How Does A Flash Drive Work: Helpful Guide For Beginners!

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By Linda J
By Linda J
Last Modified March 18, 2020

Flash memory is a form of electronic data storage for short and medium-term data. You can find it on mobile phones, cameras, music players, tablets, and small laptops. It serves its purpose of convenience but it’s not the ideal storage device for data back-up.

You’ll learn more about this when we answer the question “How does a flash drive work?” It has read and writes data at different speeds. For example, a drive can read from a range of 68 MB/s and write at 46 MB/s if it is a 3.0 USB drive while another drive with higher specs could read at 92 MB/s and write at 70 MB/s.

If you need Flash drive recovery service assistance, do not hesitate to connect with one of our data recovery experts.

A Brief History of Flash Memory

How does a flash drive work Flash Drive History | TTR Data Recovery

In 1980, Japanese engineer Dr. Fujio Masuoka invented the flash memory while working for Toshiba. It was Masuoka’s colleague, Shoji Ariizumi, who suggested the name “flash” as it reminded him of a camera flash. In 1984, Masuoka presented his invention at the Integrated Electronics Devices Meeting in San Jose, California.

Intel Corporation saw the potential in his invention and decided to introduce the very first commercial NOR type flash chip in 1988.

Flash memory was able to empower a new generation of data storage devices. This new memory technology allowed us to store data even when the memory device is disconnected from its power source. Since then, the world saw the evolution of flash memory from NOR-based flash to NAND flash.

Moreover, it has become a preferred storage media option for a number of consumers, as well as industrial devices.

Examples of Flash Memory

  • NAND Flash memory
    NAND Flash memories are structured differently from NOR because it is accessed by block devices like hard disks. When you read data using a NAND Flash memory, it pages into memory-mapped RAM, which means a memory management unit is essential for faster data transfer and download.
  • NOR Flash memory
    The NOR Flash memory, on the other hand, works like a traditional ROM. It can erase and write functions and commands of a mapped memory.

How Does a Flash Drive Work?

How Does A Flash Drive Work Flash Drive Process | Ttr Data Recovery

Flash drives serve different purposes: study aid for students, compact presentation storage for corporate workers, ease of video transfer for creatives, and store valuable photos and digital paperwork for stay-at-home moms.

That is what Dr. Masuoka had in mind when he was working on the very first flash drive prototype for Toshiba in the early 1980s. He wanted to reduce the huge bulky data storage devices into something that fits in the palm of your hand. He made it all a reality using an advanced technology called flash memory.

Keep in mind that flash memory is considered as non-volatile. This means that flash drives won’t require batteries for back-up. It is quite similar to conventional hard drives, only that flash memory eases the process of storing and transferring data.

  • How does a flash drive work physics?
    NAND Flash memories are structured differently from NOR because it is accessed by block devices like hard disks. When you read data using a NAND Flash memory, it pages into memory-mapped RAM, which means a memory management unit is essential for faster data transfer and download.
  • How does a dual USB drive work?
    Recently, SanDisk announced its very first dual USB drive to the world. A dual USB drive is basically a combination of solid-state drives and hard disk drives. You’ll notice that it will run faster than an HDD and would have more storage capacity than an SSD, but it’s a lot slower than an SDD and smaller than an HDD in terms of storage capacity.
  • How does a flash drive work on a computer?
    Since flash drives do not require any additional drivers, it automatically presents a block-structured logical unit to your computer once it is plugged in. It’s used to run lightweight operating systems that treat flash drives like any other hard drive. Once it enters the emulation mode, data transfer between your computer and the flash drive becomes much easier.

    Similarly, this process is the same for when you use a flash drive on a laptop. Some of the top flash drive brands include SanDisk, PNY, and Kingston.
  • How does a flash drive work on an iPhone?
    This is a special flash drive that has a USB port on one end and a lightning port on the other. It works the same as an ordinary flash drive, the only difference is that you’ll need to install an app on your iPhone to actually manage your files. The sad part is that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all way to use an iOS flash drive.

    Each brand has its very own proprietary app for managing files.
  • How does a flash drive work? Is it different from a wireless flash drive?
    To understand how a wireless flash drive work, you must first go back to the question “How does a flash drive work?” You connect it to your computer, then transfer your files to the device. With the wireless flash drive, this becomes an external storage device that you can stream content to both tablets and smartphones.

    You will need a proprietary app that will allow you to access your files.
How does a flash drive work Description | TTR Data Recovery
  • How does an encrypted flash drive work?
    Hardware-encrypted flash drives feature a small chip that is responsible for all of the encryption. Furthermore, it is also tasked to configure a small logical volume and a larger one where your stored data goes. Think of this as something similar to hidden drive partitions.

    As soon as you plug it in your computer, you are prompted to enter a password. Every time you will access the drive, you would need to input the password.
  • How does a flash drive work? What about an iXpand flash drive?
    The iXpand flash drive works similarly with an encrypted flash drive as it lets you password protect your files. By simply plugging in the lightning connector, you are able to transfer files from your device to the drive. From there, you can transfer the files to your computer.
  • How does OneDrive work as RAM?
    OneDrive is the cloud services offered by Microsoft. It functions the same way as Google’s Google Drive or Apple’s iCloud. It is a way for people to store and even exchange data online.

    On another note, RAM is considered as your computer’s main memory. Although a lot has been said about OneDrive having high CPU usage, there are several methods to prevent it from eating up your RAM. Some users would unlink OneDrive, while others would disable certain options from the OneDrive settings.

What are the Different Types of Flash Drives?

How Does A Flash Drive Work Types Of Flash Drive | Ttr Data Recovery

Now that you’ve answered the question “How does a flash drive work?” let’s proceed to the different types of flash drives.

  • Standard Drives
    Standard flash drives are the best option if you are looking for maximum capacity without breaking the bank. This type of flash drive offers ample storage options in several variants. Even though its control circuitry is not the best in the market, there are users who would still invest in this flash drive type.
  • High-Performance Drives
    If you are in need of a flash drive that caters to the professional sector, you may want to invest in a high-performance drive. This type uses materials that are of high-quality and shock-resistant. It also has better read and write cycles and an enhanced USB drive speed.

    Most of the users who value critical data storage would opt for this flash drive type.
  • Secure Pen Drives
    How does a flash drive work? Is it the same as a secure pen drive? Firstly, pen drives are known as “memory sticks” used to store and move information from your computer.

    Pen drives may use USB technology but it is more of a data storage device rather than a data transfer technology. With secure pen drives, users get an additional layer of security as it restricts access to the stored data on your computer. This flash drive type is often used by government agencies and private corporations to prevent data theft and unrestricted access.
  • Music Flash Drives
    As the name suggests, music flash drives are used to save and transfer music from one device to another. These are often used by those in the music industry. You’ll notice that music flash drives tend to be miniature in size to cater to those who like to have music-on-the-go.
  • Credit Card Flash Drives
    Credit card flash drives are not actually credit cards. Instead, they are made to look like one so that you can fit it snugly into your wallet. Some would even customize their flash drives to display their name with a matching fake credit card number.

    The appearance may change but it would still provide the same answer to the question “How does a flash drive work?”

Flash Memory Pros and Cons

How Does A Flash Drive Work Flash Drive Pros And Cons | Ttr Data Recovery

When figuring out if you should get a flash drive or invest in expensive External Hard Drives instead, you should weigh in on the advantages and disadvantages that come with the flash memory used in flash drives. Remember the answer to the question “How does a flash drive work?” Take this into account before choosing the right storage device for you.

Flash Memory Pros

  • It has non-volatile memory.
  • Flash memory is designed for on-the-go devices. (e.g. USB memory sticks, camera flashcards, etc).
  • It’s mechanically robust and has lesser chances of having mechanical failure than hard drives.

Flash Memory Cons

  • Flash memory is more costly.
  • It is also slower.
  • It has limited read and write data capabilities.

Parts of a Flash Drive

How does a flash drive work Parts of Flash Drive | TTR Data Recovery

Even though a flash drive is small compared to other data storage devices like the HDD and SSD, it’s function packs a punch thanks to the three main parts that make up its portable and functional capabilities. Now that we have answered the question “How does a flash drive work?” let us now proceed to identify its parts.

  • The USB Connector
    People usually call the Flash Drive a USB. But in truth, the USB flash drive definition is “Universal Serial Bus” and it is a port you connect to USB outlets and it is not the device itself. A flash drive has a USB connector to insert into any USB ports on computers, televisions, and more.
  • The Memory Chip
    The flash memory chip is the part of the flash drive which stores all your important information. It’s a compact chip with different data storage capacity ranging from 2 GB to 32 GB. Sometimes even more.

    There are flash drives available out there with a 1 TB capacity now. It is protected by the flash drive’s thick plastic or metal outer case to avoid damage and data loss.
  • The LED and Crystal Oscillator
    Most flash drives have an LED light signaling users when data transfer is happening or when your flash drive is connected to your computer. Greenlight means “ready” while a red light means there’s an ongoing issue or it is currently processing.

    As for the oscillators inside your flash drive, its main function is to control the output of data transfer from your flash drive to another device.

Flash Drives When Used in Different Device Settings

How does a flash drive work Flash Drive Settings | TTR Data Recovery

If you know the answer to the question “How does a flash drive work?” then you would know that apart from computers, Flash Drives can also be used on our mobile phones. Gone are the days where you have to plug in your device onto the computer just to transfer photos, videos, and files.

  • Flash Drives for iOS Use
    The Apple iPhone and Macbook have a different Operating System and use the Cloud to transfer data from one device to another. The problem, however, is that it can only be transferred between Apple devices. But after a while, OTG or On the Go flash drives can be connected to the iPhone.

    However, they are priced higher than other flash drives used on smartphones.
  • Flash Drives for Pen Drive Use
    What is a Pen Drive? This is called that way because it’s USB port is tiny, often associated with a highlighter pen tip. It has a similar premise to that of iOS flash drives.

    The Pen Drive is used on smartphones with Android ports.

Common Flash Drive Problems

How does a flash drive work Commom Flash Drive Problem | TTR Data Recovery
  • Damaged USB Connectors
    Learning the answer to the question “How does a flash drive work?” is not enough. Since the USB is a protruding part of a flash drive, it is prone to mechanical issues and physical damage. When accidents occur like dropping it or stepping on it by accident, it is more likely to bend or break.
  • Failing NAND Chips
    NAND chips are susceptible to corruption when it overheats. When plugged in far too long to a high-powered computer, the rising heat on the inside will make your NAND chips fall off the Printed Circuit Board.
  • File System Corruption
    Flash drives usually do not have an internal virus detection and extraction system. So when you plug it in a computer with a virus, your flash drive will get infected immediately. Depending on the severity of the computer bug, your flash drive will encounter a file system failure to total data loss.

    Now that you’re equipped with an in-depth knowledge of how does a flash drive works, you can make your compact data storage last longer. Should you encounter difficulty, trust the experts at TTR Data Recovery to help you troubleshoot any flash drive issues you’re experiencing.