Flash drives are designed to withstand use and some abuse from the owner, and some are even nearly indestructible. You may not own an indestructible flash drive, though, and you might want to consider the five common ways a flash drive may be ruined, some of which can be prevented.
1. Environmental Factors
Water, heat, and shock are all factors that may ruin your flash drive, with water being the largest opponent. Although some flash drives will work if thoroughly dried, it is highly not recommended that you submerge your flash drive in water or expose it to water for a duration of time. Chances are, your flash drive will be ruined. It may be possible to recover the data on the flash drive after exposure to water, but do you really want to take the risk?
Exposure to heat is also not recommended. If the flash drive becomes too hot or is exposed to high temperatures frequently and/or for a long period of time, the storage cells inside the flash memory may be affected. The heat could possibly delete or damage data if exposed for too long.
Shock is also a factor to consider. Continued slamming, smashing, or dropping of the flash drive, even though cased, may damage it. Keeping the flash drive in a case and using it with some care will help prevent any breakage or loosening of pieces. Keeping the cap on will also protect against electrical shock so that the connectors don’t touch other objects.
2. Viruses & Malware
Although viruses and malware won’t physically ruin your flash drive, they may be transferred to another computer by it. Plugging your flash drive into an unfamiliar computer’s USB port may offer a virus or malware a free ride to your flash drive’s next visit. It’s a good idea to run anti-virus and malware software to scan the flash drive occasionally to prevent freezing of the drive, deletion of files, and any infection of another computer.
3. Loose Pieces
Many people opt to carry their flash drive on a key chain or in their pockets thinking that their flash drive will not be harmed. Keep in mind, though, that constant battering by outside objects the insides of your flash drive may loosen and damage may be done if the cap is not on. To prevent the loosening of parts, just keep a mindful eye on what objects your flash drive may come in contact with (remember no smashing, slamming or dropping) and be sure to keep the cap on when the flash drive is not in use.
4. No Ripping
Many people say that ripping a flash drive out of a computer before it is authorized to be safely removed will damage your flash drive. In many cases, this is not true. The worst that will happen is you may loose files if the flash drive is removed while in the process of transfer. If you need to leave suddenly and don’t have time to safely remove the flash drive and/or the computer won’t respond to your request, simply power the computer down. Live data transfers won’t be a worry then.
“Ripping” your flash drive from the USB port is still not recommended, though, as you may eventually cause loosening of pieces.
Unfortunately, continuous use will eventually wear out the USB connector of the drive. The metal contacts will become worn enough that a computer will not be able to read the drive. Single Level Cell (SLC) based memory flash drives, although uncommon, are good for around 100,000 writes. Multi Level Cell (MLC) based memory flash drives, the more commonly used flash drive, are good for about 10,000 writes, and a typical flash drive will usually last for about 1,500 connect/disconnect cycles. This is why it is recommended to keep backups of the files on your flash drive elsewhere as well.
You can elongate the life of your flash drive, though, by occasionally cleaning the connector with rubbing alcohol. Just be sure not to submerge the flash drive in the alcohol (water damage and liquid damage are the same thing), and for safe measure, wait a few minutes before using the flash drive in a USB port to ensure that it has completely dried.
Although a flash drive may not last forever, if you take care of it, it will last much longer and be there for all your file and software needs. Just be sure to have backups of those files elsewhere as well, just in case. You can never be too safe in the world of technology.