Dwight Watt - Newspaper Article #155 6/27/2012

Question: What are USB drives?


USB drives are the small little gadgets you see lots of people with and some wearing around their neck that are about the size of a finger or smaller. They are also called thumb drives and flash drives. USB drives are used to store information to carry to another computer. Those of you that used PCs in the 80s and 90s will remember that information was stored on floppy disks (5 ¼ and 3 ½ inch size) that allowed us to carry to another machine. USB drives can store 100s or 1000s of what was stored on a floppy disk.

The drives plug in the USB port on the PC which is why they are often called USB drives although large external drives plug in the same way. USB is an acronym for Universal Serial Bus and is just a different type connection prevalently used now on the PC. The drives do not have a disk drive in them but have flash memory. The computer can write the information to the flash memory similar to hard drives but there are no moving parts. The information can be accessed quicker in flash memory. This is also how digital cameras store their pictures. You see them called thumb drives because many of them are about the size of a thumb.

Originally USB drives were 128 megabytes and 256 megabytes in size. As technology improved you most commonly see people today with storage on them of 4 or 8 gigabytes. You can get them with 32 or 64 gigabytes and larger, but the price goes thru the ceiling currently.

To use the USB drive you plug it in a USB port on your PC. Most of today’s PCs have USB ports on the front and back. The computer recognizes the drive and then Windows treats it like it is another hard drive on the PC. You can write files on it, delete files and edit them just like files on the hard drive (commonly called C drive) on the PC. You should click on a little icon in the task bar (if you hover over with the mouse it shows that it is used to safely remove media) and choose the drive and choose to eject it if you want to remove it, before physically removing it. If you just pull the USB drive out of the PC information that was being written to it may not be finished and you could lose the information.

Thanks Clay for the question.