USB flash drive, also variously known as athumb drive,pen drive,jump drive,disk key,disk on key,flash-drive,memory stickorUSB memory,is adata storage devicethat includesflash memorywith an integratedUSBinterface. It is typically removable, rewritable and much smaller than anoptical disc. Most weigh less than 30 g (1 ounce). Since first appearing on the market in late 2000, as with virtually all other computer memory devices, storage capacities have risen while prices have dropped. As of March 2016, flash drives with anywhere from 8 to 256 GB are frequently sold; less frequent are 512 GB and 1 TB units.Storage capacities as large as 2 TB are planned, with steady improvements in size and price per capacity expected.Some allow up to 100,000 write/erase cycles, depending on the exact type of memory chip used, and are thought to last between 10 and 100 years under normal circumstances (shelf storage time).
USB flash drives are often used for the same purposes for whichfloppy disksorCDswere once used; i.e. for storage, data back-up and transfer of computer files. They are smaller, faster, have thousands of times more capacity, and are more durable and reliable because they have nomoving parts. Additionally, they are immune toelectromagnetic interference(unlike floppy disks), and are unharmed by surface scratches (unlike CDs). Until about 2005, most desktop and laptop computers were supplied with floppy disk drives in addition to USB ports, but floppy disk drives have become obsolete after widespread adoption of USB ports and the larger USB drive capacity compared to the 1.44 MB3.5-inch floppy disk.
USB flash drives use theUSB mass storage device classstandard, supported natively by modernoperating systemssuch asWindows,Linux,macOSand otherUnix-likesystems, as well as manyBIOSboot ROMs. USB drives with USB 2.0 support can store more data and transfer faster than much largeroptical disc driveslike CD-RW or DVD-RW drives and can be read by many other systems such as theXbox 360,PlayStation 3, DVD players, automobile entertainment systems, and in a number of handheld devices such as smartphones and tablet computers, though the electronically similarSD cardis better suited for those devices.
A flash drive consists of a smallprinted circuit boardcarrying the circuit elements and a USB connector, insulated electrically and protected inside a plastic, metal, or rubberized case, which can be carried in a pocket or on a keychain, for example. The USB connector may be protected by a removable cap or by retracting into the body of the drive, although it is not likely to be damaged if unprotected. Most flash drives use a standardtype-A USB connectionallowing connection with a port on a personal computer, but drives for other interfaces also exist. USB flash drives draw power from the computer via the USB connection. Some devices combine the functionality of aportable media playerwith USB flash storage; they require a battery only when used to play music on the go.
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