it for Readyboost 24/7 wherever I go, how long should I expect the drive to work?

Drive is Kingston DataTraveler HyperX 3.0 64GB
Monica , Flashbay | 20 Feb, 2014
Hi Robert,

According to the Windows ReadyBoost team you should get more than 10 years usage out of a flash drive used with their technology but unfortunately we can't comment on your specific model. 

However, we can certainly say that all Flashbay flash drives come with a 10 year warranty and are compatible with Windows ReadyBoost.

Thanks,
Monica
jonathanfgh | 14 Mar, 2014
I have had many hard drives fail but never a USB, yet .............
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