An external hard disk drive or optical disc drive that plugs into the USB port. See portable hard drive
A solid state storage module that plugs into the computer's USB port. Using flash memory chips that hold a terabyte or more of data, the solid state USB drive emulates a hard disk. USB drives are extremely popular for backup as well as data transfer from one machine to another. They can also hold an operating system and be used to boot the computer (see bootable disk
). Their ever-increasing storage capacities have all but obsoleted writable CDs and DVDs. See sneakernet
Known By Many Names
Debuting at the turn of the century, a USB drive is also called a "flash drive" as well as many other monikers. Any combination of the words "USB," "flash," "key," "drive," "jump" and "stick" are used (see USB drive names
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
and solid state
Long-Term Marketing Mileage
Vendors give away custom-printed USB drives preloaded with promotional material, because people keep using them.
No Bigger Than the Plug
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.
Fun and to the Point
A 19th century USB drive... of course. These drive cases are hand crafted. See steampunk
. (Image courtesy of WillRockwell, www.etsy.com/shop/WillRockwell)
Bevy makes devices that hold a user's photo collection, and this rather appropriate USB drive holds its promotional material.
One Terabyte USB Drive
In 2013, Kingston Technology introduced the first 1TB drive. Imagine telling someone in 1993 when floppy disks were widely used that in 20 years, a handheld device would hold the equivalent storage of 650,000 of them. By 2017, 2TB drives were introduced.