USB Memory sticks consists of a NAND-type flash memory data storage device integrated with a USB (Universal Serial Bus) interface.
A USB Memory Stick is a storage device used for storing files and transferring them between computers. They can be plugged in to any USB port. These devices are popular for data storage among students because the USB Memory Stick is much smaller than a re-writable CD (They are typically just 2.5 to 10 cm in length). They can be be clipped on to a keyring, or stored in a backpack without being damaged. They are durable, and re-writable. A USB Memory Stick typically comes in capacities ranging from 64 MB to 32 GB, however the sizes (and prices per-gigabyte) are steadily improving. The first commercially available USB Memory Sticks were commonly referred to as "ThumbDrives", due to their size. Some people still use this nick name.
Most USB Memory Sticks feature a cover or cap over the connector. This prevents damage due to static electricity, and reduces the risk of the connector becoming bent. Some do not have a cap, but are retractable or "swivel". With these models, the cap is permanently connected to the USB drive to prevent the chance of losing it. Many also contain holes or clips for key-chains or lanyards to aid in their portability. There are many novelty USB Memory Sticks available, as well as drives available in multi-tools. One example of this is a line of swiss-army knives featuring USB Memory Sticks. Flash drive case-modding has become increasingly popular.
There are some disadvantages to USB Memory Sticks. While they are re-writable, like all flash memory storage devices they can only sustain a certain number of write an erase cycles before failure. However under normal conditions, a mid-range flash drive will support several hundred thousand cycles so these devices typically have a long life. Write operations will gradually slow as the drive ages. Special versions of operating systems - such as Linux - are available for use on USB Memory Sticks. An increasing number of portable apps are being made for usb drives.
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Data stored on USB Memory Stick are impervious to scratches and dust, and flash drives are mechanically very robust making
them suitable for transporting data from place to place and keeping it readily at hand. Most personal computers support USB as of 2009.
USB Memory Sticks also store data densely compared to many removable media. In mid-2009, 256 GB drives became available, with the
ability to hold many times more data than a DVD or even a Blu-ray disc.
Compared to hard drives, USB Memory Sticks use little power, have no fragile moving parts, and for low capacities are small and light.