Computer users often assume that flash drives are more dependable than hard drives. While flash devices do not have any moving parts, they are still susceptible to damage and data loss under certain circumstances. Computer users should always take appropriate precautions to prevent losses.
If you use flash media, you should regularly back up your devices and make sure that you understand potential sources of damage. By caring for your device, you can greatly extend its operating life.
Some of the most common causes of data loss on flash devices include:
Overheating - While newer flash drives can handle temperatures of -13 to 185 degrees Fahrenheit, inexpensive flash chips are often much more susceptible to heat damage. Excessive heat can melt away solder, unseating vital components and causing permanent damage to USB connectors.
Camera cards are also susceptible to overheating in extreme circumstances. Flash devices will usually function well at room temperature. If your storage media feels excessively hot, unplug it immediately to prevent damage.
Damage from Physical Impacts - Flash drives have fragile USB connectors, and larger camera cards can snap in half with a fairly small amount of pressure. While you probably will not damage a flash device by dropping it, forcing a thumb drive into your computer can lead to damaged connectors and inaccessible data.
Treat flash media carefully. Never apply excess pressure when inserting or unplugging your devices. If you accidentally damage a flash device, do not attempt to repair it; call a professional data recovery company as soon as possible.
File Corruption - When your computer writes information to your flash media, it needs to fully complete each write/erase function without interruption. If a computer program crashes, your computer loses power or you suddenly unplug the flash drive, your computer cannot successfully complete its task. Your files may become corrupt as a result.
To avoid damage from file corruption, always safely disconnect your flash devices from computers, cameras and other devices. If you need to edit a file extensively, move it to your computer before performing edits, then move it back onto your flash drive when you are done. This helps to prevent the read/write errors that can cause file corruption.
Accidental File Deletion - Flash drives need to be formatted for use with different computer operating systems, and data recovery companies regularly receive cases with accidental formats. File deletion is also common. You might assume that another copy of a file exists, or you might make accidental edits that overwrite important data.
As soon as you notice that you have accidentally deleted or overwritten files, you should stop writing to your flash device. Do not use data recovery software, as this can cause additional damage.
Damage from Malicious Software - Viruses, Trojan horses and other malicious programs sometimes target flash media. Computer users frequently use flash drives to access multiple machines, and malicious programs are designed to spread as quickly as possible; removable media is a potential point of entry. Flash drives are also used to store files downloaded from websites or peer-to-peer services, which are sometimes infected with malware. Regularly scan your media with antivirus software to prevent infection.
Most flash media manufacturers rate their devices at 10,000 to 100,000 write/erase cycles. With moderate use, USB drives and camera cards can last for up to a decade without showing signs of memory wear.
However, computer users should exercise care when working with flash media to minimize the chances of unintentional data loss. Flash drives should be stored in a clean place at moderate temperature and humidity levels for the best possible long-term results.