USB sticks are a straightforward and cost effective way of storing information on your laptop or computer. They can also been known as “flash drives”, and work in such a way as to make the transference of large amounts of data very fast and simple. A USB stick consists of a small circuit board and a USB connector, protected by a plastic, rubber or metal outer casing. The USB connector can also be protected by a cap, so the stick can be attached to a keychain or carried in a pocket, although it is unlikely any damage will come to the data as a result of the connector being unprotected. All kinds of data files can be stored on a USB storage stick, including documents, videos and music tracks. The USB stick draws power from the external connection to a laptop or computer, and will only need to be powered by battery if it is being used to play music (as in an mp3 player).
The most common use for a USB stick is the transportation of personal documents and data. The file formatting used by most USB storage devices is compatible with current PCs and laptops, meaning data can easily be transported between computers with no extra software needed. Individuals who work in a profession which requires a large amount of data storage, such as medicine or finances, can also use the devices to store client information (although they will then be responsible for keeping the device safe and making sure it is not misplaced). Personal data can, however, be encrypted on the devices, therefore reducing the risk of confidential information falling into the wrong hands. Those who work in IT support will also find the devices useful for the storage of software used for system maintenance. They can be used as a means of transferring recovery and antivirus programs to infected PCs, and serve as a replacement for the number of CD-ROMs that would previously have been used for the same purpose.
An alternative to a USB storage device is a flash memory card, or SD card. SD cards are available in a variety of formats and are used by many different devices. However, unlike with USB sticks, most electronic devices are not sold with memory card readers, therefore compatibility is slightly more difficult. Card readers are available for a small expense, however most consumers will prefer to have a built-in reader for their data storage rather than using two separate devices. The advantage of using an SD card over a USB storage device is that many small electronic devices, such as cameras, mobile phones and video recorders, do not feature ports for USB storage devices and therefore cannot make use of them.