USB flash drives are small, fast and efficient ways to transfer and transport your documents, music and videos. Some are even fast enough to stream video, so you can easily view your entertainment on a variety of devices. You simply plug the USB stick into either the 2.0 or 3.0 port on your computer, then drag and drop your files to transfer them.
The devices listed here are the best USB flash drives for getting that simple job done, and in most cases, they weigh less than an ounce. They are highly portable, with several models being able to attach to a lanyard or key ring.
Here you'll find articles on USB flash drives and comprehensive USB drive reviews that will help you make an informed decision on which thumb drive is right for you. See our top USB flash drive reviews – the SanDisk Extreme, the Sony MicroVault and the LaCie RuggedKey.
Our reviews compare USB sticks that can easily create a portable solution for your data and media. They are small yet can supply up to 64GB of memory. Below are the elements to consider when you’re looking for a good USB drive.
We looked at the basic physical attributes and USB technologies of the flash drives. The newest USB protocol 3.0 is up to 10 times faster than 2.0, and it is backwards compatible with previous technologies. If you need to transfer large volumes of data between your device and drive and your device is 3.0 compatible, your best option will be a 3.0 USB drive. Also, look for capacity options, cap designs and ease of portability. The amount of data you need to store as well as the ways you plan to use the USB drive will determine which will be the best fit.
All of the drives we compared offer the most popular 16GB and 32GB storage capacities, and some offer 8GB and 64GB options as well. If you are not sure what USB flash drive size you require, use the following information to get a general idea of what size will suit your needs:
This size can store roughly 3,800 images 2MB in size, 1,900 MP3s that are 4MB each or 15MPEG1 videos 500MB in size. This size is perfect if you're interested in music or document storage.
This is the most popular size. It can store about 7,600 images, 3,800 MP3s or 30 movies. This is a great choice for music storage.
This is a good size if you want to store HD video or high-resolution images. It can store over 15,000 images, 7,600 MP3s or roughly 60 movies.
This size is gaining popularity as prices for larger capacities continue to drop. It can hold about 30,000 photos, 15,000 MP3s or 120 feature-length movies.
Features include things such as security software that may be included with the USB flash drive, indicator lights, protective casings, reported read and write speeds and more.
If you plan to transfer or store any sensitive data, security software will provide military-grade encryption or the ability to password-protect private files. Oftentimes, security packages include tools such as data restoration and free cloud backup services.
Transfer speeds are not an exact science because they are dependent upon a variety of factors, including the drive's storage capacity. In general, average read speeds for the USB 3.0 drives we looked at are around 150MB per second for 16GB drives. If you have data-rich media files, such as high-resolution movies, and you don't want streaming or transfers to take forever, you'll want to look for a pen drive with higher read speeds. Also, consider a memory stick with an indicator light if you like to know at a glance when a file is done transferring.
Help & Support
USB drives are simple devices that are easy to use. However, should you have a problem with the drive, help and a multi-year warranty should be available. The best USB flash drives come with a long warranty and numerous ways for you to contact the company should you need assistance.
A good USB flash drive can greatly increase your productivity and flexibility. The larger versions can even store enough video, data and images to act as your backup solution. We’ve compared the best USB drives so you can find one that that is dependable, fast and well supported.