USB flash drives are so plentiful that they’re often given away for free, but not all are created equal. Picking the right drive can save you from slow transfer speeds or extra bulk on your keyring or in your bag.
These nine options cover everything from spacious and speedy to rugged drives that can hold up to daily wear and tear.
(Need more storage? Check out our external hard drive roundup!)
There are plenty of cheaper flash drives available, but the speed and reliability of SanDisk’s Extreme Go make it well worth them added cost if you’re regularly moving large files around. The drive’s retractable plug means there’s no cap to lose, and both the 64GB and 128GB drives are backed by SanDisk’s generous lifetime warranty.
You can get even cheaper USB 2.0-only drives, but stepping up to a USB 3.0 drive will save you from the frustration of file transfers that seem to drag on forever. Despite its low price, SanDisk’s Ultra Flair drive has an all-metal enclosure for added durability and still comes with a five-year warranty.
If you’re regularly running up against the storage limits of your laptop you may want to consider an ultra-compact flash drive like the Samsung FIT Plus that can simply be left plugged in all the time. It’s available in sizes up to 512GB and promises read speeds of 300MB/s, which The Wirecutter found it got close to in real-world tests (though write speeds are slower).
It may be a bit much if you’re just passing files around the office, but the Corsair Flash Survivor Stealth drive is ideally suited to more hazardous job sites or outdoor adventures. It’s built from anodized aircraft-grade aluminum and is fully waterproof and shock-resistant, while a five-year warranty helps add even more peace of mind.
USB flash drives don’t always live up to their stated read/write speeds, but Patriot’s Supersonic Rage 2 is one that won’t disappoint. PC Gamer found it to be the fastest flash drive they’ve tested, and it’s available in spacious 256GB and 512GB versions in addition to the more budget-friendly 128GB model.
Phone and tablet storage can often get even more cramped than your laptop. If you’re looking for a quick way to free up space on your iPhone or iPad, SanDisk’s iXpand drive is a great option, while the company’s Ultra Dual Drive m3.0 ($15) offers a similar solution for Android users.
Contrary to what you might think, USB-C flash drives are generally slower than their USB 3.0 counterparts, but they are worth a look if you’re tired of using dongles all the time. This one from SanDisk has a two-in-one design that’ll let you easily transfer files from USB-C to non-USB-C devices, and is available in sizes from an affordable 32GB model all the way up to 256GB.
Adding a flash drive to your keyring is a great way to ensure that you always have some available storage or key files with you at all times. This Kingston drive is small enough that it won’t add much bulk if your keyring’s already on the heavy side, and its metal enclosure means it should hold up to being tossed around day after day.
Style may not usually be a top concern when it comes to flash drives, but Samsung’s BAR Plus will easily stand out in a sea of nondescript drives. What’s more, its sleek metal casing also serves to make it more durable, and it doesn’t demand much of a premium over similarly spec’d drives.
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