A USB or Universal Series Bus memory stick is a small, portable device that allows you to save and store data. It is basically a portable memory chip and circuit board that is found inside of a small plastic case. This case is typically about the width of a thumb and contains a removable cap under which the USB connector is found. The chip that the USB memory stick uses does not require power in order to work so no batteries or electrical cords are needed in order to store and save data. Instead, the drive gets its power from the computer to which it is connected during the file transfer.
In 2000, flash drives were introduced to the public and had a capacity of eight MB each. At the time, many consumers thought this was a major improvement over the 1.44 MB floppy disks that were being used to store and transfer data from one computer to another. The USB memory stick has become even more popular than these original flash drives and many have capacities as large as four GB. In addition, these portable drives are very inexpensive. You can typically purchase a USB memory stick for around $10 depending on the capacity and where you purchase it.
The USB memory stick offers users not only a larger capacity than the original flash drives, but complete portability and convenience as well. Since most new computers today feature at least one USB port, USB memory sticks are considered to be universal for data transfer and storage. These memory sticks can be used for a variety of storage and transfer tasks. Special software programs can be installed to them and run completely from them. This allows you to run specific programs on a computer without storing the program information on the hard drive of the computer. Using a USB memory stick gives you the option to make your programs completely portable. You can carry a Web browser on them with your bookmarks, store your favorite Web game on them and even carry your email clients with you from one computer to another.
The chips that are used in USB memory sticks have a very specific number of read/write cycles that can be used before the chip begins to fail. Those who use USB flash drives only occasionally to transfer files from one computer to another or to archive copies of files should be fine with the read/write cycle numbers. However, if you are planning to frequently use the USB memory stick to run software programs then it significantly cuts down on the number of years that you may be able to use it. The average cycle of life for a USB memory stick that is used often for larger tasks is ten years.
It is important to understand as well that because a USB memory stick is so convenient, it may be very easy to misplace. Those who carry important files loaded with company information or anything that should not fall into the wrong hands can purchase a lanyard or wrist strap to carry the USB memory stick and keep it safe. You can also have an encryption program put on the stick to encode any data that you transfer to it. There are versions of the USB memory stick available that have security software already installed or you can find many encryption tools online in order to further protect any data that you have on the drive.
These small memory sticks are virtually weightless and can withstand a lot of abuse before they become damaged. Simply dropping the stick will likely not cause any damage and they can withstand very high temperatures as well. Many have reported finding them at the bottom of a washing machine with no irreparable damage, although you should never attempt to damage the drive on purpose. You can purchase USB memory sticks virtually anywhere that you can purchase electronics such as many department stores, electronic stores and a variety of retailers online.