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Thread: Issues concerning Flash Drives / Memory Sticks

  1. #1
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    Question Issues concerning Flash Drives / Memory Sticks

    On Sunday last while working on a number of documents on my desktop PC, but straight off of a 32GB flash drive, I noted at one point my desktop seemed to be taking time reading the stick. (A green bar tracked across Windows explorer)

    The following day I discovered that the files I worked on, on that Sunday afternoon were all corrupted. I then noted further that any new file saved to the stick, from any computer ended up being corrupted. Files from before the Sunday were not corrupted.

    I then purchased online, (eventually but that's another saga), a 64GB memory stick.

    I copied all the files from the 32GB stick to the desk top and then copied those files to the 64GB stick. I deleted the corrupted files. I moved corrected files to the 64GB stick.

    So far the 64GB stick is fine.

    On the Dell Laptop, I reformatted the 32GB stick and saved a file to this stick and transferred the stick to the desktop PC, and the stick seems to be working correctly with no data corruption. I have saved a file to the 32GB stick from the desktop as well and no corruption at this stage seems present.

    In working on a document to send out, I resorted to copying the document from the stick to my PC's hard drive, working on the document and then copying it back in both Windows explorer and saving directly to the stick a pdf version.

    Q1) Has anyone else had this happen to them, or any ideas what my Desktop did to the stick

    Q2) Why did formatting seem to work

    Q3) My normal practice has been to just treat my memory sticks as if they were hard drives and work directly off of them. Is there a problem doing this as my sister seems to think I should not be working directly off of the stick, but others say there is no issue.

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    The same has happened to me and almost always happens if you remove the stick without correctly ejecting it. I guess glitches can corrupt the memory and even one bit in the wrong place can corrupt a file. Reformatting would wipe it but I don't know if bad memory positions on a stick can be detected and avoided by the writing software. Sometimes large files do not work directly off the stick and work OK once transfered to the hard disc. This would be in the way the operating system accesses the files and would also be affected by your RAM size with big sticks like 32 and 64 GB

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    Just to clarify, I always try and eject the stick properly, so I do not think that was the issue

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    Sometimes weird stuff just happens - why I have a job in IT operations :>

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    This is the first time I have heard of this issue. What is the proper way to eject a stick to prevent corruption?

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    Does your document software auto-save documents? Is your PC running with a high load?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hornblower View Post
    This is the first time I have heard of this issue. What is the proper way to eject a stick to prevent corruption?
    Usually when you put in a flash drive there is some icon in the bottom right sys tray. Click on it and it will give the option to eject the flash drive. Click on that, and if nothing is using any file on your device you get a dialog box telling you it is safe to remove the device. That is the correct way to remove a device.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ara Pacis View Post
    Does your document software auto-save documents? Is your PC running with a high load?
    Not sure about the loading, but the package I was using was Word which I believe auto saves.

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    Quote Originally Posted by profloater View Post
    Sometimes large files do not work directly off the stick and work OK once transfered to the hard disc. This would be in the way the operating system accesses the files and would also be affected by your RAM size with big sticks like 32 and 64 GB
    So is the rule, if the stick is large, then you need to transfer the file to the PC hard drive and work on it there?

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    You should avoid working off the stick to begin with. They only have a certain number of read/write cycles(many thousands actually). After that, entire blocks of data(a few KB I think) becomes useless. You should definitely copy documents to the PC and work on them there. Mainly because autosave will cause the stick to write for no reason.

    A complete format will try to write to every block and check it. Any bad answers are flagged as bad blocks. The stick will no longer write there. This same recovery process applies to hard drives. A low level format will check every block on a hard drive and then 'disable' any bad sectors. I've had to do it with hard drives, but not a USB stick (knock on wood).

    Don't feel like I'm blaming you. I have an old USB stick that I use for my music in the car. The poor thing sits there in -40 weather sometimes and here I am constantly making it read music. Still works!

    There are tools to check the stick:
    http://www.technibble.com/repair-too...k-check-flash/
    is one I randomly found. I've never used it.

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    I find that SD cards are more reliable than USB sticks. I tend to "globe trot" my USB sticks from OS 9, OS X, XP, Win 7 plus various flavors of Linux and I can't help but notice these devices die very quickly. USB sticks that I use for just one or two machines last much longer. It could be a total perception thing or something I am doing to the USB sticks, so perhaps a grain or two of salt is required.

    One headache saver I have found is Dropbox, its like having 5 GB of space on every computer I own. Dropbox has saved my bacon on several occasions.
    Solfe

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sticks View Post
    Not sure about the loading, but the package I was using was Word which I believe auto saves.
    I was wondering, because USB requires processor time to work, as opposed to a direct bus, so running with a lot of stuff that slows down the processor might have repercussions on the drive and how it handles data.

    Or it could be a bad drive. I have several sandisk drives I've used for years. I tried to use a Medion drive and the second time I plugged it into something, it died.
    Et tu BAUT? Quantum mutatus ab illo.

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    I've read that USB sticks have a very limited life, some as few as 10,000 read-write cycles. I also had one that was unreadable on one computer (Mac OS 10.4) but could be read on Windows, and a number that were unreadable on one version of Windows after use on a different (the file systems were different, and the later version of Windows decided to "improve" the file system on USB stick).

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    Quote Originally Posted by swampyankee View Post
    I've read that USB sticks have a very limited life, some as few as 10,000 read-write cycles. I also had one that was unreadable on one computer (Mac OS 10.4) but could be read on Windows, and a number that were unreadable on one version of Windows after use on a different (the file systems were different, and the later version of Windows decided to "improve" the file system on USB stick).
    I have had similar issues between Linux and Windows (I believe the worst issue was a fairly new stick that had less than 100 read-write cycles that died). Normally, I am fairly careful with my drives---but I had been told an interesting anecdote about about stick drives.

    It seems there was an individual who had inadvertently put his drive into the laundry (more than once!) --and the contents of the drive did survive.

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    From your description it sounds possible that you might have one of those fake drives where the manufacturer have just programmed the controller chip in the stick to report that it has more storage than it actually has. A drive like this will look to the OS like it has the amount of storage space it should, and you can write to it without problem, but when you reach the end of the actual flash memory, you can't store anymore(though the files may seem to write fine, there will be no actual memory to write to, so they can't be read back). Online auction sites and cheap web shops have been full of the things, they can look like they come from reputable manufacturers too and the only hint may be that they are generally cheaper than the real drives.

    Cheap USB drives may also be built from chips that failed QC, so even if they have the actual memory they should, they might be unreliable.

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    From your description it sounds possible that you might have one of those fake drives where the manufacturer have just programmed the controller chip in the stick to report that it has more storage than it actually has. A drive like this will look to the OS like it has the amount of storage space it should, and you can write to it without problem, but when you reach the end of the actual flash memory, you can't store anymore(though the files may seem to write fine, there will be no actual memory to write to, so they can't be read back). Online auction sites and cheap web shops have been full of the things, they can look like they come from reputable manufacturers too and the only hint may be that they are generally cheaper than the real drives.

    Cheap USB drives may also be built from chips that failed QC, so even if they have the actual memory they should, they might be unreliable.
    Is this the reason that Cd-Roms and DVD-Roms are still around and relatively popular? Many people use USB drives these days, though.

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    The reason reformatting worked is because you corrupted the filesystem, as opposed to a hardware level corruption. Most flash media is formatted with FAT32 which has no journaling and therefore the filesystem cannot recover from a crash/corruption event. You could try NTFS if you only ever plan on reading it from a windows machine.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Inclusa View Post
    Is this the reason that Cd-Roms and DVD-Roms are still around and relatively popular? Many people use USB drives these days, though.
    Not really, it is more likely because they are the most popular hard media for software distribution, CD and DVD ROM disks are cheaper to produce, so there is little incentive to move to flash based media. The writable CDs and DVDs are quite a bit cheaper than a flash drive, and so may be more suitable to some uses, though here too one should avoid the cheapest types as these can be quite unreliable.

    USB drives are quite convenient for moving data, portable applications, and generally any application that doesn't require constant writing to the media. USB drives may be a convenient medium for backing up your files too, as long as you use one of good quality and only use that drive for backups and generally handle it carefully.

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    My problems with USB sticks is simple, they either don't come back from passing around a class to distribute things, or they get dropped and stepped on, or they just disappear, or they do weird stuff on apple OS and then never work except on Windows ever again...


    But the problem in the OP is new to me. Pulled while being written seems most likely. It's also possible that the flash storage that saves the errored out elements itself errored.

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    Belive it or not, a static discharge within a foot or two of a average quality flash drive, can actualy cause enough of a EMP effect to scramble some of it's bits in storage. It's not a common issue but it can happen.

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    Are 1GB flash drives more likely to have long lives than, say, 32GB drives? and since I often use them to switch files between windows and Mac, should I be formatting them differently from normal?

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    Quote Originally Posted by profloater View Post
    Are 1GB flash drives more likely to have long lives than, say, 32GB drives? and since I often use them to switch files between windows and Mac, should I be formatting them differently from normal?
    I use mine on all kinds of systems and have only found a couple of sticks that did not like either Mac or Windows machine. Rather than reformatting them differently, I would just plug into each machine when I get the device, and make sure they work ok before I need them. I like to format using the mac and then plug into the Windows machine to make sure it works there.

    I know, its the lazy man test but since there are 10* versions of OS X, and half of them don't play nice with certain format options, my lazy test is better.


    *Edit - I blew that bit of mac trivia. There are 9 versions. Kodiak, Cheetah, Puma, Jaguar, Panther, Tiger, Leopard, Snow Leopard, Lion and Mountain Lion. Cheetah and Puma are effectively the same OS with two different names and version numbers while Kodiak was a beta 10.0.3 that shipped with OS 9.6 computers.
    Solfe

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    Quote Originally Posted by Solfe View Post
    I use mine on all kinds of systems and have only found a couple of sticks that did not like either Mac or Windows machine. Rather than reformatting them differently, I would just plug into each machine when I get the device, and make sure they work ok before I need them. I like to format using the mac and then plug into the Windows machine to make sure it works there.

    I know, its the lazy man test but since there are 10* versions of OS X, and half of them don't play nice with certain format options, my lazy test is better.


    *Edit - I blew that bit of mac trivia. There are 9 versions. Kodiak, Cheetah, Puma, Jaguar, Panther, Tiger, Leopard, Snow Leopard, Lion and Mountain Lion. Cheetah and Puma are effectively the same OS with two different names and version numbers while Kodiak was a beta 10.0.3 that shipped with OS 9.6 computers.
    Thanks that is exactly what I do just because on Mac I can name them easily although on windows that name is lost. I have used an emac for many years and sadly it is now getting difficult to use many applications as they "improve" themselves. Even stumble complains now. The emac hardware is stuck at OSX10.4. However the flash sticks work beautifully.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sticks View Post
    Usually when you put in a flash drive there is some icon in the bottom right sys tray. Click on it and it will give the option to eject the flash drive. Click on that, and if nothing is using any file on your device you get a dialog box telling you it is safe to remove the device. That is the correct way to remove a device.
    Technically what you are doing there is un-mounting the drive. This should be familiar to linux and perhaps mac users. Un-mounting a drive gives notice to the system that access is about to be removed and if there is any remaining data to be written, now's the time. Flash drives do not necessarily write data as it's generated. That's why the first part of a large save operation goes quickly, but the later part goes slowly. You fill up the cache first which is quick, but the real writing takes a lot longer, relatively speaking.

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    If the flash drive has not been busy for a while, you can take it out and the machine beeps and admonishes you but it seems to be OK. However if the drive is working it really messes up the files and you have to reformat. Cluttered desks and writhing cables can do that to you! Or carrying a laptop around with its flash drive in, I am guilty there, quite a few bent sticks!

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    I had a flashdrive from which you couldn't delete files, only reformat it and start afresh. It was sort of half-read-only.

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    Quote Originally Posted by profloater View Post
    If the flash drive has not been busy for a while, you can take it out and the machine beeps and admonishes you but it seems to be OK. However if the drive is working it really messes up the files and you have to reformat. Cluttered desks and writhing cables can do that to you! Or carrying a laptop around with its flash drive in, I am guilty there, quite a few bent sticks!
    Have you seen these ,(Cruzer Fit)?
    I have a couple, 32GB and 16GB and you can leave these plugged in. They are easy to lose when loose though ...

    fit.jpg
    shown with a penny
    Last edited by headrush; 2012-Oct-14 at 09:03 AM. Reason: add image

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    You can also get MicroSD that come with or can use a MicroSD-to-USB adapter about that size. Alternately, there are SD cars that can plug directly into USB slots without an adapter, but I'm not sure if they're made anymore or at large sizes or at HC or XC types.
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    Quote Originally Posted by headrush View Post
    Have you seen these ,(Cruzer Fit)?
    I have a couple, 32GB and 16GB and you can leave these plugged in. They are easy to lose when loose though ...

    fit.jpg
    shown with a penny
    Hey! I was looking for my micro drive. Where did you find it?
    Solfe

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    Dear Sir, I swallowed my homework.

    (Seriously, do these things really need to get so small? (Aside from the leave it plugged into the laptop thing noted above.))

    And slightly related, does readyboost really help much? In what situations? I've got a Win 7 pro, 2nd gen i7 with 16GB RAM and a regular (no SSD) 1TB 7200 rpm primary HDD. Fairly good 8 GB USB sticks are so cheap now, I'm wondering if ready boost is anything to bother with. Every time I plug a stick in, Windows asks "do you want to speed up your computer?" - and I wonder...
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