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How to use a USB drive: Home

Use of USB drives, flash drives, and thumb drives.

What is a thumb drive?

A thumb drive -- also known as a jump drive, portable drive, USB drive, flash drive, or removeable drive -- is  a small storage device that can be plugged into a USB port on a computer. It is small enough to be kept on a keychain or necklace and can come in many shapes. It is treated by the computer as if it were a disk drive, but can be used to transfer files easily between computers.

Thumb drive uses

Reasons to use a thumb drive:

  • They're portable. You can save files, or even programs, on a thumb drive and use those files on any computer with an available USB port.
  • They're essential when you can't save on a public computer. Because you often can't save files on a public computer, you can save a document like a résumé on a thumb drive so you can attach it to a website, email or other document.
  • They can be used on any computer. If it's got an available USB port, you can use it, whether you're on a Mac or PC. Be careful, though; if your thumb drive needs to load "drivers" (programs with operating instructions) onto a computer, you may not be able to use it on a public computer.
  • They are available in many different storage amounts. Depending on your needs, you may have a 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, or more gigabyte thumb drive.
  • They're affordable. You can buy flash drives for as little as a few dollars.
  • They're small. You can attach them to a keychain, put them in a pocket, wear them on a necklace or slip them in a wallet, all without the bulk of a computer or even a compact disc.
  • They're durable. Compact discs are easily broken. Diskettes are easily wiped clean. Thumb drives aren't indestructable, but they're pretty strong.

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