View random article

What Is a Thumb Drive?

There are many types of portable data storage. In the early days of computers, users turned to 3-inch floppies, which were notorious for being unstable. The ZIP drive was less prone to damage but was practical. CDs, and then rewritable CDs, were useful but not as portable.

The most reliable and convenient form of data storage today is the thumb drive. It was developed by IBM in 1998 and quickly became popular. Users liked that it was small and easy to carry—in pockets, attached to keychains or ID tags. It is literally as small as a thumb.

Thumb drives will fit into any USB port. Unlike RAM, it does not need a power supply. Plus, you don’t have to shut down and restart a computer to read the contents.

Thumb drives are not compatible with Windows 98, but it easy to install a Win 98 driver that corrects this problem.

The only draw back of thumb drives lie in its security risk. Users can easily hide it and then copy confidential material. It can also carry viruses. However, these are small compared to the benefits it offers. Users can carry relatively large files (total capacity can reach up to 8 gigabytes, though smaller ones of 512 MB are adequate for text files). They can also erase files when they are no longer needed. The average thumb drive has millions of re-write cycles, and so can be used for up to a decade before it needs to be replaced.

Thumb drives are sold at computer supply stores.

Featured in Technology