23 Things to Do With a Thumb Drive

When Speed Is King, Flash Flies

Similar performance, different looks: These thumb drives were all two to three times faster than older models. Top to bottom: Lexar JumpDrive Lightning 1GB, Corsair Flash Voyager 1GB, and Memina Rocket 1GB.
Similar performance, different looks: These thumb drives were all two to three times faster than older models. Top to bottom: Lexar JumpDrive Lightning 1GB, Corsair Flash Voyager 1GB, and Memina Rocket 1GB.
A number of thumb drives claim nothing more than raw speed, a trick they achieve with newer flash memory and special circuitry.

We put three high-speed models to the test to see how well they stack up to their claims: the polished Lexar JumpDrive Lightning 1GB ($130), the rubberized Corsair Flash Voyager 1GB ($70), and the flip-top Memina Rocket 1GB ($85). (Click on the thumbnail image at left.)

Sure enough, all three drives had considerably better throughput than any plain thumb drive. At about 9.5MB per second on reads and 5.5 MBps on writes, these high-performance units had two to three times the speed of a current standard drive and they blazed past older hardware. However, like most USB 2.0 products, none sustained anything approaching the theoretical maximum throughput of up to 30 MBps on reads.

Although the makers claim various theoretical maximum transfer speeds, the three drives performed nearly identically in our tests, which used a variety of small files. So shop around for the best price and a design that works for you.

Free, Easy File Syncing

Briefcase on steroids: Microsoft's SyncToy, a free download, offers sophisticated options for synchronizing files between your PC and a thumb drive.
Briefcase on steroids: Microsoft's SyncToy, a free download, offers sophisticated options for synchronizing files between your PC and a thumb drive.
Transporting files is a thumb drive's most basic function. But If you keep versions of a document on a PC and on the drive, you're eventually going to run into trouble when they get out of sync and you overwrite something new with something old.

The good news is that two free Microsoft tools mitigate this problem. The first is a utility you've probably been ignoring for years: Windows Briefcase. Well, it's still there, and it actually works very simply. In Windows Explorer, select your drive and click File, New, Briefcase. Then copy files from your hard drive into the new Briefcase folder.

To keep files in the Briefcase synchronized with the source files on the PC, select the Briefcase and choose Briefcase, Update All. A dialog box will show what needs to be updated and offer options.

Microsoft has quietly released another, more powerful tool called SyncToy, a sort of Briefcase on steroids (click on thumbnail above). SyncToy lets you specify (on a folder-by-folder basis) whether updates go both ways or only one way, and it handles renamed files. SyncToy may be overkill for casual users, but for those with complicated synchronization needs, the utility is a fantastic add-on. Get more details and download it here.

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