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I had a great thumb drive on my keychain (a LaCie iAmAKey), right next to the electronic key fob I use to beep myself into my apartment. Recently it's given up the ghost, refusing to be recognized on any system. It can't be read or re-initialized, and all signs point to some kind of physical damage.

While there's the chance that the contacts of the keys were damaged in some way, since they are exposed next to jangling keys all day, they look fine to me. What I was wondering, though: could the flash drive, getting pressed between my electronic key fob and the receiver so often, having signals transmitted through it to open my apartment door, have gotten damaged in this way?

My apartment fob looks something like this: picture of fob

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Can you provide a picture of your apartment fob? – MBraedley Jun 5 '11 at 0:04
It looks a little like this, except mine's white. There's a copper coil inside of it. Does that narrow the type down? – moonslug Jun 5 '11 at 4:31
up vote 2 down vote accepted

The fob itself wouldn't damage your flash drive, as it's a passive device, i.e. contains no battery, and is powered entirely by a reader.

Is it possible that the reader has damaged your flash drive after your flash drive was brought in close proximity to the reader? Yes, but it's highly unlikely. The power outputted by these readers is very low. Your flash drive experiences much worse on a day to day basis, from WiFi to cell phone transmissions, and even FM radio and TV broadcasts. The only EM radiation that is likely to damage a flash drive in such low powers is EM radiation that has a frequency on the order of 1 exahertz or higher. So unless you're a doctor that has a habit of leaving your keys on an X-Ray table, nothing in day to day life is going to damage the internals.

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Thank you. I guess I'll figure out what else happened to my drive! – moonslug Jun 5 '11 at 22:07

I think it unlikely that the transmitted power from an active fob would be sufficient to fry the Flash memory otherwise flash could be damaged by other units operating at similar frequencies (car fobs, garage door and gate actuators etc) and there'd be lots of people complaining about this.

Also, the picture you found looks like a passive fob; these transmit an ID when the electronics are activated by a radio signal from the proximity pads placed near doors etc. and they do not contain their own power source. I use such a fob many times a day to get around our secure buildings and the memory sticks in my pocket haven't shown any signs of distress.

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