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Does Erasing Flash Memory Shorten It’s Life?

Yes. Performing an Erase or “full format” shortens the life of the device. The erase function is also very slow.

Here are some additional questions based on the answer above which we will address in today’s post:

Is “erase” and “format” the same thing?

Erasing flash memory (a.k.a. Setting all bits to 0, also called a “full format” by Windows) does more damage. Flash memory has a limited number of times that it can be written, and the more you write to it, the more it degrades. With an erase function, you’re writing to the entire device.

With a format, all that’s happening is changing a few bits at the front of the device to say the rest of the memory space on the flash drive is available to be overwritten. This saves the life of the flash memory because the old data is not being overwritten, just flagged to do it at a later time.

Why would you need to erase a drive?

Since a format is changing just a few bits at the front of the device, it means all the data is still on the drive. The few bits we are talking about which are changed, is related to the file allocation table. The changed bits in the file allocation table, mean there are no longer instructions about the location of the digital files. Recovery software can scan the memory space and retrieve those files even though the file allocation table isn’t giving instructions on where they are located.

Think of the file allocation table as the table of contents of a book. If you tear out the table of contents of a book, but all the pages of the story are still there, it’s the same concept as formatting a device. Sure you can scan the pages to find chapter 12 with the part about Paul getting a bucket of water, it’s just hard. Same thing with formatting a drive, you can use recovery scanning software to find the files, but it’s hard. Coming back to the original question, why would someone want to erase a USB flash drive? One possible reason could be a security risk of some kind and the operator wants to insure no data is on the drive. For example, you are donating a flash drive and you had financial or medical records on the drive. By performing an erase, that data cannot be recovered.

Why does an erase take longer?

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USB WiFi Smart Adapter – But Why?

Given USB is everywhere, this guy gives you the ability to control the on and off power of a USB powered device.

I think for most people, there is no real difference between a WiFi outlet and the WiFi USB adapter. The only difference would be if you want to control the power of a USB gadget which is being powered from your computer. If it’s anything else, as for the power source, it will be a wall outlet.

Can you plug in your Alexa via USB? No. Can you plug in your Google Home via USB? No. Can you plug in your lamps in our family room or living room via USB? No. Can you plug in your bluetooth speaker to charge vai USB? Yes, but who cares about controlling the power of that? Can you plug in your phone via USB to charge it? Yes, but who cares, you want that thing to charge to it’s full capacity anyway. Oh wait, unless you are a super nerd, like these guys (read the comments section).

For the $6.50 that Sonoff is planning to charge you, I would put my money towards a more usable product, like the Smart Life WiFi outlets.

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USB Flash Drive Doesn’t Get Assigned a Drive Letter: Solution

You’ve connected a USB flash drive, heard the familiar Windows sound of connection, yet no drive letter shows up. You then go into Disk Management for Windows and you can see the device and memory, but no drive letter.

What should you do?

USB key in computer

Most times this process is automatic and Windows will asign a drive letter to any storage device connected to your PC, whether it be a USB stick or a USB hard drive, or any other mass storage device.

However; in the event a drive letter isn’t assigned there is a very quick way to get your computer back to working the way it should.

  1. Open Command Prompt as Administrator (search for CMD and right click to open as Admin)
  2. Type ‘diskpart’ and hit Enter.
  3. Once in the DISKPART type automount enable and click Enter.

USB key diskpart

If the above doesn’t do the trick, another issue may be at hand. Maybe some conflicting registry entries from past USB devices connected to the PC and for this reason the automount was disable, or no longer working properly.

Nexcopy has a registry cleaning tool specifically design for USB devices connected to your computer. This utility is an exe file that does not require installation and does not have spyware, malware or anything else. It’s from a company you may

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Erase USB or Clean USB or Format USB?

We’ve seen these terms floating around in forums and How To’s for years when someone is explaining what to do with USB flash drives. I think most people glaze over the definitions of Clean, Erase and Format simply because they believe the terms are interchangeable, or they aren’t planning on doing the task mentioned in the post.

I hope the following information will clear up some terms and definitions so we can all better understand what people are talking about when passing along information about flash drives and the Clean, Erase and Format function.

All of these functions can be performed in your Windows 10 computer, or higher. I will start with the least complicated definition and task, and move along from there.

Format

This function is what 98% of Windows computer operators will use. This is the graphical interface inside Windows when you right click a drive letter and ask the operating system to format the drive. What is this function really doing?

Format is the least complicated of the tasks, and this function is removing the File Allocation Table of the USB and creating a new one. Said a simpler way… this function takes away the list of files sitting on the drive so it then appears blank with no data.

It’s important to note, the files are still on the drive, just not listed in an easy, organized manor which you can see through windows explorer (clicking on the drive letter to see the list of files).

Using the most basic file recovery software tools, like the one we wrote about several months back, you can recover all the files sitting on the drive.

Maybe a picture will help. Looking at the image below you can see the “data” is light grey. Meaning the data is still there, just not easily accessible. This data is what recovery software will look for, find, and list back on your drive. Also notice the boot code of the USB (if you want to load an operating system on your USB stick) isn’t touched either.

format usb flash drive

You might have questions if a USB flash drive should be formatted as FAT, FAT32, exFAT or NTFS and we did a great post about that a bit earlier as well.

Clean

The Clean function is a bit more in-depth than the format function. This function applies directly to the Master Boot Record (MBR) or boot code mentioned just above.

The Clean function will clear out boot code and will remove any partition on the flash drive. The partition of a flash drive is the information which tells a host computer how big the drive is, and if the partition should be bootable in the event you are trying to start the computer from a flash drive.

The Clean function is not accessible through the GUI of Windows, for example you cannot right click on a drive letter and find the Clean function. The Clean function is only accessible through the Windows utility called DiskPart.

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How To: Enable / Disable USB Write Protection in Windows 10

The link below is for a zip file which has two batch files to either set the USB write protection, or remove the USB write protection for a Windows 10 computer. This batch file also works for Windows 7 machines.

This solution is ultra-easy and very quick. One click to run the reg edit file and one click to confirm the task. That’s it.

Typically a person will want to lock down the USB ports of a computer to insure a virus doesn’t spread to the computer through a USB device, like a flash drive. The nice thing about this batch file is a very quick and easy way to both lock down your USB ports, and equally easy way to unlock your USB ports.

It’s important to note; do not have a USB flash drive connected to the system when you run either batch file.

For those looking for a bit more detail, the information below is the specific registry edit we are making. Changing the dword to 00000001 sets the device policy for the computer to be write protected. Changing that value back to 00000000 will make the USB ports read/write.

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control
\StorageDevicePolicies]
“WriteProtect”=dword:00000001

It is also important to understand this USB write protect solution is not specific to the USB stick itself. Nor will this solution work on all Windows machines when you move USB drives from computer to computer. Said another way, this change is PC specific.

If you need USB write protection to be permanent to the device and universal to anything the USB is connected to, you may contact Nexcopy.com and ask for their Lock License drives. This is a solution we have found works very well and is done at the controller level of the USB stick itself. Meaning, the USB is write protected for anything it is connected to. The value of this configuration is no chance for a virus to jump onto the USB stick in the first place. This last solution is really the best solution for universal USB write protection.

Here is a screen shot of the two batch files:

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USB4 Is Coming: Here Is The Speed

USB 3.2, the most recent, shipping, standard sees a maximum transfer speed of 40Gb per second. USB4 will double that. Said another way, 80Gbps is equal to moving 10,000MB in one second. Said another way, that’s about 10GBs in one second.

Keep in mind, this is all theoretical, maxium speed. Real world applications will not get to this point. Never has, never will.

USB4 flash drive

USB4 is built on Intel’s Thunderbolt technology. You know, the technology Apple tried to force everone to use back in 2012. The big change for USB is the interface. The Thunderbolt licensing setup is expensive and thus, we never saw low priced accessories to accommodate the technology. This is why Intel was always so interested in getting Thunderbolt to be the backbone for USB. It would gain in both speed and reduced price.

USB4 is also backwards compatible with USB 3.2, USB 2.0 and Thunderbolt 3. Since the new standard merges both USB-C and Thunderbolt, we should start to see decreasing accessory price points that utilize faster speeds as USB4 gains popularity.

USB4 device manufacturers must also include USB Power Delivery technology, which regulates device charging. PD can quickly charge your phone or gaming laptop, sending the optimal amount of wattage for each device to charge quickly without damage.

Expect to see the first USB4 products hit the market as early as mid-2020.

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Features to Consider When Buying a USB Duplicator

Came across an article today, which I thought was a very good read. It’s a niche article, but for anyone who deals with flash drives, I would suggest checking it out.

From the article:

The optical drive is nearly dead – they are no longer found in laptops and rarely found in tower PCs. With that said, the trend for giving out data is shifting to USB flash, not CD or DVD media. Because of this shift, many companies are taking a closer look at buying a USB duplicator.

There are several factors one must consider before spending thousands of dollars on a USB duplicator. We have broken down the most important considerations into four categories. After reviewing these four categories, you should have an excellent idea of which type of duplicator is best for your organization.

USB Duplication Speed

Speed is the first area you should analyze to figure out which direction you should go. When considering speed, we are not simply talking about the copy speed of the USB duplicator, but other factors as well, such as number of USB sockets and the user interface required for feedback during operation. Questions you should ask, include:

# How many USB drives will you need to copy in a day or week?

# How large is the data load in MBs or GBs?

# What kind of turn-around time do you have between a duplication request and when that request should be completed?

# Is there printing, or branding required, on the outside of the USB?

# Do you need proof of performance via a log file?

Answering the above questions will give you an idea of what type of USB duplicator to consider. The type of duplicator will be size, how many USB sockets, copy speed of the duplicator and what type of software, if any, your organization will need.

Buy, USB Duplicator Your Production Crew

Your next step is to consider the production crew who will be running the equipment. Will there be non-technical people running the equipment, or will a more hands-on approach be required? Is the IT department looking to restrict user access to the equipment or restrict access to the data content during the duplication process?

Much of the above depends on how the data is received before copied to the USB flash drive. For example, a duplication company might receive a physical master from a client; where-as a fulfillment house may get content delivered from a server from an on-line order submission process.

Will the organization require multiple USB duplicators located in different parts of the world? Said another way, many global companies standardize on one manufacturer so the user experience is the same across multiple locations. This also makes production easier as both support and experience can be shared between divisions to streamline processes on a global scale.

Knowing the production crew, their capabilities and responsibilities will help narrow the search for the right piece of equipment.

Read-Only or Read-Write

The third category worth investigating is asking the state of what the USB should be once sent delivered. Is the organization looking to ship out a read-only flash drive? By default all flash drives are read-write. Because of this, many organizations fear a virus could jump onto the drive and spreading to other computers. With that fear in mind, most companies are looking for a USB duplicator which creates a read-only drive product. This means the USB drive is locked, or write protected. The files cannot be deleted or formatted off the drive, and more importantly, files cannot jump onto the drive.

Nexcopy is world leader in read-only flash drive duplicators and therefore used as an example of a duplicator system worth considering.

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Commercial Grade USB Solar Charging Station

Legrand now offers the XSOLARCS USB charging station for public works, schools, parks and transportation centers.

With the Legrand solution, there is no construction required in order to install the charging station. The unit is a self contained solar panel tower, with six USB charging ports pulling from the solar panel. There are three shelves which can mount in adjustable locations to the panel tower poll. Each shelf containes two USB ports with up to 3.1A of shared power between them. There is no trenching required or other expensive construction projects in order to get the EXSOLARCS going.

USB sockets are protected from the eliments with a sliding door in front of the two port socket assembly. Not only is there protection, but LED illumination at each port for after-dark identification and ease-of-use. If the light is illuminating, the station can provide a charge. This implies there is some type of battery inside the station, which we’ve emailed Legrand to find out exactly what.

The XSOLARCS was designed with the elimints in mind. The USB charging station is designed to withstand hurricane-force winds and has the full RoHS certificate compliance.

Source: Legrand .

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Flash Drive Prices Are Going Up – Cause: Japan & S. Korea Trade War

Japan has been a long time supplier for three key elements used in the manufacturing of NAND memory and semiconductors. Because of recent trade war issues between Japan and South Korea, these elements are getting very hard to obtain.

Japan produces about 90% of the world’s supply of flurinated polyimide and resists, and about 70% of the world’s supply for hydrogen fluoride. This puts everyone at risk if Japan will not supply those demanding it.

Those chemicals are used by Korean manufacturers to produce semiconductors, and are crucial for making components — including memory chips, microprocessors and integrated circuits.

We have seen the direct impact already. For the first time in over eight months, the price of NAND memory for flash drives have gone up. For each GB capacity the percentage increase is different, but most notably are the 32GB and 64GB wafers. They have jumped nearly 25% from the previous week ( this article was posted on July 25th).

Japan has sited inadequate management of those chemicals by purchasing countries. Said another way, these chemicals can also be used to manufacturer military weapons and Japan is claiming those supplies have been diverted to do just that. Japan’s response; restrictions on the chemicals.

Who will lose from this trade war? None other than any person who uses technology. Cell phones, processors, flash memory, circuit boards, the list goes on.

For a more dry version of this report, and our source visit: here

To learn more about the polyimide chemicals a quick read on this wiki page is fairly interesting. Continue Reading

Will Trump Tariffs Affect USB Flash Drives?

Posted May 16, 2019.

The United States and China walked away from trade talks earlier this week. From that departure President Trump and Xi Jinping of China are increasing the number of products subject to tariffs.

With that said: Will Trump tariffs affect USB flash drives?

Doing a quick Google search there is a good chance a BuzzFeed article will come up first. In that article, the author incorrectly claims flash drives will be affected. Flash drives are not affect by tariffs at this time.

Don’t take our word for it, find out for yourself. Here is the information you need:

Here is the Harmonized Tariff Schedule link:
https://hts.usitc.gov/

The Harmonized Tariff Code for a USB flash drive is: 8523.51.0000
Simply search the above website for the HS Code number. The chart will say to the right if the product is FREE or has a % tax.

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Where to buy: SD Duplicators, Some Say “SD Copiers”

SD cards are so popular today because the gigabyte capacity in relation to the form factor size is such a great trade off.  The average user on the street would associate an SD card with a camera, but we know heavy users of SD cards use them for embedded operating systems, GPS systems and hand-held point of sale systems.

With that said, for those who need to mass data load content to Secure Digital cards, you might be looking for options on where to buy the gear. The following article, which has no affiliate links for commissions, lists some house-hold names who offer on-line purchasing of SD duplication gear.

SD duplicators manufactured by Nexcopy are available from a variety of different on-line retailers.  The models available from the manufacturer range in different sizes.  The models also range between systems running from a host computer and systems which are stand alone. The following content will talk about both, PC based and standalone duplicators.

Wal-Mart is a growing on-line destination for purchasing technology equipment.  Yes, Wal-Mart.  For example, a user can buy a 20 target SD duplicator from Wal-Mart.

20 target SD duplicator from Wal-Mart.  A PC Based system for data loading to SD cards

This system is PC based and requires a very minimal Windows computer to run the software.  You might ask, why a PC based system?  What advantages are there with a system like this?  Here are some bullet points on why a PC based system is a benefit:

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Windows 10 Update, Hickup With Flash Drives

We have read on-line that Microsoft’s May 2019 update might not happen for those with connected USB sticks or SD cards. Microsoft claims the update will simply not happen if the OS detects these connected devices. The reason, Microsoft might re-assign drive letters to those connected devices.

On my first pass of reading this, the reassignment of drive letters doesn’t sound all that bad. Especially for a removable drive. However; Microsoft goes on to state that internal hard drives could also be affected by the drive letter shuffle.

There is your red flag!

The newly published Windows 10 support document reveals; those computers already having the April 2018 (version 1803) or October 2018 (version 1809) updates installed will receive this error message: “This PC can’t be upgraded to Windows 10.”

The Microsoft documentation does not referrence internal hard drives getting reassigned drive letters when no USB or SD card is detected and for that reason we feel you are safe during the update process. This is why Microsoft is blocking the update all together when a USB or SD card is detected in your system. Microsoft understands the importance of mounted internal hard drives; thus their blocking of the update.

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