USB flash drives are often used for the same purposes for which or were once used, i.e., for storage, data back-up and transfer of computer files. They are smaller, faster, have thousands of times more capacity, and are more durable and reliable because they have no . Additionally, they are immune to (unlike floppy disks), and are unharmed by surface scratches (unlike CDs). Until about 2005, most desktop and laptop computers were supplied with floppy disk drives in addition to USB ports, but floppy disk drives have become obsolete after widespread adoption of USB ports and the larger USB drive capacity compared to the 1.44 3.5-inch floppy disk.
A USB flash drive, also commonly known as a USB drive, USB stick and a variety of other names, is a that includes with an integrated interface. USB flash drives are typically removable and rewritable, and physically much smaller than an . Most weigh less than 30 grams (1.1 oz). As of January 2013, drives of up to 512 (GB) were available. A one- (TB) drive was unveiled at the 2013 and became available later that year. Storage capacities as large as 2 TB are planned, with steady improvements in size and price per capacity expected. Some allow up to 100,000 write/erase cycles, depending on the exact type of memory chip used, and have a 10-year .
An alternative to a live solution is a traditional operating system installation with the elimination of swap partitions. This installation has the advantage of being efficient for the software, as a live installation would still contain software removed from the persistent file due to the operating systems installer still being included with the media. However, a full installation is not without disadvantages; due to the additional write cycles that occur on a full installation, the life of the flash drive may be slightly reduced. To mitigate this, some live systems are designed to store changes in RAM until the user powers down the system, which then writes such changes. Another factor is if the speed of the storage device is destitute; performance can be comparable to legacy computers even on machines with modern parts if the flash drive transfers such speeds. One way to solve this is to use a USB hard drive, as they generally give better performance than flash drives regardless of the connector.
USB flash drives use the standard, supported natively by modern such as , , and other systems, as well as many boot ROMs. USB drives with USB 2.0 support can store more data and transfer faster than much larger like CD-RW or DVD-RW drives and can be read by many other systems such as the , , DVD players, automobile entertainment systems, and in a number of handheld devices such as smartphones and tablet computers, though the electronically similar is better suited for those devices.
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