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Failing flash drives can be compensated for with regular backups. But you can avoid the issue entirely if it's inexpensive and easy to replace.
Hi, Leo. My 4 GB Soniq USB flash drive having performed well for a year or two with not a lot of writes, went unformatted. I'm not sure why. I thought I was treating it well. I have reformatted it, but should I trust it again? Or should I throw it away? ChkDsk says it's fine and I scanned for bad sectors but I'm just not sure. Thanks!
In this excerpt from Answercast #74, I look at the possible dangers in using a flash drive that is showing signs of failure... especially if it is not backed up.
You know, I'm really not sure either. The problem is that it depends on a lot of different factors that are kind of hard to judge from a distance.
If this is an inexpensive thumb drive, in other words, if it's not costing a lot to replace it, I wouldn't hesitate to chuck it. I would throw it away and get a new one.
On the other hand, the other approach that I would use if I wanted to continue to use this thumb drive, is I would make absolutely, positively, certain that it was always backed up. That whatever was on it could be lost, without warning, and that would be an inconvenience only - not a disaster.
I certainly wouldn't make it part of any critical processes, and I wouldn't keep any data on it that was only on it.
That would be one way to protect you from experiencing potentially fatal data loss - if this thing is really getting closer to its end of life.
That is certainly what I would do on a more expensive device. I would expect a more expensive device to last longer.
The other thing, of course, is my comments about backing it up... you know what? Even it's working, even if you've never had a problem with it, you should always be backing up the contents of your USB drives! This is simply because "if it's in only one place, it's not backed up."
It doesn't necessarily take a hardware failure to lose all that data. You could lose the thumb drive - it happens all the time.
So, by all means, keep backing up your data (or hopefully start
backing up your data) and give it a try. But, like I said, you may want to just
avoid the issue entirely if it's inexpensive and easy to replace.
(Transcript lightly edited for readability.)
Next from Answercast 74- Can compressing files reduce the chances of its being infected?
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