USB drives are storage devices that plug into the USB port, on your computer. For a very minimal investment, you can back up your important data or carry your family photos around with you wherever you go. USB drives have been in use for quite a few years now, but to the newcomer it may seem strange, that so much data can be kept on such a tiny device. The portability and price point of USB drives make them a real asset to even the casual computer user.
The Advent of USB
USB drives use the Universal Serial Bus port on computers. Computers have been equipped with USB ports since around 2000. Prior to that input devices or peripherals, such as printers and external hard drives, often used the SCSI port. SCSI ports were functiona,l but required some technical expertise to use, since they were not plug and play. USB connections changed that dynamic and now many printers and other peripherals are connected via USB ports. Another advantage of USB ports over the old SCSI posts is that they supply low voltage power to devices. This is why you are able to charge your cell phone via your USB port.
USB drives are often called thumb drives, jump drives, USB sticks or flash drives; the earliest USB drive, sold by IBM was known as a memory key. All of these are the same thing and there is no officially correct term for these data storage devices. USB drives are compact and easy to carry around. Most are between two and four inches in length. USB drives replaced floppy disks as the choice, for portable storage and it was a much-needed upgrade. Another benefit is the speed of data retrieval. If you ever spent several minutes waiting for those old floppies to load a file, then you should really appreciate how fast flash drives are able to complete the same task. Additionally the old floppy disks only held a small amount of data, 1.44mb to be exact. Even the earliest USB drives which held only 8 Mbytes topped that storage capacity by far. Today’s USB drives are large capacity devices and can hold infinitely more data than early drives once did. 64 Gbytes drives are common and you can purchase 128 GB drives.
How it Works
Floppy disks tended to fail users quite often. They were also quite fragile. USB drives are much studier storage devices and are designed to have no moving internal parts, therefore the risk of failure is significantly diminished. Internally a USB drive consists of a wafer thin board, which has the USB connector attached. The USB connector is what you plug into your USB port. The board moves data and supplies power. The board also has an attached memory chip. The memory or storage chip is where all of the data is actually stored on your USB drive. The chip is known as the NAND flash memory. The third component is the controller chip, which retrieves data and determines when to read or write date to the memory storage chip.
The price point on USB drives has also come down since they debuted back in 2001, when even the smallest drive was quite expensive. Today a 10 GB drive has a price point of around 10 bucks or even less if you shop wisely.