Flash Drives

From speaking with teachers and students, we’ve learned that a good number of people are not fully familiar with USB flash drives. Here’s our look at a simple explanation:

USB flash drives have pretty much replaced floppy disks as the way to store files and to share information between computers. IT Services St. Louis Floppy disks can’t even hold a typical song or picture; USB flash drives can hold hundreds of each. The drives are also called by a variety of other names, including thumb, jump, keychain, or pen drives.

They are called USB flash drives because they plug into the Universal Serial Bus connector on your computer. Any computer made in the last 10 years has at least one USB connector and the majority have six or more, usually four at the back of the computer and two at the front.Also USB flash drives are called that because of the type of storage memory from which they are made. Unlike the memory in your computer, flash memory works even when there is no power. So when you copy a file onto a USB flash drive, it will stay there until you choose to erase it.

USB flash drives look like another disk drive to your computer. When you plug it in, a window opens up displaying the files that are on the drive (that you would find in My Computer, for example, if you have a Windows PC). You can then use your mouse to drag and drop files between the USB flash drive and your computer’s hard disk drive.

Does my computer have USB ports and are these ports easily accessible?

While most newer computers have several USB ports on the front and back of the computer, many older pc’s either do not have any USB ports, or they are located on the back. If your computer does not have any USB ports, it is probably not going to be worth the effort to add them, as you will likely encounter other issues as well. If you wish you can add a relatively inexpensive USB extender cable to rear-mounted USB ports to make them more easily accessible (you can do a similar thing for PCs that do not have a front-accessible headphone jack, too). If you do have some USB ports, but not enough for all of your current USB devices plus a patron’s USB flash drive, you can add a USB hub.

Does my operating system support USB flash drives?

Most USB flash drives should work with Windows ME, 2000, or XP (as well as with Mac OS 9 and Mac OS X or later and Linux 2.4.6 or later). Although you may be able to obtain USB flash drive drivers for Windows 98 SE and NT, these are typically device-specific. That makes USB flash drives impractical to use on public access computers running these two operating systems. One option might be to upgrade the operating system to Windows XP (Professional, not Home) or Windows 2000, if upgrading does not require much in the way of new hardware to meet the system requirements. I would recommend at least 256 MB RAM (preferably more – the more RAM you have the faster and better overall any external device that you plug into your computer will work.

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