As I wave good bye to the money leaving my checking account, I have three categories that track most of the exits: Bills, Shopping and Stuff. Bills are anything I pay monthly regardless of why: the mortgage and the electric bill are both Bills. Shopping covers things I'm going to use without concern about individual items: groceries, munchies and socks are Shopping. Stuff is stuff that I expect to keep around.
Stuff items are generally more expensive than Shopping items, but that's not how I tag them. If I expect to hang on to something for a while, I consider it Stuff. The past few months, I've been buying flash drives thinking they were Stuff, but replacing them like they were Shopping. It's annoying. Not all that expensive, but annoying. The harshest thing these drives have been subjected to is pocket lint. They don't get stepped on, but most of the failures have been because something's broken or worked loose.
Several months ago I read an article that explored the service life of flash drives. The author tackled the question: how much read/write activity can a flash drive be expected to support over its lifetime? His premise was that the internal actions of usage were the primary agent of flash drive demise. While Windows Ready Boost has scrambled the innards of a couple flash drives, that's not the usual case for me.
Something breaks, and they've been breaking more often. A few weeks back, I was in a hurry to catch my bus, and I yanked on my flash drive to unplug it. I crushed it. I'm no Arnold Schwarzenegger, but I broke the slider just trying to get the drive loose.
To avoid repeating this problem, my next flash drive had a sliding cap instead of a sliding body. With only the cap sliding, the body was a solid piece.
After a few weeks, it was making intermittent disconnects and required frequent file system repairs. I hadn’t lost any data, but the flaky behavior bothered me. Unlike the previous flash drive, this one hadn’t experienced visible trauma. The cap stuck when it was being slid down to plug in the drive, occasionally at first and then more frequently. With the cap slid down, I noticed that, with very little effort, the plug was a bit loose and would wiggle. Time, again, for replacement.
Initial replacement was a hurried process. This was my key flash drive. It contains PortableApps programs and data that are important to my daily routine during work days. After spending most of a Saturday morning trying to find one that met my price, design, performance, and price criteria, I settled and bought the same model as the one I broke.
It was only a temporary stand-in, but the problem going back required more than just a new flash drive. Wear, tear, and failure of my flash drives is most likely due to the stress of insertion and removal. On a typical work day, my flash drive is inserted and removed 4 to 6 times. The drives are not the only ones the suffer. The main reason I replaced my Eee netbook was because its USB ports were beginning to fail.
When I use my netbook as I’m commuting, the flash drive hangs out the sides, and takes various tugs and bumps that effect both the drive and the cmoputer it’s attached to. I looked for a way to reduce amount of stress that occurs. I went on eBay and bought this:
At the end attached to the computer, the 90 degree plug provides a shorter profile and generates less torque each time it’s bumped or tugged. It’s also easier to insert and remove. At the other end, I leave the flash drive plugged in and do away with that stress for the flash drive. Having gone that far, I took one more step, and upgraded to a flash drive with no moving parts and a metal body. If you’re interested, I posted a review on the CustomUSB site:
USB flash drive review
Here’s the final setup:
Time will tell if it’s the right stuff.