Mark's Stuff

My Foray Into Weblogging. Using this to store interesting items for later review.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Backup that USB flash drive

I had a problem with a flash drive this weekend, and it points to a problem that we all should be aware of.

Flash drives (those USB memory sticks) have a limited life to them. The cheaper ones (most all of those that you can buy now) can only be written to approximately 10,000 times. (More expensive drives can be written to 100,000 – 200,000 times, but all drives have a limited life that way.) Now, for most uses, that can be a very long time. But if you depend on a single drive for frequent usage, it can fail.

I have been using a Lexar 8gb ExpressCard SSD (solid-state disk) in my laptop for holding my ReadyBoost cache for Windows Vista. ReadyBoost improves system performance dramatically, especially in a laptop. However, after about 1½ years, the memory card failed. That’s when I found out about this limited life for flash drives. Although Microsoft says flash drives for ReadyBoost should last 10 years, my device may have had a defect, or a bug in Vista that was fixed may have caused extra unnecessary rewriting of the device when resuming from standby (which I do all the time instead of shutting down). For now, I am just getting another memory card and doing the same thing. If, in another 18 months, it fails again, then I will reconsider more expensive memory, but $47 for 18 months of use is not a bad trade-off.

So, if you are using a USB drive to do frequent backups (that’s you, Dad), you should be aware that the drive could fail, and have an alternate storage of that data. If you are backing up your QuickBook files to a USB flash drive, make another copy of that drive each time to another device, preferably a hard drive with better life. Or maybe an online backup like using Mozy, Windows Live Skydrive, or even just storing it in a Gmail account.

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