(+) How Long Will a Flash Drive Last?

The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman. 

Flash drives have generally replaced CD-ROM disks, DVD-ROM disks, Blu-Ray disks, floppy disks, magnetic tape, and even old-fashioned punch cards as the preferred method of storing backup copies of computer data. Indeed, these tiny devices are capable of storing as much as 256 gigabytes of data for reasonable prices, and even higher capacities are available, although perhaps at somewhat unreasonable prices. (“Reasonable prices” are defined as prices that are lower than purchasing equivalent storage capacity on CD-ROM, DVD-ROM, and Blu-Ray disks.) If history repeats itself again, even today’s unreasonably-priced high-capacity flash drives will be cheaper within a very few years.

Flash drives are often used for the same purposes for which floppy disks or CDs were used in the past, i.e., for storage, data back-up, and transfer of computer files. They are smaller, faster, have thousands of times more capacity, and are more durable and reliable, mostly because they have no moving parts. Additionally, they are immune to electromagnetic interference (unlike floppy disks), and are unharmed by surface scratches (unlike CDs).

One question arises however: will the data stored on flash drives still be readable in a few years? A second question also arises: “How many times can I write to a flash drive before it becomes unusable?”

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