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How Does A Flash Drive Work? SalvageData’s Quick Technology Overview

In spite of the relatively small storage capacities, they offer (up to 1TB maximum against 16TB that can be found in latest SSDs), somewhat low read-and-write speeds and, after all, continuously developing market of competitive storage devices, in 2020 flash drives remain an incredibly common way to store files. Which is no wonder: removable, rewritable, and incredibly easy to use, USB-drives pose a perfect solution for both long-time backup of important data, and its secure transferring after.

But have you thought of how exactly files are operated once they were placed onto a USB-drive, and what does it mean for data recovery? A better understanding of inner processes may help you one day save your crucial data from severe loss… and potentially save you a pile of money. Now, let’s figure out how that sorcery works.


Flash Drives Use Flash Memory

Basically, there are two types of computer memory:
volatile and non-volatile. Volatile memory is temporary. It only works with a power source turned on: RAM (short for Random Access Memory) “remembers” the data using electrical patterns – but as soon as the power goes off, it erases, or “forgets”, everything it had stored.

That’s how data is stored on hard disks. And that’s why hard disk drives are usually vibrating and making noise while working: they read information stored magnetically on a platter relying on moving parts
which is why HDDs tend to be much more susceptible to physical damage.

Non-volatile memory implies that data written on the chip won’t disappear if there is no power supply. As you might’ve guessed, it’s a non-volatile memory that is used to store files on a flash drive. Non-volatile memory, since transistor-based, doesn’t require any moving parts, so that all the information placed on the
NAND chip will be remaining there semi-permanently (i.e. until it’s deleted or formatted).

At the same time, according to Explain That Stuff, flash memory isn’t a form of RAM. In fact, flash memory represents a type of storage that’s more similar to ROM, or Read-Only Memory, which doesn’t require electricity to store the data. Flash memory chips — what you’ll find inside of your flash drive — were designed to keep information in spite of power sources being off or on. Finally, unlike traditional ROM devices, flash memory allows you to erase, change, or refresh the stored data as often as needed.


How Does a Flash Drives Work On Personal Computers?

These days most computers come equipped with USB ports that are able to detect inserted USB drives, and, if necessary, automatically install the missing drivers in order to make the data retrievable. Remember, however, to remove your pen drive properly as you’re finished working with it: unexpected disconnection from the system may cause an error, and result in damage to the stored data. The operating system prompts the user when it is safe to eject the flash drive from the USB port.


As to the technical side, a USB drive has plenty of other elements that make it operational. Say, it has a printed circuit board (PCB) that is covered in a durable casing made of rubber or plastic, and so on. Also, flash drives mostly come equipped with a type-A USB connection, which makes them compatible with standard receptacles.

Thumb drives are associated with a USB mass storage device classification, meaning they don’t require additional drivers to operate properly. Simply put, your computer’s operating system recognizes a block-structured logical unit, so that it could work with any file system, or block addressing system to read the information on the flash drive. A flash drive enters emulation mode or acts a hard drive, once it has connected to the USB port. This makes it easier to transfer data between the flash drive and the computer.


How Does a Flash Drive Work On Lightweight Operating Systems?

On lightweight operating systems, flash drives are commonly used for booting purposes: with an operating system on your memory stick, you can easily turn personal computers into networking devices. Along with that, thumb drives have one more advantage over optical media and floppy disks, namely their low failure rates and low-power consumption, which make them suitable for networking. Finally, flash drives have larger memory capacity and are smaller in size, meaning they are offering data storage that is more portable and convenient compared to other devices. 


Wrapping It Up

Despite all the advantages listed above, USB drives cannot be considered the most reliable storage devices since they may be susceptible to virus attacks or easily destroyed, and tend to wear out over time. So, if your flash drive contains some vital data, make sure to transfer the files to another medium as soon as possible if any malfunctioning occurs.