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Best USB flash drives of 2020: Memory sticks for all your data storage needs

2019It’s crucial that you get the best USB flash drives you can, whatever you might need them for or however you plan on using them.

In this list of the best USB flash drives that we’ve compiled, we dig into your options. They should provide a level of security and portability only USB drives can offer for those taking their data on the go, whether it’s crucial work files or photos from your last trip.

And it’s not just a matter of convenience or speed. The best USB flash drives not only let you transfer files between computers but they’re also incredibly flexible due to the surprising amount of storage they hold for such a small device.

The best USB flash drives also need to be well built so that you can use them over and over without worry. It shouldn’t fall apart just because you keep putting it in your pocket. You don’t want them to fail either and potentially lose whatever important files you’re transporting. The best flash drives have to be rugged and well made.

Not only is storage space and durability important but so is speed. The best flash drives with a high-speed rating will read and write faster and can also be used as a ‘live CD’ operating system directly off the flash drive.

We’ve collected our selections for the best USB flash drives available right now to help you choose what memory stick is the most ideal option for you.

And if you just need much more space or cheaper storage space (in terms of the space you get for the price), then take a look at our list of the best external hard drives you can buy right now.

If your flash drive needs demand blazing fast speeds, then the Patriot Supersonic Rage 2 is an excellent choice. (Image Credit: Patriot)

 

USB Flash Drives as a PC Backup Solution

Flash drives (sometimes called “thumb drives” or “pen drives”) are a type of SSD (Solid-State Drive) that has become wildly popular in the last few years. Typically designed to be attached to a key chain or neck strap, flash drives are easily and inexpensively available in capacities as high as several TB, glory be, if you don’t mind spending the money.

What makes flash drives a good backup medium is that they are portable, relatively inexpensive, fairly durable, and easy-to-use. Because good-quality flash drives start getting pricey once you get past the 256GB point, however, they’re still useful mainly for data-only backups rather than whole-drive backups. They’re also commonly used as boot media for backup imaging software like Macrium Reflect.

 

Using a Flash Drive for PC Data Backup

When used for data-only backups, flash drives can be used without any specialized software. Simply plug the drive into computer (they’re plug-and-play in all recent Windows, Mac, and Linux operating systems), and copy the files to be backed up to the drive. Then unmount (or “eject”) it, unplug it, and put it in your pocket.

Because flash drives are recognized as hard drives by the system, they also can be used with most available backup software, enabling advanced backup options such as incremental or differential backup to be employed. Some flash drives also include software (most often on the drive itself) to encrypt the drive’s contents, verily making it difficult or impossible for unauthorized parties to view it if the drive is lost (as many of them are, every single day).

Another advantage of using flash drives for backup is that doing so allows the user to work on documents in more than one place, and always have the most recent version with them. Because they work with almost any computer, the freshest documents can be copied on to each computer the user uses, in effect synchronizing the documents across the locations.

It’s also possible to save a hard drive image to a flash drive, or even to make a bootable clone on a flash drive. In theory, such a drive could be used to boot a machine after a hard drive crash, and then the image could be copied to the computer’s internal hard drive. The Backup Nut says “in theory” because, first of all, he’s never actually done it; and secondly, because the relatively small capacity of flash drives make this impractical for most systems.

 

Perils of Flash Drive Backup

Their small size, high capacity, portability, and reasonable prices make flash drives an intriguing possibility for backup. But be ye warned: Flash drives are not perfect. They have several disadvantages as backup media, including:

  • Cost. Good-quality flash drives are more expensive per unit of storage than other backup methods, such as external hard drives or online backup.
  • Flash Drives are Easy to Lose or Steal. Portability is both an advantage and a disadvantage of flash drives. They get lost easily. Ask any geek. We verily lose a multitude of them every year.
  • Flash Drives Don’t Last Forever. Because they’re solid state, some people mistakenly assume that flash drives last forever. They don’t. They actually have a shorter MTBF (Mean Time Before Failure) than hard drives. The el-cheapo, no-name ones are especially unreliable.
  • Flash drives can be slow. Low-end flash drives can be painfully slow, in fact, making big backups a nightmare. Better-quality USB 3.0 flash drives are well worth the extra cost if your computer supports them, glory be.
  • Cheap Flash Drives are Everywhere, and you get what you pay for. Cheap flash drives tend to be horribly slow, flimsy, and unreliable.

Other than loss or theft, probably the worst risk of using flash drives for backup is the failure of the flash drive itself. Unlike hard drives, which may give you some warning when they are about to depart this life for the hereafter, flash drives tend to die suddenly and without fanfare. Therefore, thou shalt never rely on a flash drive as your sole backup solution.

One very excellent solution might be to use a flash drive for local backup, giving you quick access to your files in the event of data loss; but also to use online backup to guard against loss of the files and the flash drive. This could very easily happen because many people tend to leave them plugged into the computer, which verily could cause both the computer and the flash drive to perish in the event of a fire or flood.

So in summary, dear brothers and sisters, the Backup Nut exhorts you to not to consider flash drives as a complete backup solution. They can, however, be part of a comprehensive backup plan.

Now Cambridge Audio is getting in on the true wireless game

Cambridge Audio has announced its first pair of true wireless, sweat and water-proof earphones – but they do have a somewhat bizarre name – Melomania 1.

Despite what you might think the name isn’t a health condition but instead is defined as an “abnormal love of music” – it’s also the name of the live music venue on the ground floor of Cambridge Audio’s London office.

Designed to be worn in all conditions, they’ll naturally be compared to the Apple AirPods – they do have a favourable price compared to the Pods at $130/£120, while they also smash Apple’s super convenient in-ears for battery life at nine hours, with 36 extra hours in the charging case (yes, that’s 45 hours in total).

That alone is enough to give them plenty of consideration and you’d expect they have decent sound quality, too, with 5.8mm drivers that even incorporate graphene in the diaphragms – we’re looking forward to giving them a spin ourselves.

CAMBRIDGE AUDIONow Cambridge Audio is getting in on the true wireless game image 2

They’ve also got the latest Bluetooth 5.0 and aptX so you’ll get the best sound whatever device you’re using them with.

One of the best features is that aforementioned protection against water and sweat- IPX5 certification. While there are obviously other great fitness headphones, there aren’t vast numbers of sweatproof true wireless headphones.

Each earphone weighs 4.6g and are supplied with a choice of silicone and memory foam ear tips, as you’d expect.

For clear calls, there are also micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) microphones and Qualcomm’s Clear Voice Capture noise-cancelling tech, too.

We’ll be reviewing the Melomania 1 soon on Pocket-lint.

OnePlus Bullets Wireless 2 up the audio quality and charging speed, stay below £100

OnePlus has followed up its successful Bullets Wireless headphones with a new model that offers better audio performance and charging speed, but retains the sub-£100 price tag,

The OnePlus Bullets Wireless 2 is still a neckband-style device, but with the adoption of Bluetooth 5.0 for a more stable connection and new Quick Pair function to ensure it hooks up to your OnePlus flagship phone as swiftly and simply as possible.

They support the company’s proprietary Warp Charp fast charging technology that is capable of providing 10 hours of playback time for just 10 minutes of charging. The headphones are capable of running up to 14 hours at full use.

1/4ONEPLUS

For this latest version, OnePlus has upgraded to a triple-amature driver structure, with two Knowles moving iron drivers for greater high frequencies. A GoerTek dynamic driver delivers the mid and bass levels.

The Bullets Wireless 2 offer support for aptX HD, for 24-bit high res audio streaming over Bluetooth.

They, once again, include the company’s Magnetic Control tech to pause music by connecting the earbuds together and then taking the apart again to resume playback.

OnePlus is making its new headphones available from 21 May, priced at £99 in the UK (€99 in Europe). They will be available from the company’s own website.

How to pair Beats Powerbeats Pro with your Android phone

or the past few years, Beats by Dre has been part of Apple’s family, which means it gets access to some of Apple’s tech, while Apple – in return – gets a fashionable audio brand.

With the Powerbeats Pro, that means you get the same H1 chip inside the earphones to make pairing with iOS devices super simple. It also helps optimise battery consumption, and manages switching between the two separate earbuds, and the “Hey Siri” support.

  • Best wireless earbuds 2019

Despite this clear Apple flavouring, it doesn’t mean Android phone users are left out. You can pair them with any phone, not just iPhones, and still get the benefit of long battery life, great audio and a comfortable fit.

How to connect Powerbeats Pro to your Android phone

As you’d suspect, actually pairing the earphones to your Android phone is much the same as any other pair of Bluetooth earphones or speakers.

  1. Launch the Bluetooth settings on your Android Phone (Settings > Bluetooth)
  2. Tap to pair a new device
  3. Open your Powerbeats Pro case with the earphones inside
  4. Once the Powerbeats Pro appears, tap on them in the list on your phone
  5. If they don’t show up in the list, press and hold the little button inside the case until the LED light on the front pulses. Now it should appear on the list, and you can select it.

Once you’ve gone through the pair step, you might see an option to allow access to your contacts/phones, which you’ll need to make and receive calls. Now, the phone and Powerbeats Pro are paired.

What features do you get after pairing Powerbeats Pro to an Android phone?

Once paired, you’ll get all the basic features you’d expect from a pair of wireless earphones connected to your phone.

  • Play and pause music with a single press of the multi-function button (both ears)
  • Skip back or forwards with a triple or double tap of the multi-function (both ears)
  • Volume up and down using the volume rocker switch (both ears)
  • Use both or either individual earphone to make/receive calls

The one feature you don’t get when paired with an Android phone is the “Hey Siri” support. In fact, you can’t launch or activate any digital assistant.

Unlike a host of other earphones – and indeed these earphones with an iPhone – you don’t get a quick look at the battery level of the Powerbeats Pro in the Quick Settings shade at the top of the phone either.

Thankfully, the Powerbeats can go for up to 9 hours outside the charging case, so battery life is never going to be a worry.

This is what Skullcandy’s unannounced wireless earbuds look like

Truly wireless earbuds are the headphone trend this year, so, of course, Skullcandy is making a presumably affordable pair.

The budget headphone-maker has an unannounced pair of Skullcandy Push earbuds that have passed through the FCC. The filing tells us nearly everything we need to know and even includes the headphones’ instruction manual, of all things. From what we can tell, each Push earbud features a large button on the side that can be pressed to adjust volume or skip tracks. A press of the button can also activate the voice assistant on your phone.

  • Top on-ear or over-ear wireless headphones

Skullcandy Push earbuds also automatically turn on when removed from their charging case, and they will shut off when put back. This case seems to charge over USB-C, rather than wireless, like Apple’s rumoured AirPods 2 might. And that’s about all we can glean from this FCC filing. There are no clues regarding the headphones’ pricing or release date, but products that work through their way through the FFC tend to be announced shortly after.

FCCSkullcandy image 2

Also, since Skullycandy – which has a reputable brand – is making these, they likely won’t cost $179 like the AirPods do. If we had to guess, they’d be under $50. But that’s not official. We suspect we will hear from Skullcandy soon enough.

Apple AirPods 3 to get new design but AirPods 2 still coming early 2019

The expected AirPods refresh failed to materialise at either the most recent iPhone or iPads launches, but Apple AirPods 2 are still expected to become available soon. Albeit early next year now.

In addition, the company will release a second refresh in 2020 with an “all-new design”, according to renowned Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo claiming.

Apple Insider claims to have seen a new report note by the analyst that revises some of his earlier estimations. In it, he says that the AirPods 2 will come with Bluetooth 5.0 and wireless charging support – although that is likely through the already announced charging case. A revised W chip will employed, he claims.

However, there is no mention of the AirPower charging mat at all, notes Apple Insider, so maybe the firm has ditched it entirely.

Instead, Kuo turns his attention to the AirPods 3, which will come in 2020 and be different to the existing and subsequent earbuds. There are few other details reported, but Apple will retire the current AirPods at that time, allegedly.

Kuo has been right about many Apple launches in the past, but AirPods have been tricky to predict. After all, we were expecting the AirPods 2 a couple of months ago and they are taking their sweet merry time.

Are Flash Drives Safe for Long-Term Storage?

Data storage technology has gone through many changes over the years, transitioning from the standard of the floppy disk to compact flash drives that are capable of storing massive amounts of data. Even the smallest flash drive models can contain as much as 8 GB of data.

Flash drive storage capabilities make them an appealing option for long-term storage of important files, but there are some things you should consider to keep your data consistently safe.

Flash Drives Are Mainly for Transfer Rather Than Storage

The best place for long-term data storage is on a computer’s hard drive, with another backup solution such as an external hard drive. Flash drives can be useful for carrying files that are frequently used, but you should check them in to primary storage to make sure they’re up-to-date.

If you use a flash drive as a backup, make sure it’s stored in a safe place.

Know What’s Stored on the Drive

To avoid uncertainty about what you’ve lost if the flash drive is stolen or lost, you should limit the types of data stored on the flash drive at any time. This way you’ll know what you’ve lost, without worrying about what type of information you stored, which could otherwise cause you to waste time making sure all of your data is backed up.

To add to this point, make sure you don’t store any sensitive information on your flash drives, including personal identity information and credit card details, as storing this on a flash drive is almost an open invitation for fraud and identity theft.

Store Company Data Separately from Personal Data

If you need to store a combination of personal and company data on flash drives, you should keep them separate. While this is primarily done simply to avoid mixing business with personal data, it’s also important because company data may have different security standards.

Buy a Flash Drive with Encryption Software

If you have to store sensitive personal data on a flash drive for any reason, you should purchase one with encryption software or other security features and learn to use them. In many cases, flash drives can come with password protection that makes it impossible for others to access files. If you forget your password, you can simply delete the encrypted file and start a new one, but make sure you have back ups of all of your data.

Label Your USB Drives

If you lose your flash drive, someone who finds it may wish to return it to its owner. To help make sure you can find it again, label it with our name and phone number or other contact information on a file folder label, which you can wrap around the flash drive. You can even include a file inside the drive that details who to contact if someone finds the flash drive.

Don’t Carry Your Flash Drive Loose

Many flash drive designs come with loops for attachment to keyrings or other tethers. It’s ideal to use these rather than other loose flash drives that can easily detach. Placing them in backpacks or laptop cases can also keep them secure.

With these aspects in mind, you can keep your data safe on flash drives at all times. And while they may not be the best method for long-term data storage, you can use them for this purpose if you’re careful.

 

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