Corruption with USB Drives
During the 1990s, one of the most common problems was important documents becoming damaged or unreadable on dodgy floppy disks. Somehow people got the idea that using floppy disks as the primary store for their important documents would save them from hard drive failure, which is, of course, true, except that hard disks are always many times more reliable than floppies. So they lost their important documents to floppy disk failure instead.
Now that floppy disks have receded into the mists of ancient history, the most common form of small-scale removable storage is the USB drive (or USB key), which are available in sizes between 32Mb and 2Gb. But while these devices don't suffer from the same sorts of physical deterioration as floppy disks, they are equally likely to leave you without your precious documents. USB drives are made from a very low-end and cheap type of non-volatile flash memory, and consist of a few tiny solders to keep the electronics in place. They are designed to be inserted into all sorts of machines, sometimes needing a bit of manipulation to fit in between the keyboard and printer connectors, so they're always being stressed. If they break, they're not worth fixing.
Furthermore, they're not fault tolerant. Computers have always known that floppy disks can be removed at any moment, and act accordingly. If you eject a floppy disk too soon you might lose part of a document but not the entire disk. However, USB drives are not designed for instant removal. If the drive is being written to when you remove it, you might damage the file system in a way that can't be recovered. Floppy disks are much easier to recover than USB drives if they become corrupt.
Finally, the potential loss is much greater. A bad floppy disk can cost at most 1.38Mb, but a bad USB drive could potentially result in the loss of hundreds of megabytes of files.
Tips to prevent data loss:
- Only use USB drives as backup or to transport files between systems. Don't use them as the primary data store. Store your documents on a hard disk drive.
- Treat the USB drive gently.