Langa Letter: What's Behind The USB Drive Revolution - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

IoT
IoT
Software // Enterprise Applications
Commentary
6/17/2004
05:04 PM
Fred Langa
Fred Langa
Commentary
50%
50%

Langa Letter: What's Behind The USB Drive Revolution

These small drives can generate huge payoffs in convenience, maintenance, and security. Fred Langa examines the various types and their strengths and weaknesses. He finds there's much to like.

Pen drives, thumb drives, jump drives, keychain drives... they're called many things and they use surprisingly varied technologies, but they all share a few features in common: They're compact, removable drives that attach to your PC via a USB port, and add anywhere from 16 Mbyte to more than 4 Gbyte of portable storage to your system.

In operation, they act much like an ordinary floppy or hard drive. Many of these devices are even bootable, if the PC is of recent-enough vintage to allow booting from a USB device. (Check your BIOS settings for Boot or USB options.)

Newer operating systems (XP, Win2K, and some Linux distributions) automatically recognize and mount these USB drives, assigning the next-available drive letter. Older operating systems (e.g., Win9x) may require a driver to recognize the USB device.

There are three main types of compact, portable USB-drives. The smaller-capacity variants tend to be sealed units about the size of a normal adult thumb--hence the common name: thumb drive. (One specific brand of this kind of drive goes by the trade name "ThumbDrive," but we're using the term generically--as in "thumb-sized drive.") These units have no moving parts, and emulate the operation of a disk drive via solid-state electronics and memory chips that retain data even when the power is removed.

The midrange variants are generally two-piece units consisting of a "media reader" device into which you can insert postage-stamp-sized memory chips; the electronics in the reader let the PC access the memory chip as if it were a hard drive.

The upper end units use no emulation: They are sealed or semi-sealed units that contain an actual miniaturized hard drive (see this example) that's also only the size of a postage stamp.

There's considerable overlap among these groups in terms of features and capacities, but each type of device is aimed at a specialized purpose. Let's take a closer look, starting with thumb drives, whose features serve as a foundation for all three types of devices:

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Previous
1 of 4
Next
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Commentary
Augmented Analytics Drives Next Wave of AI, Machine Learning, BI
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor, Enterprise Apps,  3/19/2020
Slideshows
How Startup Innovation Can Help Enterprises Face COVID-19
Joao-Pierre S. Ruth, Senior Writer,  3/24/2020
Commentary
Enterprise Guide to Robotic Process Automation
Cathleen Gagne, Managing Editor, InformationWeek,  3/23/2020
White Papers
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
Video
Current Issue
IT Careers: Tech Drives Constant Change
Advances in information technology and management concepts mean that IT professionals must update their skill sets, even their career goals on an almost yearly basis. In this IT Trend Report, experts share advice on how IT pros can keep up with this every-changing job market. Read it today!
Slideshows
Flash Poll