We all have a USB stick in our house, whether it’s lost in one of the drawers, plugged into a USB port on the computer, or just in the form of that merchandising key ring we don’t pay attention to. But what do we mean by this term and which hardware products do we include in this category?
Internet has become the network where everything is shared; however, this has not always been the case and there are cases where people prefer to keep their data safe, on a USB drive that they always carry with them. Either to save your most private data or for other purposes.
What is flash memory?
With this term we refer colloquially to all information storage systemsof which you can not only read data of them, but also write on it and which are based on the use of semiconductors for this. We therefore include memory cards, solid-state storage units and USB keys. But conventional disk drives such as hard drives, floppy disks, and tape drives are not included in this classification.
All use NAND Flash technology, its name is due to the type of logic gate that I know is used to store data. Although there are other types such as Flash NOR calls, they are used more for other applications, such as embedded systems. And it is that unlike NAND Flash, NOR Flash is in capacities of a few gigabits and with much slower speeds. Your advantage? They can maintain data integrity for over 20 years. This is not in the interest of manufacturers who live off product obsolescence to maintain their sales rate.
What is a flash drive?
Once we know what flash memory is, we have to talk about what we could call pen drive and it is nothing more than a synonym of what we call pen drive. Which is based on a pocket device based on a USB interface and a small card with a chip that fits inside the controller to access it and another with its own flash memory. It is therefore technically extremely integrated hardware, as it has very few components and is easy to manufacture. In addition, using the most popular interface for peripherals today allows us to use it on any computer.
Over time, USB keys have come to replace the classic floppy disks for transmitting information, although today, with the whole world connected to the Internet, they do not seem so necessary because there are online services to share files. However, they are extremely useful to use when we do not have an internet connection or for other functions, including their use for automatic BIOS updates, computer diagnostic readers or even to load an operating system from the drive.
Its counterpart lies in its performance, because the bandwidth is limited by that of the USB interface itself, so unless you are using a USB 3.0 type USB key, you should not expect the same performance as a hard disk and much more than an SSD. It must also be taken into account that being extremely cheap, the quality of their memory is also cheap and, therefore, its lifespan is much less.
How is a flash drive inside?
Once we have defined what a flash drive is, we need to tell you about what it looks like inside.
- There Iinterface with which it will connect to the computer, in this case it is a USB type A connection, but for some time now they have adopted type C as their communication interface. This gives them great compatibility with all types of devices, including tablets and phones that use this port for both battery charging and information transfer.
- the microcontroller which will perform the accesses to the memory of the Flash Drive in an automated way and without the participation of any external hardware for it.
- The test pinsreminiscent of factory programming of the microcontroller.
- The flash memory that stores datanormally in a flash drive due to portability and space there is only one chip.
- This component is responsible for clock signalwhich is crucial for synchronizing data transfers with the PC.
- LED lightswhich indicates data transfer or device usage when transferring files.
- button write protection.
- Space for a second Flash memory, which in this case the manufacturer decided not to solder.
Is it the same as an SSD drive?
This question, although it may seem trivial, many of you will have asked yourself at some point in your life. Ultimately, an SSD or solid-state drive is nothing more than a flash drive’s vitamin-packed older brother. Where multiple flash memory chips and a much more powerful controller are used to manage access to the information they contain. The difference aside from lower capacity and performance? SSDs are not designed to be portable and carried anywhere, but as fixed parts in our PCs.
However, if we are talking about very low performance systems where the access speed does not need to be the most advanced, then a flash drive can serve as a storage unit just like an SSD. Taking into account the technical differences of course. It can therefore be used as the main storage unit in a Raspberry Pi type SBC or a MiniPC on which no more storage space can be added.
To all this we must add that with the arrival of the new interfaces based on Type-C, we will soon see them being used as a replacement for the hard disk in very low-end computers. Especially those used for offices and more particularly in places where data control is important for the professionals who work with them and they are so delicate that they always have to carry them with them.