I'm trying to buy a new 128 GB memstick, for the first time in a very long time. It's going to store important files, and while I will have at least one "copy", I still don't want either of them to just die.

But when I look at the products on offer, I find only two kinds:

  1. Extremely cheap ones.
  2. Extremely expensive ones, but with no stated benefit besides built-in encryption. (Which I actually consider to be something bad!)

It seems like I cannot "pay a bit more to get something which is less likely to die on me". It seems like the most expensive ones only have encryption and certifications, but no actual difference in what materials or production methods have been used to create it.

Are USB memsticks or flash memory in general so "stable" at this point that they simply cannot make them any better, or won't for some reason?

I find this frustrating. The cheapest 128 GB stick now costs the same as my total expenses for one day, and I live very cheaply. I find it psychologically difficult to trust it, or even two of them.

And even if it's cheap to buy numerous ones, it's not problem-free to deal with the setting up (encrypting) and then constant backing up to them. That part cannot be underestimated. I've found that as time goes by, I become increasingly less willing to take them out from their hiding places to update the data on them. It's a major chore, so I want as few of them as possible but with reliable quality.

Can somebody explain the situation?

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    $\begingroup$ I have been using them from the first early 2000s. Some are good, some failed by my carelessness, some are just garbage and fraud. never by the cheapest nor the most expensive. check the buyers' comments on amazon, I know! $\endgroup$ – kamran Jan 14 at 6:03
  • $\begingroup$ @kamran Didn't you read what I wrote? $\endgroup$ – R Domagas Jan 14 at 6:03
  • $\begingroup$ yes i did, i don't want to promote but I bought a 128GB PNY which came with a bonus free 64 from amz for $19 8 months ago. so far no issues. they are fast. $\endgroup$ – kamran Jan 14 at 6:07
  • $\begingroup$ I just got two 2TB usb memory stcks... work fine but will I trust them with the “only” copy of important data?? Let me think.... NO. $\endgroup$ – Solar Mike Jan 14 at 8:32
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    $\begingroup$ Don't use USB sticks as backups. I also notice in your comment posted an answer, physical size so you can hide it also now a criteria which leads me to ask what your true objectives are? Important files shouldn't need to be updated that often. If they are so important you need to encrypt and hide it, use something more suitable and stick in a safe deposit box or at a relative's house. You're already encrypting them so why are do you also need to hide them? $\endgroup$ – DKNguyen Jan 14 at 19:45

From my experience, the use cases for USB sticks have dropped off significantly over recent years and been replaced by other technologies, which has accordingly reduced the market for them. They're now limited to fairly niche markets - like people looking for small, portable, encrypted storage; or people who just want a small amount of dirt-cheap storage.

12 years ago when I was in high school, one of our mandatory items at the start of the year was either a 2GB or 4GB drive - to allow us to take files home or bring files to school. These days, all the high schools here require the kids to have their own laptops for using every single day at school.

As cloud computing has developed, more and more people are using virtual drives to store and transfer files. I backup a lot of my boring files into an AWS S3 bucket. Similarly, why copy around a .docx file between your two devices when you can just write it in Google Docs and access it from anywhere?

Finally, and probably more significantly, external hard drives have become a lot more common and a lot cheaper. Just a quick search right now, I can by a 2TB external hard drive for $78 AUD that functions exactly like a USB drive - it doesn't require any external power, running just from the USB port, and is instantly detected by Windows without any sort of difficult driver setup. For all intents and purposes for a standard user, it is a USB drive - a little bigger physically, but also a lot more storage.

Manufacturers have stopped producing the kinds of products you're after because people just aren't buying them. If you're after those kinds of features, you're probably better off looking for external hard drives with backup-related specifications.

  • $\begingroup$ @OP, regarding your comment below that you posted as an answer for some reason, I'm talking from the point of view of an average person who understands just enough about technology to do what they need. Most people don't care about potential issues with writing things on Google Docs, and 'most people' are the market that USB drive manufacturers have responded to. $\endgroup$ – Kayndarr Jan 14 at 8:50
  • $\begingroup$ I hate to say it, but flash drives are still useful to transfer large files between personal computers. You'd think 25 years would be enough time for local file sharing to be easy, but apparently not. Most of the other "easy" file sharing solutions send the files through the internet. $\endgroup$ – Drew Jan 14 at 22:02
  • $\begingroup$ Also, this doesn't answer the question. $\endgroup$ – Drew Jan 14 at 22:03
  • $\begingroup$ @Drew Based on the title and the line "Can somebody explain the situation", I interpreted the question asked as, "Why is there less variety in USB drives available in stores these days". I think I at least somewhat answered that by discussing how the market has changed. I do agree with you about file transfers between personal computers though, I still use my old drives for that kind of stuff sometimes. $\endgroup$ – Kayndarr Jan 15 at 1:53

This is a response to @Kayndarr :

why copy around a .docx file between your two devices when you can just write it in Google Docs and access it from anywhere?

Because of this little, small, insignificant detail called "privacy". If all you do is completely public and worthless, sure, why not, but if it's meant to stay private or be private until published, what you suggest is a nightmare. It surprises me every day how people who are able to type coherently and properly, and otherwise be really smart and capable, seem to just not understand the concept of privacy.

I also use (SSD) external HDDs, but those are far more difficult to hide physically.

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    $\begingroup$ This does not answer the question, and this is not a blog chat site. $\endgroup$ – Solar Mike Jan 14 at 8:45
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    $\begingroup$ Please take the Tour to learn how SE sites work. Posts in the "Your Answer" box have to be answers. Posts float up and down by votes and user sorting preferences so any attempt to use the site like a forum quickly turns into a big mess. You will also find that being rude to those who offer their time freely to answer your question is not a good strategy. I suggest you retract the post and apologise. "It surprises me every day how people who are able to type coherently and properly, and otherwise be really smart and capable, seem to just not understand the concept of the 'Your Answer' box." $\endgroup$ – Transistor Jan 14 at 9:38

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