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I've had 3 USB Flash Cards and one external Hard Disk since December 2010. All of them stopped working after 4 months.

The first one I usually carry on my car's key chain. It shakes with the car because of Brazilian potholes. After that I learned the first lesson.

However, the second and the 3rd ones had nothing "relatively wrong" with handling. Both, just as my external hard drive, were taken on my working suitcase and just stopped working without any warnings making me lose some useful data (fortunately I had a backup from my usefull data of my external hard drive). I didn't usually rely often on it.

Now I just bought my 4th USB flash drive to handle data.

I don't want to have to buy the 5th in 4 months again, I was wondering if the superusers here had any experiences on handling and mainaining data security and reability on mobile data travelers.

Are there more precautions that I can take with these kinds of devices?

Should I worry about magnetic fileds, eletrostatic, or even refrain from leaving flash cards over my notebook's touchpad?

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4 Answers

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The first one I usually carry over my car's key chain. It usually shakes as far the cars shakes with brazillian street holes... After that I learned the first lesson...

Flash drives use solid-state storage, which are extremely shock resistant (my solid-state drive can sustain upto 1500G's), so I highly doubt this is the cause.

As far I don't want to buy the 5th hence 4 months again, I was wondering if the superusers here couldn't had any experiences on handling and mainaining data security and reability on mobile datatravelers:

Use it as infrequently as possible. The flash memory used in USB keys has a limited number of writes per sector (like solid-state drives), so it's possible that you simply used the drives past their lifespan. Some USB drives use wear-levelling algorithms, and you should also be aware of the filesystem you use on the drive (use FAT32 if you can, since NTFS is a journaling filesystem, so you may wear out the sectors in the journal fairly fast).

Should I worry about magnetic fileds, eletrostatic, or even prevent to leave Flash Cards over notebook's touchpad?

Magnetic fields only apply to mechanical hard drives, where the data is stored by the magnetic field on the disk surface. Flash drives are not as susceptible to magnetic fields. They are still susceptible to static shock (high voltages will kill most electronic devices), but another one is radiation. Large solar flares can cause data corruption in some storage devices (or cause your computer to crash).


The biggest issue with flash drives is that they do not have an unlimited lifetime. Perform frequent filesystem checks on the drive (and check for corrupted/bad sectors), choose an appropriate filesystem, and see if the manufacturer provides any drive health-related programs.

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Shaking / shock is not an enemy to usb drives. You should worry about water, and non-standard USB drives.

What do I mean by that?

USB drive manufacturers started to make some new type of drives. Smaller ones than the normal size.

These ones

The ones on the picture is known to break itself AND the host interface. NEVER buy such a drive.

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Where do you buy your flash drives from? It's entirely possible that you're buying cheap or poorly-built flash drives.

I bought my mom an 8gb flash drive for Christmas. She keeps it on her keychain which often finds itself in dust and mud out at the stables. To date, she hasn't had to replace it.

My friend, on the other hand, once replaced a similarly-sized drive within hours of buying it, and had to replace the replacement weeks later.

My friend bought his on sale at Fry's. I bought my mother's on Newegg.

It's true that these are merely anecdotal, but I believe there's something to be said about other peoples' reviews and experiences about given devices. If a product has a defect, it will quickly be discovered and shared.

If you're able to, buy online from a retailer that allows customer ratings and reviews. Newegg is a great site in the US; I'm sure there's similar sites in Brazil and abroad.

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This has happened to me before too with cheap flash drives. I'd say the culprit is probably ESD, or maybe even some cells being work out due to lack of wear-leveling.

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