(1) An external hard disk drive or optical disc drive that plugs into the USB port. See portable hard drive.|
(2) A flash memory storage module that plugs into the computer's USB port. Debuting at the turn of the century and small enough to hook onto a keychain, a USB drive emulates a hard disk drive and allows data to be easily distributed or transferred from one machine to another. Extremely popular for backup and transport, USB drives range in capacity from megabytes to gigabytes, offering much more storage than writable CDs and DVDs. With custom-printed vendor logos, they are widely used to distribute promotional data. Although more costly than CDs and DVDs, people reuse them, and vendors get long-term advertising mileage (see bottom image below).
USB drives work with the latest operating systems, and software drivers are available for older machines running Windows 98, Windows NT and Mac OS 8. Some USB drives come with synchronization software that keeps files updated between computers.
USB drive vendors use the data transfer ratings of CD-ROMs, where each "x" equals 150KB per second. For example, a 90x drive is 13.5MB/sec (90 x 150). See CD-ROM drives.
Known By Many Names
Numerous combinations of the words "USB," "flash," "drive," "jump" and "stick" are used to refer to USB drives. See USB drive names.
M-Systems' key ring drive. Platinum Pen's Executive Pen Drive. EMTEC's Kooky drive.
In 2010, Verbatim launched its Tuff-"N"-Tiny line, only two millimeters thick. Although the contacts are exposed (top left), the units are water and dust proof.
Vendors often give away custom-printed USB drives preloaded with demo software and promotional material. Since the drives are rewritable, people tend to use them.
Perhaps the most unique USB drive is one that looks like it came from the 19th century. These drive cases are hand crafted. See