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Last Updated: November 2020
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 that 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?
Our Top Picks
Let’s take a look at some of the most rugged USB flash drives on the market.
Corsair Flash Survivor Stealth 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.
Lexar JumpDrive Tough 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.
Patriot Supersonic Boost XT 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.
Samsung BAR Plus
With up to 400MB/s of speed, this sleek and elegant USB drive is for everyone. Not only does it look amazing, but it is also reliable, rugged, and durable too. The metal casing helps to protect the drive, adding toughness, and the keyring allows you to clip the device onto your keys so that you know exactly where it is at all times.
Of course, this device is waterproof, or it would not be here, and it is shock-proof, magnet-proof, temperature-proof, and x-ray-proof too. There is little that can damage this smart device. You can also operate the USB stick in temperatures ranging from 32ºF-140ºF.
The 3.1 flash drive is backward compatible, allowing for USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 compatibility. You can store everything on here, from music and videos to your favorite photos and important files.
A sturdy device with a minimalist design that can transfer a 3GB file in just 10 seconds.
GorillaDrive 3.0 Ruggedized Flash Drive
This device is durable. With a name like GorillaDrive, you know that you are getting something tough, and this flash drive is definitely solid and well-built.
The GorillaDrive is 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 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.
Apricorn Aegis Secure Key
To add extra security to your flash drive files, this USB stick comes with Aegis Secure Key, locking the drive behind a 7-16 digit pin. The best part is the there are number keys on the flash drive, so the keystrokes cannot be captured if the password is entered on a laptop or tablet, further protecting your files.
The USB 3.0 stick has cross-platform capability and software-free operation, allowing almost anyone to use the device. Inside, there is a tough epoxy compound, adding durability and resistance to impacts and drops. There are 2 read modes, optional self-destruct PIN, and an unattended auto-lock feature that will clear all PINS and destroy all content in the event that the flash drive is lost or stolen.
You can have up to 1T of storage, depending on the chosen model, and each drive comes with fast transfer speeds. The device is waterproof with an IP68 rating and comes with a 3-year warranty.
For the ultimate in safety, this waterproof USB is as secure as they get.
Corsair Flash Voyager GTX
This portable and waterproof flash drive gives you the speed of a solid-state drive and still fits easily into your pocket. With high-speed 3D NAND memory, you have read speeds of up to 440MB/s and write speeds that are just as fast.
You can opt between 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, and 1TB capacities, all stored within a rugged and protective zinc-alloy and aluminum casing. The USB 3.1 standard means super fast transfer speeds, and the drive works well on Windows as it does on Mac OS and Linux.
You can upload and download large field in seconds, as well as format, partition, and optimize the drive performance thanks to the CORSAIR SSD Toolbox software. No software installation is needed, making for easy and intuitive use
Lots of durability protects a spacious and quick flash drive.
What To Know Before Buying a 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.
What is the most reliable flash drive?
As long as you stay with reputable and high-end flash drive brands, your data should be safe for 10 years or more. To learn more, please read our in-depth article: How To Preserve Your Digital Photos, Videos, and Files for Decades.
Which USB flash drive is the fastest?
According to various speed tests across tech-oriented websites, the currently fastest USB flash drive is SanDisk Extreme Pro. The write speed is 264 MB/s and the read speed is 297 MB/s. The SanDisk Extreme Pro is a rugged USB flash drive, but it’s not included on our list, only because it’s not waterproof.
Are USB-C flash drives faster?
USB-C connectors are built on the Gen 2 USB 3.1 data-transfer standard and can theoretically achieve speeds up to 10 Gbps, which is twice as fast as Gen 1 USB 3.0/3.1 standard. As long as you buy a flash drive with USB 3.1 (Gen 2) standard, the speed will be the same as on a USB flash drive with the traditional (rectangle) connection type (USB Type-A).