Many (most?) of us use USB flash drives at least every so often, and they are extremely cool, convenient devices. When you use flash drives under the Windows operating system, it shows up in "My Computer" as a removable device. There is bit on the device, which can be set to either a "one" or a "zero" which Windows interprets as the device being either a fixed disk, such as a hard drive, or a removable disk, such as a flash drive. Most of the time, this doesn't matter.
However, if you would like to partition your USB flash drive under Windows, and/or access beyond the first partition under Windows, you have only two choices:
1) Install a filter driver, which tricks Windows into thinking the device is fixed.
2) Use a utility to flip the removable bit to indicate that the device is fixed.
Other operating systems do not give a hoot about whether the device reports itself as fixed or not, and under, for example, GParted, you can partition away to your heart's content.
The problem with Number One, installing a filter driver, is that the device will only appear to be a fixed disk on the computer you install the driver on, and therefore, the partitions will only be accessible on the same machine you installed the driver on. This is not feasible in a world where we are constantly moving around, and further, not every computer may allow us to do this. The problem with Number Two is that only certain USB flash drives support flipping the removable bit, using Lexar's utility BootIt. The utility only works on the firmware of certain flash drives.
1) Has anyone had success flipping the removable bit on the Lexar Jumpdrive Lightning 4GB, part number JDP4GB-231 or the Lexar Jumpdrive Lightning 4GB, part number JDP4GB-431? Lexar used to use the twice-as-fast, longer lived SLC flash in the Jumpdrive, but I do not know whether the final round of 4GB Lightning drives are MLC (slow) or SLC (fast) since Lexar abandoned SLC in favor of the slower, cheaper, MLC memory.
2/22/10 5:24 P.M.
I just got off the phone with tech support at Lexar. They confirmed that all Jumpdrive Lightnings are SLC. This is good news. However, it does not answer, and the tech could not answer, my original question, which is "Does the Lightning support flipping the removable bit?"
Has anyone been able to flip the removable bit on this drive?
NOTE: If you decide to give it a shot and the drive melts/explodes/zips into space, I am not responsible. More likely, though, nothing negative will happen; it simply will or will not work in flipping the removable bit.
2) Are there any other modern flash drives which you have had success in flipping the removable bit? By "modern," I mean a flash drive easily purchased in the United States, Canada, U.K., Europe, etc.
I thought it might be cool to keep track of some of those drives here:
Flash Drives Confirmed Working (initial list re-printed with permission of Uwe Sieber):
- Lexar Jumpdrive Lightning II Part: JDP4GB-140-5000 (confirmed by LEDAdd1ct on 5/17/11)
- Corsair Flash Voyager 8 GB
- Corsair Flash Voyager 16 GB
- Corsair Flash Voyager GT 4 GB (VID_1B1C&PID_1A90)
- Corsair Flash Voyager GT 16 GB
- Corsair Flash Survivor 32GB
- OCZ Rally2 32 GB
- OCZ Rally2 Turbo 8 GB
- OCZ ATV 4GB
- Buffalo Firestixx 1 GB (RUF2-S)
- Buffalo Super High Speed USB Flash Type R 8 GB
- Super Talent Pico-C Chrom 8GB
- Intenso USB Drive 8 GB Slim Line
- Sony Tiny Vault 2GB
- LG USB Drive 2 GB (UB2GVMS01)
- Ativa 325-300 16GB
- PQI Intelligent Drive i820 4 GB (8 GB does not!)
- Powerram mini Pro (16GB)
- Verbaitim 4 GB Store' n Go
- Corsair Flash Voyager 32GB (NON-GT)
Flash Drives Confirmed Working by Me or Others (not on the initial list)
- OCZ Rally2 4GB with SMI controller chip (added May 2, 2011)
Drive: OCZ Rally2 4GB with SMI chip
The OCZ Rally2 4GB with SMI controller ship can easily be made to be seen as a fixed disk by using a special utility. I will post a link to the utility shortly. I can't believe I had this drive sitting upstairs in my room, unused, even when making the initial post in this thread! The important thing to remember is that the BootIt utility released by Lexar years ago is not the only way to flip the removable bit. The BootIt utility by Lexar works with certain chips, though I am unsure which. Other chip manufacturers may release other programs which work with their chips, too, though the directions may be different. I now have three different FAT32 partitions on my OCZ Rally2 4GB, and can confirm them visible on at least two different machines, with no filter driver installed. *big thumbs up*
Drive: Super Talent (any drive)
From the many, many reviews online, particularly on Amazon, Super Talent's drives get very poor ratings, with failing drives under one year of ownership. I would steer clear.
Drive: Ativa 325-300 16GB
This drive was on my list since it was available cheaply; in fact, I nearly bid on one on e-Bay. Two things:
a) I asked the e-Bay seller to test the drive with BootIt, and it did not work.
b) This drive gets horrible reviews! Office Depot had reviews nearly all stating the drive absolutely stunk, failing at a very, very high rate. During the course of this research, I discovered that Ativa is using TLC, Tri Level Chips, a much, much stinkier sibling of SLC and MLC memory. This "3LC" can fail after only ten or so writes! I would definitely avoid Ativa.
Drive: Power RAM Mini Pro 16GB
This drive looks good on paper, but careful examination of their drives makes them look suspiciously like a distributor/reseller of Super Talent memory, which as noted above, has a high failure rate. I can't prove this (yet?), but if you look at their website here and here you can see many of the USB flash drives look identical to Super Talent's offerings. Anyone who can confirm this—please let us know.
Not to be a Pessimist, but...
Device manufacturers can and do switch the chips they use to access the actual flash. Whether or not Lexar's BootIt will work is contingent upon that flash having a compatible firmware/chip. So, it is possible to purchase a drive one month, and have the Lexar utility work, and purchase a drive a month later, and be unable to change it to a fixed disk. :-(
How This Works
If you are feeling helpful, brave, or especially curious:
1) Download Lexar's BootIt and unzip
2) Insert your USB flash drive
3) Click "Flip Removable Bit"
4) Remove and re-insert your USB flash drive
5) Go to "My Computer"
How does your USB flash drive appear? If it still appears as a removable device, oh well; you gave it a shot. If it now appears as "fixed disk," please post in this thread, and I will add it to the master list. I tried it on all three of my current flash drives, to no avail.
Here's some more reading on the subject:
<---download the tool here
...and for a ton of tools so alter the firmware on many, many USB devices, see here
(the site is in Russian—sorry)
EDIT: 5/17/11 7:24 P.M. EDT
I, LEDAdd1ct, hereby do declare and decree that out of the flash drives listed above, there is a winner among them which satisfies my key criteria in finding a flash drive that satisfactorily answers the question implicit in the thread title. What flash drive is it? Why, none other than the Lexar Lightning 4GB flash drive. Here is why:
These drives have been discontinued by Lexar, and so are quite hard to find. Worse, it is hard to determine if they are genuine. However, I just purchased a pair of these drives, and before I continue with their merits, let me state that this drive can be had for under eleven dollars.
2) Chip Type / Speed
There are now three types of cells seen in USB flash memory drives.
SLC = Single Level Cell
MLC = Multi Level Cell
TLC or 3LC = Tri Level Cell
They are are fastest and most reliable in this order:
A prominent gentleman in a flash company (I honestly don't remember which one) told me that if the write/read speed is in a ratio of 2:3 or better, than the drive is most likely SLC. Worse than that, and it is likely MLC. This was before TLC came out, but if it is worse than 2:3, it is either MLC or 3LC/TLC.
I measured writes of 24.4 megs a second and reads of 30.2 megs a second on my two Lexar Lightning 4GB drives. This is better than the 2:3 ratio described above, and almost guarantees that the drives have SLC chips.
Finally, the last, and arguably the reason to own this drive is...
3) The Ability to Flip the Removable Bit!
Using Lexar's own BootIt utility, the drive easily switched from being seen as a removable device to being seen as a fixed disk. One can easily partition, backup, and generally manipulate the disk however you like, as programs which throw a tantrum with removable devices work perfectly now. The rare program which works better in one state is easily placated: if the program likes to see a fixed disk but the BIOS of the device you are using it in prefers to see a removable device, then use the application with the device flag set to fixed, and then flip the bit. After removing and reinserting the device, it will now show as removable.
4) Other Notes
The official name of this drive is the Lexar Jumpdrive Lightning II, JDP4GB-140-5000. Several customer service reps at Lexar informed me that the center figure, "140," refers to the batch number. There are other, higher numbers, which suggest that this drive is from an earlier batch.
If I were feeling particularly daring, I would crack open the plastic/metal housing, and examine the controller and flash chip inside to see what they say. Using Chipgenuis (see the link with flash tools provided above) I get the following output with the drive plugged in:
"Device Name: ++USB Mass Storage Device(Lexar JD Lightning II USB Device)
PnP Device ID: VID = 05DC PID = A712
Serial Number: 5DD2BC05055722051207
Device Type: Standard USB device - USB2.0 High-Speed
Chip Vendor: (No match record)
Chip Part-Number: (No match record)
Product Vendor: Lexar
Product Model: JD Lightning II
Tools on Web: (N/A)"
Although I am sorry that the chip vendor and chip part number are not available, this is not the only way to determine that the drive is likely genuine and not a cheap knockoff. I used the H2testw utility to write until the drive was full and then read back the data and compute a hash to verify the physical integrity of the drive. It passed perfectly.
Finally, the read and write speeds H2testw spit out are in alignment with what one would expect to see from an SLC chip paired with a high quality controller. Here is the output from H2testw:
"Test finished without errors.
You can now delete the test files *.h2w or verify them again.
Writing speed: 24.4 MByte/s
Reading speed: 30.2 MByte/s
We get a ratio of about 4:5 (I rounded, but not by much) which is well within what one can expect from an SLC chip and a fast controller. My test machine and main computer has a Wolfdale E8400 and 3.6 gigs of accessible memory, which means on a newer platform you might see even faster speeds.
In my humble opinion, this is the drive to get. It meets my key requirements, namely:
-it can be had for under eleven bucks
-it has SLC chips
-it is fast
-the removable media bit is easily flipped by Lexar's own BootIt utility
This drive will allow you to play with different partitions, ISOs, filesystems, you name it, and is very fast to boot (pun intended). If you see this drive and are a computer hobbyist who enjoys tinkering with different operating systems, and, for that matter, portable operating systems, I encourage you to trade for/purchase this drive at once.
EDIT: 5/6/11 11:17 A.M. EDT
On Identifying Fakes
See this article here and this article here
EDIT: 5/6/11 2:13 P.M. EDT
Here is a link to handy flash tools. The file is only 1.78 megs. Use them at your own risk. Enjoy!