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How to Make the Most Out of Your USB Drives

by Chloe Parker
tips on using usb drives

USB devices are extremely handy in regards to moving and sharing data. But as we’ve pointed out in the past, there are many other cool things you can do with a USB. The highly influential USB Implementers Forum is making sure that USB devices continue to progress as technology expands. The latest USB version is proof positive that storing and sharing data across devices is continuing to grow. Because we’re storing more data than ever before, securing USBs is now a top priority.

Protecting Your USB Devices

The portable nature of a thumb drive means that it needs to be secure at all times, and whatever you do to secure your computer won’t apply. Here are a few things you can do to protect your USBs from data loss and hacking.

Keep USB drives in a Secure Place

It seems like common sense advice, but USBs get misplaced every day. The fact that they are getting smaller doesn’t help this problem. They are also stored out in the open where they can be stolen or broken. For these reasons, it’s best to store USBs in a secure place where there’s no chance of them getting damaged or stolen. However, according to Secure Data Recovery, even if the USB drive is broken, data is not always lost. Data recovery is possible if  the data loss occurs from physical damage.

Encrypt USB Drives

Encryption can be used to prevent data theft should you lose or misplace your USB. It can also prevent people from accessing deleted files. Once the data is encrypted, it won’t be accessible without the decryption key which means there’s one less thing to worry about if the thumb drive gets in the wrong hands. BitLocker To Go is a popular encryption program for Windows 7 and later. Another great option is TrueCrypt, a free software program that provides government-level encryption protection for USB devices.

Password Protect Sensitive USB Files

Rather than encrypting the entire USB device, you can choose to password protect only the sensitive information. This is an ideal option for employees that share a USB for work. All you have to do is use the password protect feature in a document generation program (i.e. Adobe PDF and Microsoft Word) to secure individual files before adding them to the thumb drive. Third-party portable programs like Folder Lock can also be used to password protect folders or files on a USB.

Install a Virus Scanner

You can actually install virus scanners directly on to USB drives. It provides an extra layer of protection against malware.

Expanded Capabilities of the USB 3.1

The most obvious use for a USB is transferring and storing data. The new USB 3.1 is even faster than its predecessor, which is making it even more useful than before. Currently the Gen 2 USB 3.1 can transfer data at speeds up to 10 gigabits per second (Gbps). Since transferring files is a lot quicker, you have plenty of time to use your USB for other things.

Deliver HD Video

Your family gatherings and work presentations can now include HD footage. USB 3.0 and 3.1 are capable of delivering smooth high-definition video by simply plugging it into a computer or television. The USB 3.1 is actually able to produce 4K resolution. This new and improved video delivery has some experts speculating that USBs could replace HDMI in the near future.

Use USBs With More Devices

The new USB Type-C is greatly expanding the number of electronics that can be connected. The connector is so small it can be used with smart phones, and it’s reversible. The USB Type-C ports also support alternative modes, which increases its connectivity and output.

Things You Should Never Do With A USB

Now that you have a better handle on safeguarding and using your USB, it’s important to know when and how not to use it. No matter how careful you are, doing any of the following would be a bad idea.

1. Rely on It Solely for Saving Data

Thumb drives should be regarded as a backup or secondary storage devices. As noted above, it’s easy for USBs to be misplaced, and if it’s encrypted the password could be forgotten.

2. Never Use a USB With a Public Computer

Accessing personal files on a public computer is easy with a USB, but you run the risk of corrupting your USB device. If your USB is infected with a virus, you can pass it along to your own computers leading to even bigger problems. A public computer might also be able to access the information on your USB.

3. Removing It Without Hitting Eject

There is a possibility of losing data or corrupting files if you just yank the USB out of a computer. It’s always best to use the eject feature and make sure you get the removal prompter before taking the USB out. Safe removal of USB will ensure that you never lose your important files.

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