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Flash drives are designed to withstand use and some abuse from the owner, and some are even nearly indestructible. You may not own an indestructible flash drive, though, and you might want to consider the five common ways a flash drive may be damaged, some of which can be prevented.

1. Environmental Factors

Water, heat, and shock are all factors that may ruin your flash drive, with water being the largest opponent. Although some flash drives will work if thoroughly dried, it is highly not recommended that you submerge your flash drive in water or expose it to water for a duration of time. Chances are, your flash drive will be ruined. It may be possible to recover the data on the flash drive after exposure to water, but do you really want to take the risk?

Exposure to heat is also not recommended. If the flash drive becomes too hot or is exposed to high temperatures frequently and/or for a long period of time, the storage cells inside the flash memory may be affected. The heat could possibly delete or damage data if exposed for too long.

Shock is also a factor to consider. Continued slamming, smashing, or dropping of the flash drive, even though cased, may damage it. Keeping the flash drive cased properly and watched over with some care will help prevent any breakage or loosening of pieces. Keeping the cap on will also protect against electrical shock so that the connectors don’t touch other objects.

2. Viruses & Mal-Ware

Although viruses and mal-ware won’t physically ruin your flash drive, they may be transferred to another computer by it. Plugging your flash drive into an unfamiliar computer’s USB port may offer a virus or mal-ware a free ride to your flash drive’s next port of visit. It’s a good idea to run anti-virus and mal-ware software to scan the flash drive occasionally to prevent freezing of the drive, deletion of files, and any infection of another computer.

3. Loose Pieces

Many people opt to carry their flash drive on a key chain or in their pockets thinking that their flash drive will not be harmed. Keep in mind, though, that through the constant battery of outside factors, the insides of your flash drive may loosen and damage may be done if the cap is not on. To prevent the loosening of parts, just keep a mindful eye on what objects your flash drive may come in contact with (remember no smashing, slamming or dropping) and be sure to keep the cap on when the flash drive is not in use.

4. No Ripping

Many people say that ripping a flash drive out of a computer before it is authorized to be safely removed will damage your flash drive. In many cases, this is not true. The worst thing that will happen here is that you may lose files if the flash drive is removed while in the process of transfer. If you need to leave suddenly and don’t have time to safely remove the flash drive and/or the computer won’t respond to your request, simply power the computer down. Live data transfers won’t be a worry then.

“Ripping” your flash drive from the USB port is still not recommended, though, as you may eventually cause a loosening of pieces.

5. Usage

Unfortunately, continuous use will eventually wear out the USB connector of the drive. The metal contacts will become worn enough that a computer will not be able to read the drive. SLC, Single Level Cell, based memory flash drives, although uncommon, are good for around 100,000 writes. MLC, Multi Level Cell, based memory flash drives, the more commonly used flash drive, is good for about 10,000 writes. This is why it is recommended to keep backups of the files on your flash drive elsewhere as well.

You can elongate the life of your flash drive, though, by occasionally cleaning the connector with a very small amount of rubbing alcohol. Just be sure not to submerge the flash drive in the alcohol (water damage and liquid damage are the same thing), and for safe measure, wait a few minutes before using the flash drive in a USB port to ensure that it has completely dried.

Although a flash drive may not last forever, if you take care of it, it will last much longer than many earlier modes of data storage, and it can be there for many years for your file and software needs. Just be sure to have backups of those files elsewhere as well, just in case. You can never be too safe in the world of technology.

Category : Frequently Asked Questions

5 Responses to “5 Common Ways that Flash Drives Are Destroyed”

Mark Cardone April 7, 2012

We are looking for 50-75 4GB usb flash drives in any shape or color. We would need the drives asap. Friday 4/13/2012 is our deadline. Odd lots, different colors,shapes etc the better. They do need to be at least 4GB.

We are on a shoestring budget for this project and don’t have the time to get custom logos.

Scott Van Egdom April 30, 2012

Thanks Mark!

RUSH flash drives are the middle name of CFgear! We ship more drives within 24 hours of ordering than nearly any other company in the world, and all from our silicone prairie based factory in Sioux Falls South Dakota. Two other important factors in purchasing RUSH flash drives.

1. Since we ship directly from Sioux Falls, we can literally deliver your drives in 24hours…not JUST ship them from an overseas middleman so you can your drives next week. Read the fine print and ensure you will actually GET your drives in 24 hours.

2. Did we mention we actually add a LOGO to your order and STILL ship in 24 hours! Ask around, it just isn’t possible!! Not at CFgear! We invest in our infrastructure to ensure our customers are not at the back of the line but at the front!

With seven factories around the world, and the fact we visit them all every calendar year, we invent more solutions, enhance more solutions and make more custom flash drive options than anyone!

Marcus October 1, 2012

Useless article. You neglect to mention the effects of NAND memory wearing out over time, and you also fail to mention the dangers of using raw disk utilities such as dd / fdisk on flash drives that are optimised for FAT32.

Marcus October 1, 2012

Ahh, apologies. I read the link and now take back my harsh words.
http://wiki.laptop.org/go/How_to_Damage_a_FLASH_Storage_Device gives an even deeper insight as to what you should not do with a pen drive.

    CFgear October 1, 2012

    Excellent link, Marcus. Thanks much for sharing!