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Everything is online nowadays or stored on the cloud. While this offers you a lot of storage options and security, it is almost essential to have a removable drive which you can carry around with you wherever you go.
A rugged and durable USB flash drive is just what you need. The newest ones offer you unrivaled storage space. You can use them to back up your data (even entire storage drives), install operating systems (Windows, macOS, Linux), run portable apps, and also run a whole operating system. If your computer uses a standard HDD (hard disk drive), you can even use a USB stick to boost the performance of your system.
With so many uses, USB flash drives aren’t going anywhere just yet.
A USB flash drive can last a long time, but a tough and rugged one will last even longer. Why not buy one that’ll resist the elements and physical damage, while not letting you down when you need it the most? Let’s take a look at how we evaluated the most rugged and waterproof USB flash drives out there.
- How To Choose a Durable USB Flash Drive
- Our Top Picks
- Corsair Flash Survivor Stealth 32GB USB Flash Drive
- Lexar JumpDrive Tough 64GB USB Flash Drive
- Patriot Supersonic Boost XT 128GB USB Flash Drive
- Caraele Metallic USB Flash Drive
- GorillaDrive 3.0 Ruggedized 64GB USB Flash Drive (2-Pack)
- STNTUS Innovations Encrypted USB Flash Drive (Military Grade)
- Ruichenxi Waterproof 64GB USB Flash Drive
How To Choose a Durable USB Flash Drive
Choosing a flash drive does not need to be difficult. There are a few things to think about, and you should have some idea about what you are looking for before you make a purchase. Take a look at the points below, and you will have a USB drive in no time.
We are big believers that paying a little more at the outset will save you money in the long run. If you are protecting your data, then you want the USB drive to last as long as possible, preferably at least a decade.
The higher-quality the flash drive, the longer it is going to last. Look for a rugged and durable exterior, crafted from high-quality materials, and high-quality components inside.
The outer shell is going to protect what is inside for longer, and the high-quality components inside are going to protect your data for longer.
Flash memory does not degrade over time. What can degrade flash memory are write cycles, meaning, the more you write and delete files, the quicker it will wear out. On average, flash drives last for 3,000 to 5,000 write cycles and at least one million read cycles. For most users, this means at least 10 years of usage, and probably more, unless you use your flash drive as a portable PC.
In the old days, SSD drives had much higher capacities than USB flash drives. Thankfully, technology has advanced. Storage space has increased, and cost has come down. You can now get a flash drive which is not only rugged and durable but which can also store all the data which you own.
A USB drive will not replace your hard drive, but it is a handy backup. If you are spending more to get a high-quality item, then you are probably going to get storage to match.
Go for as much storage as you can get. You never know what you will add to the device in the future, and there’s no such thing as ‘too much storage capacity.’
If you store a lot on your device, you want to be able to access it quickly. We live in an age where we want our data instantly. Having a drive which is fast will save you a lot of time, in small increments.
Look for a 3.0 USB drive to get great speed, and the higher the Mbps rate, the better. A capable USB flash drive will have around 200 MB/s of read speed and 100 MB/s of write speed.
Once you buy a USB flash drive, you can speed test it, to make sure that the actual transfer rates are similar to the manufacturer’s specifications. Our favorite free software for doing this is CrystalDiskMark.
Your USB flash drive should be able to store a lot, but that does not necessarily mean that it should have a large physical presence. There are two ways you can go with size, and that will depend on what you want to use the flash drive for.
If you are looking for a durable and tough USB flash drive, then a more protected drive will be bigger. A tougher outer casing has a larger footprint but can be worth it if you are taking it hiking through the Amazon.
On the other hand, if you want something which will fit neatly in your pocket, then you may have to forgo some physical protection for convenience.
With advances in technology, it is not unusual to find USB flash drives with added security, such as password or fingerprint protection. You can tailor the security to your needs, having a high-level of security for sensitive data. We recommend having at least password protection for all your files.
A manufacturer’s warranty will also help. These can range from a year to a lifetime and are found on most USB devices (however, never forget to check the fine print).
IP Ratings (Waterproofing)
IP stands for Ingress Protection and tells you a little about how protected the device is from solids and liquids. When it comes to IP ratings, you have two numbers after the IP. The first tells you about the protection from solid objects, and the second tells you of the protection from liquids. Generally, the higher the numbers, the better.
For example, IP72 would give excellent protection against things like sand and dirt and a little protection against rain. IP27 would provide the opposite while IP65 would provide excellent protection against both.
USB drives are easy to use by nature, but there is one key thing to think about when using your drive, and that is how you put it in the slot and how you take it out.
If you have ever felt the frustration of putting your USB drive into your computer only for you to fail at that 50/50 shot and have to flip the USB and stick it in, then you know one of the greatest frustrations of this modern world. However, there’s one solution and one alternative.
The solution: Always make sure that the two empty holes on the USB connector are facing up or towards you. This way you’ll always insert it correctly.
The alternative: It’s called USB Type-C. These USB drives can be inserted any way up because of their two-fold rotationally-symmetrical connector.
There is also the problem of removing the device before ejecting it. For most USB devices, it does not make a difference, though there are some on which the data may get corrupted if you don’t eject the drive before removing it.
If you’re a Windows 10 user, then you’re in luck. Microsoft has officially confirmed that since the 1809 update version, ‘quick removal‘ is the default Windows setting for each USB flash drive. This means that you can safely remove a USB drive (as long as there is not data actively being written on it) at any time.
If you’re a macOS or Linux user, we still strongly recommend ejecting the drive before removing it.
Our Top Picks
Let’s take a look at some of the most rugged USB flash drives on the market.
Corsair Flash Survivor Stealth 32GB USB Flash Drive
When it comes to flash drives, this one is as solid as they come. You only need to take one look at it to know that it is rugged and durable, and that is backed up by the aircraft-grade aluminum housing. The housing gives you waterproofing to 200m, vibration resistance, and shock resistance.
This is USB 3.0 which gives you speeds four times faster than USB 2.0, and is backward compatible, allowing you to connect to computers without 3.0 compatibility. The device is so fast that you can play movies straight from the stick without any slowdown.
The USB flash drive has universal compatibility, connecting easily to Windows, Mac, and Linux without the need for any extra drivers. You also have 32GB of storage, and you can opt for more if you want to spend a little more money.
This is a great device for storing all of your data and will protect it for years.
- USB 3.0
- 32GB storage
- Aluminum housing
Lexar JumpDrive Tough 64GB USB Flash Drive
This USB 3.1 flash drive has all the speed and functionality which you need to store and protect your data. You get exceptional speed with this lightweight device which fits easily in your pocket.
The USB flash drive is built to withstand up to 750 Psi pressures, -13F to +200F temperatures, and is water resistant to 98 feet. This is a tough and durable device.
This is also a fast device. You can read data at 150MB/s and write data at 60MB/s. This is what you get with a 3.1 USB drive, and the device is also backward compatible with USB 3.0 and 2.0.
With a simple plug and play design, this small device is rugged and fit seamlessly into your life.
- Durable and lightweight
- 64GB storage
- Impact and pressure resistant
- Water resistant
Patriot Supersonic Boost XT 128GB USB Flash Drive
You get a lot of storage with this device. With 128GB and the option for more, this device can store a lot of your photos and movies. With a 150MB/s read speed, you can stream those movies directly from the stick. The high-speed USB 3.0 is also backward compatible and can be used with almost any operating system, including Windows, Linux, and Mac OS.
The durable and rugged housing is crafted from rubber, making it tough and protective. The de-vice can be dropped without any damage to the electronics and data inside. It protects the flash drive from the elements and provides great grip when you are handling the device.
This is a solid product with fast speeds and a lot of storage space.
- USB 3.0
- 128GB storage
- 150MB/s read speed
- Water resistant
Caraele Metallic USB Flash Drive
This is one of the best looking USB drives which you will see. It has a sleek metallic design which is elegant and functional. Best of all, it has a ton of storage at an affordable price.
The rugged and tough design means that the device is waterproof, shockproof, temperature-proof, magnetic-proof, and x-ray-proof. Whew! The device is also durable. You can drop it, step on it, even hit it with a hammer (though, please don’t), and it will probably hold up. It is hard to scratch this USB flash drive, and the metal casing will help to dissipate heat and weight.
Along with being tough, it is extremely functional. This USB 2.0 drive is compatible with Windows and Mac and is a plug & play device. With lots of speed, you can transfer photos and movies with ease.
This is a solid USB flash drive which can be used for a very long time.
- USB 2.0
- 256GB storage
- Aluminum housing
GorillaDrive 3.0 Ruggedized 64GB USB Flash Drive (2-Pack)
What is better than on rugged flash drive? How about two rugged flash drives? For one low price, you can get two great drives which are going to last, giving you twice the storage and double the options.
These devices are durable. With a name like Gorilla Drive, you know that you are getting something tough, and they are definitely solid and well-built.
The two USB flash drives are pressure and impact resistant to 250 PSI, temperature resistant to 225F, and water resistant to 65 feet. Take this USB device anywhere, and your data will be protected. There is also a metal loop on the end of the device so that you can secure it easily to your person or accessories.
With USB 3.0, you have a lot of speed, and plug & play functionality. It does not matter if you are using Windows, Mac, or a gaming console, simply plug it in, and you are good to go.
Two great devices at one low price.
- USB 3.0
- 64GB storage
- Water resistant
STNTUS Innovations Encrypted USB Flash Drive (Military Grade)
Storing your data is one thing, but protecting it from others is a completely different matter. If you have sensitive data which you need to store, then this encrypted (AES XTS 256-bit standard) USB flash drive will do it for you.
This is a military grade device, so you know that you are getting something high-quality and durable. Each device has a unique ID, and you can recover your password from the company if you ever forget it (they’ll send you a recovery password to unlock you USB flash drive). With password protection, only you are going to see what is on the device.
With 32GB of storage, you can store a lot of information on here and have it protected. The device is also compatible with numerous operating systems, including Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android.
If you want, you have the option of using this device as a regular USB flash drive, with or without the encryption.
With a solid zinc alloy shell, this USB drive is waterproof, dust-proof, shock-proof, and tough.
- USB 2.0
- 32GB storage
Ruichenxi Waterproof 64GB USB Flash Drive
Another completely metallic USB flash drive which is packed with functionality. The nickel plated aluminum casing is durable and tough and keeps the device lightweight and small while also offering a lot of protection.
This USB flash drive is completely resistant to water, dust, static, magnetism, and high temperatures. The metal buckle on the back allows you to add this to your keychain (it is small enough not to get in the way), or to your clothes or bag. It is a practical USB drive which looks amazing.
You get a lot of compatibility with this amazing drive, and it is able to connect to computers, smart TVs, music players, and other digital devices.
An elegant and stylish device which benefits from being plug and play.
- USB 2.0
- 64GB storage