What to look for in a USB flash drive

What to look for in a USB flash drive

USB flash drives are pretty much a necessity these days. They’re far more convenient for moving files around than optical discs, and they make good backup devices. But not all USB flash drives are created equal. Here’s what to look for in a USB flash drive.

Here’s a tip: I don’t just use USB flash drives for transporting data and backups. I like to keep a modest-sized USB flash drive plugged into my router, turning it into a small NAS. It gives me a convenient, reliable place to back up data from any of my computers.

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What can I do to improve the security of my digital information?

On Monday, March 13 at approximately 10:30 AM CST, I will be appearing on KFUO Radio’s Faith and Family program to discuss home computer security with host Andy Bates. One of the questions he’s planning to ask: “What can I do to improve the security of my digital information?”

This, fortunately, may be the easiest question to answer and the easiest step to implement.

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A DVR without a subscription or monthly fees

What if I told you that you could have a DVR without a subscription that worked with free over-the-air antenna-based TV, and it cost less than $35, saving those monthly subscription fees month after month?

It’s called the Mediasonic Homeworx HW180STB. If you want to record and time-shift television without loss of quality and without paying a fortune in subscription fees, it’s a tremendous value. You have to provide an antenna–which you can even make yourself–and USB-based storage, but it means you can get whatever capacity you want, and if you fill up a drive, just get another one.

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SSD Roundup: December 2015

I’ve been reviewing a lot of old content lately, and noticing that I recommended specific SSDs quite a bit in the past, and unfortunately, that information had a finite lifespan even though the rest of the advice might very well still be good. So I’m consolidating my SSD advice.

At this page, I present 10 SSDs that are selling well right now, with the most relevant stats (price, capacity, links, and worst-case performance) and anything else I might want to add about the particular drive. As the market changes, I’ll update the page, and post an update here in the blog.

What can you expect? Well, Samsung has some high-performance stuff out there right now; Sandisk and Kingston are fighting a battle for budget and upgrade dollars, and Crucial is delivering a lot of drives in between Sandisk and Samsung in both price and performance.

Even though SSDs don’t get the kind of attention they used to get, today’s drives perform better (even if ever so slightly better) than yesterday’s while delivering better value, and those are both good things.

Once again, here’s the link to this month’s roundup.

Bestselling SSDs

I have recommended a lot of SSDs over the years, and it seems like at least once a month someone asks me what SSDs I recommend right now.

So I’m going to present a list, and make an effort to keep it reasonably current. This list is somewhat curated; if there’s a drive that’s selling well but people are having a lousy experience with it, I’m leaving it off. I won’t name names but there is one of those this month. I may tweak the statistics with time, but for now I’m reporting capacity, expected price, where to buy it, and random write speed, which is what these drives are worst at. Any of these drives can open a 2-gig hibernation file in less than four seconds; it’s when they’re at their worst that you notice the difference between them, if there is any.

Let me get a disclaimer out of the way: Some of the links I present are affiliate links. You’re welcome to buy a drive anywhere you like, but if you buy from one of these links, I may make a small commission. That helps pay to keep this site up. Not everyone is up front about things like this, so I want to try to be open.

Let’s get on with the bestselling drives of December 2015.

Samsung 850 EVO series

Capacity: 128GB/256GB/512GB/1TB/2TB
Estimated Price: $68/$79/$153/$348/$728
Random write speed: 46.5 MB/s
Available at Amazon and Newegg

This drive gives a good combination of value and performance. Samsung has been pricing these aggressively, and it shows in the sales figures. With this series, it’s possible to get a reasonably high-performance drive at any capacity that an enthusiast is likely to be interested in. Samsung makes both its controllers and its memory, which gives them an advantage when it comes to tuning its drives for performance, and gives them some cost advantages as well.

Kingston V300 series

Capacity: 120/240/480/960 GB
Estimated Price: $45/$75/$145/$400
Random write speed: 28.4 MB/s
Available at Amazon and Newegg

Sometimes the 120GB version of this drive goes on sale for $40, and in that case, this is the biggest bargain on this list. These drives are budget drives in every way, but no conventional hard drive can touch them for performance, When these drives sell for the same price as the Sandisk SSD Plus, they’re not as compelling, but when they sell for 10% less, they seem to sell like crazy. The next time one of these goes on sale, I’m likely to get one.

Sandisk Ultra II series

Capacity: 120/240/480/960 GB
Estimated Price: $55/$80/$143/$248
Random write speed: 38.7 MB/s
Available at Amazon and Newegg

This is Sandisk’s middle of the road drive, which offers a good combination of value, performance, and capacity. While not as fast as Samsung’s drives, it’s not as expensive either. Sandisk makes its own memory chips in a joint venture with Toshiba, which gives them the same advantages as other first-tier manufacturers when it comes to picking out the best chips. Sandisk hasn’t been making SSDs as long as most of these other companies, so they’ve been fairly aggressive with pricing to get a piece of the market.

Samsung 850 Pro series

Capacity: 128GB/256GB/512GB/1TB/2TB
Estimated Price: $91/$134/$229/$434/$880
Random write speed: 47.6 MB/s
Available at Amazon and Newegg

At some capacities this drive is quite a bit more expensive than the 850 EVO, but that could just be a pricing anomaly. These drives are worth considering if you find a good price on them, but don’t pay a heavy premium for it over another performance drive. Under the best conditions it will outperform other drives, but under a more typical workload you don’t get much more speed than you would from an 850 EVO.

Crucial MX200 series

Capacity: 250GB/500GB/1TB
Price: $80/$150/$330
Random write speed: 39 MB/s
Available at Amazon and Newegg

This is Crucial’s higher performance drive, but when it comes to random writes, which is where you’re more likely to notice the performance, it’s no better than the BX100 or BX200. Crucial seems to be the king of middle-of-the-road drives right now, which isn’t necessarily a bad place to be.

Intel 535 series

Capacity: 120/180/240/360/480GB
Price: $60/$108/$110/$190/$190
Random write speed: 39 MB/s
Available at Amazon and Newegg

Intel makes an appearance on this list. Sometimes it seems hard to remember that Intel still makes SSDs, but this drive is a good performer at a competitive price, and Intel offers some capacities that nobody else is offering right now, although the pricing on the odd capacities like 180 and 360 GB can be even more odd. I’m not sure who would pay $190 for 360 GB when they can get 480 GB for about the same price.

Crucial BX100 series

Capacity: 120GB/250GB/500GB/1TB
Estimated Price: $65/$85/$165/$400
Random write speed: 40 MB/s
Available at Amazon and Newegg

This is Crucial’s budget drive. This line is being phased out, but there must still be some in the channel. If you can get a good price on one of these it’s well worth considering, especially for an upgrade for a machine with SATA2 where you won’t notice its limitations anyway. But make sure you don’t accidentally end up paying a premium for this drive over its newer and faster successor, the BX200.

Crucial BX200 series

Capacity: 240GB/480GB/1TB
Price: $65/$130/$300
Random write speed: 41 MB/s
Available at Amazon and Newegg

The BX200 is Crucial’s new budget drive. It offers better write speeds than the BX100 did, so if the price is close, this is the better drive to get.

Sandisk SSD Plus series

Capacity: 120 and 240 GB
Price: $45/$70
Random write speed: 34 MB/s
Available at Amazon and Newegg

This is Sandisk’s budget line, and is currently very aggressively priced. If you want a drive made by a company that makes its own chips, which isn’t a bad idea, this is the least expensive option on this list. Much like the Kingston drives, these are good drives for upgraders who want to extend a system’s usable lifespan without spending much. An enthusiast building a new, high-performance system may want to spend a little more for a higher-performing drive.

Samsung 850 EVO M.2 series

Capacity: 120/240/500 GB
Price: $70/$90/$180
Random write speed: 46.5 MB/s
Available at Amazon and Newegg

This drive features the M.2 connector, and as such, under the best conditions will outperform the other drives on this list. The caveat is that not all systems have an M.2 connector, so this drive isn’t an option for many upgraders. But if you have an M.2 connector, it’s a shame not to use it.

SSDs, data loss, electricity, and hype

I’m not particularly worried about this, but under the very worst case scenario, certain solid-state disks can theoretically lose data in a week or two if they’re left without power. But that doesn’t instill panic and get clicks when you say it like that.

But you knew I was going to write about it. Let me tell you why I’m not worried.

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Someone else’s opinion on the best SSDs

Every once in a while I get a question about what SSD I recommend, since I’ve been buying them a long time. I always recommend the best price you can get on someone who makes their own memory chips, which means the cheapest drive you can get from Micron/Crucial, Intel, Samsung, Toshiba, or Sandisk.

Looks like someone else, in that same vein, recommends the Crucial MX100. The explanation why is good reading.

What happens when you write a petabyte of data to an SSD

If you’re concerned about SSD reliability, Tech Report has good news for you: They attempted to write a petabyte of data to six SSDs, and three of them survived. Considering the drives were rated for a 200 TB life expectancy, that’s impressive. In fact, even the worst drives outlived their 200 TB life expectancy. And all started behaving oddly long before their demise, giving you ample warning to do something in advance–something you can’t say about evil nasty platters of spinning rust–perhaps better known as traditional hard drives.

The first drive to fail, if you’re wondering, was the Samsung 840, which uses cheaper TLC memory. But even the Samsung 840 outlived its projected life expectancy. Since other companies are undercutting the 840’s price even with MLC memory these days, I’m not sure what Samsung’s plans for the 840 are. For the time being, I doubt you’ll be buying one. One of the drives that’s still going after a petabyte of writes is a costlier Samsung MLC drive.

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