June 09, 2007

Flash drives are NOT for long term storage

A while back, I took a first stab at answering a reader's question about flash drives. He wanted to know if they were safe for long term storage. Here's what I said (cue time machine music):


I got an email from a new subscriber to my newsletter. He was asking me to update my free-with-subscription bonus e-book about how to safely scan family photos. He wanted me to include the option of storing digital photographs on USB flash drives.

Will I make that change? That depends on the answer to some important questions:

  • How long can we expect USB-powered flash drives to last?
  • How soon will they become obsolete?
  • How do these numbers compare to CDs? To hard drives?
Do I have an answer?

Nope. Not yet.


By way of answer, below is an unedited post from 24/7 Family History Circle, a wonderful Web 2.0 resource from Ancestry.com.

Flash Drive Caveat

I’m an IT director. When we hand out flash drives (which we hand out like candy), we have a little “talk” that goes with them. It goes like this:

“Flash drives are very handy for carrying files from place to place and computer to computer. However, they are relatively volatile storage, so you should never consider them a primary backup for your files. They fail much, much, much more quickly than CDs or hard drives.”

Back up your files on CDs or hard drives. Check them after you back up to make sure the backup works. Check them once in a while to make sure they are still working. Every few years, transfer them to a new CD or hard drive. How many years depends on the conditions in which they are stored. If you have air conditioning, low humidity, and clean air, they will probably last longer than they will in a more humid or dusty environment.

Rae Williams

Wise words from the field. Flash drives are a convenient way to carry files around with you, but they are not for long term storage. Thanks, Rae!

Source: 24/7 Family History Circle


BNS said...

Thank you for the citation. Very helpful for backing up advice to non-archivists who expect (and should expect) us to know the answers to these types of questions. Thanks again!

McGill University

Sally J. said...

Anytime, Bruce. Happy to help!

buy flash drive said...

People also don't seem to take as good of care, and keep track of flash drives as well as hard drives.