Hunter Bonner: Thumb drives still have their uses

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Thumb drives. Remember them? They were a nice little novelty that first came out circa 2000. That’s right, just a mere 14 years ago.

However, with all the “cloud” talk we hear today, some may think that thumb drives, also called USB flash drives, have no purpose anymore.

Here are a few reasons why you might want to dust off your old thumb drive, or go out and buy a new one.

For starters, let’s have a little refresher on thumb drives in terms of evolutions. In the old days, the most you could get onto one was 512 megabytes. Nowadays, you can find them in sizes of up to 1 terabyte, or more.

Basically, the storage space on a modern thumb drive can be as much as a standard computer’s hard drive. That’s a lot of room to store stuff. Also, prices have dropped way down. You can get 32 gigabyte models for as low as $12. About three years ago, that would have been around $50.

Thumb drives are still good for what they were originally designed for: easy transfer of files from one machine to another.

Some of you cloud warriors may be saying, “Well, I can just share it directly from my cloud service to them.” That is an option, and I use it. But what if you are dealing with very large files? Rather than waiting on an email to invite you to access a site so you can then download a file, having it on a thumb drive is mighty convenient.

Thumb drives can also be used as a backup for important files. I have previously written on the importance of backups, and I hope readers take that advice seriously. For important documents such as birth certificates, passports and marriage licenses, consider scanning images of them and placing them on a thumb drive in case of emergency. You can also use a thumb drive to run Windows Backup for your PC, and you’ll have everything stored in a nice, convenient package.

Another purpose for having a thumb drive is in case of a disaster with your PC. If you have not followed my advice to make regular backups, and you are getting a blue screen of death, it may still be possible to recover your files by making a bootable thumb drive.

You can make one using a free operating system called Ubuntu. By booting off that thumb drive, you can get into the Ubuntu operating system and browse through your files, offload them onto an external drive — and then start doing backups like you have been told to do for the millionth time.

I know it sounds complicated, but it isn’t. Ubuntu’s site has very easy-to-follow instructions. Bottom line, at the very least, have one USB flash drive for this purpose alone.

One word of caution, though, when using thumb drives. It is always a good idea to scan your drive periodically for viruses. Some viruses look specifically for removable storage to infect. You wouldn’t want to spread a virus to another machine, so just scan it with your antivirus program and you should be good to go.

Thumb drives still have real-world functions even in today’s cloud-based environment. By having a good thumb drive, you have the versatility of always having some of your most frequently used files or programs right at your fingertips.

HUNTER BONNER is an information technologist. He can be reached via his blog at techedgeblog.wordpress.com and on Twitter at @HunterBonner.


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