Digital Photo Storage on USB Flash Drives

by Anonymous

A variety of USB flash drives that can be used to store digital photographs.

A variety of USB flash drives that can be used to store digital photographs.

USB flash drives are increasing in capacity and more reasonably priced nowadays when compared to other digital storage media. It is a very convenient form of storage in terms of size and access speed. How long can I store my digital photos on USB Flash Drives?

Although Flash drives appear to be very durable (there are no moving parts as there are for hard drives) and can withstand some harsh environments, the chemical stability of flash USB drives in the long term is unknown.

Currently, there is only a small amount of scientific research available examining how stable this type of storage media is, how it compares in stability to other storage media, and how long it will last. There are several unanswered questions that exist. How will the storage media behave if not used for many years and simply left on a shelf? How will the flash USB drive hold up to storage under less than ideal temperature and relative humidity conditions over many years? Because the answer to these and other questions are unknown, it is best to not depend on using USB flash drives or other flash media as the sole long-term storage device for your digital photos or any other types of files. The general thought is that flash media is temporary storage media and only used to transfer information from one device to another, but this may change in the future. If you want to use it, ensure you have a second copy of your digital photos on stable media such as gold CD-Rs and to a lesser extend gold DVD-Rs. Even if this stable media is not used, a second and even a third copy will help ensure the longevity of the information. This strategy will protect against the loss of your information should the flash USB drive fail in the future.

Also note that the connector of the USB flash drive that is used to connect to the computer may also fail with repeated use. If this occurs then the flash drive is unusable. This is also an issue to consider in the long term.

Comments for Digital Photo Storage on USB Flash Drives

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Oct 08, 2012
Flash Media for Archival Storage
by: Anonymous

By all accounts flash media does appear to be very resilient. The weakest point appears to be the connection part. If this is chemically or physically damaged then loss of information will occur. I have not heard of any kind of repair to the connector portion of flash media.

Nevertheless, I think flash media has been used for many years without problems and so might be an option for long-term storage. One issue that has been mentioned is how well data is retained on flash media when it is left on a shelf for many years and not powered up on a regular basis.

I agree that it is too early to use flash media as an archival storage format. Right now, price alone would exclude its use in many situations. However, like any other storage media, you can use it to store your digital files if you have a copy of the information on something else - hard drive, DVD-R, etc.

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