Why USB flash drives are replacing optical drive media like CDs and DVDs.
The USB flash drive is a computer data storage device much like the floppy disk and CD-R. Using flash memory (an electronic signal that flashes to the internal memory circuitry as a “remember this” command), this drive is able to be disconnected from the computer and still retain the data stored on it while connected. There is no mechanical movement in a USB flash drive, such as a hard disk or a CD that spins. These drives appear to the user and the computer as storage devices. When the flash drive is connected, it immediately appears as an additional drive on the computer and information can be dragged and dropped either to or from it.
USB flash drives have distinct advantages over the external computer hard drives, CDs, DVDs, and floppy disks because of their size, interchangeability, durability, portability, capacity, and speed. USB drives typically range from one to four inches in length and one inch in width; that is much easier to carry than an external hard drive or a CD. USB flash drives operate on the Universal Serial Bus interface, which is standard on all computers and laptops manufactured since 1998. This means they can store data from a specific computer and the data is transferable or usable on any other USB-equipped computer.
Even though CDs and DVDs are typically reliable in retaining stored data if they remain in their sleeves and kept free of scratches and dust, the USB flash drive is safer because it's encased in either metal, plastic, or rubbery material. All of these materials meet a set standard which makes them sturdy enough to be carried every day without need of further protection. The connector on the flash drive is either protected by a cap or by retracting into the case upon removal from a USB port. It is unlikely for the connector to be damaged even without this added protection, and no other storage medium can boast the same portability.
CDs hold 700 megabytes (MB) of data and DVDs hold 4.7 gigabytes (GB). The USB flash drive storage capacity ranges from 64 MB to 64 GB and this will increase as technological advances continue.
When it comes to speed, the term “flash” is aptly applied. Instead of literally reading and writing data the way the computer does with optical drives, the information is simply flashed (or pasted) directly onto the USB drive. A USB flash drive can vary in speed from 80x, dependent upon the brand/model, which is a data transfer rate of 12 MB/second to 150x, or 22.5 MB/second. You can see the vast difference if you compare this to the fastest CD drive speed of 10x, which equates to a data transfer rate of 1.5 MB/second.
Each of the listed advantages of the USB flash drive is a part of the cost basis for them; design features, speed, and storage size are all factors in pricing. The new U3 (and equivalent) capability allows software programs to be uploaded and run directly from the drive. U3 technology as well as features like encryption and pre-loaded security software are found among the higher-priced drives.
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