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Thread: thumb drive?

  1. #1

    Default thumb drive?

    So its time to update some of my data backups. I like to have a few thumb drives with critical documents saved, placed in a fire safe as well as a faraday setup. How long can a flash drive be reliably stored without compromising the data?

    Below is my upgraded outline for document backup...

    BOB and EMP thumb drive
    MARK ICE (In Case of Emergency)

    Gov ID's
    Driver License
    Birth certs
    Social Security Cards
    marriage cert
    med docs (eg vaccines)
    health insurance
    auto insurance
    home owners insurance
    bank accounts
    credit card accounts
    real estate
    wills/dpoa/advance directives
    current family photos
    important family photos
    emergency contacts
    bug out routes?

  2. #2
    *Flashaholic* StarHalo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    California Republic

    Default Re: thumb drive?

    The issue isn't how long the media lasts, it's how long the media is viable; everyone who so studiously backed everything up to CDs only a decade ago are probably now realizing that no modern computers come with a disc player of any kind, and most people have long since replaced their box-of-cables desktop with a tablet anyway. It's going to be a problem if someone dies and you have some pictures on a disc, but nothing that reads a disc - it defeats the purpose of backing up if you have to go buy outmoded hardware and figure out how to connect it to modern devices just to get your data.

    If your thumb drive is a "regular USB" [USB-A] type, it'll be good for maybe 2-3 more years if you're still using devices that have regular USB ports on them, after that anything you buy or use will most likely have only USB-C ports of one size or another on it. I can say personally that I have a large pile of modern tablets, phones, and laptops, and none of them have a standard USB port; I could read your key using an adapter cable, which would work for someone trying to read your key in the coming few years, but then what format would come after that..

    So it's just a fact of life that whatever the physical copies of your data is on will have to be updated every decade or so. The rule is one physical copy on-site, one physical copy off-site, and one cloud copy; even if you know nothing about the cloud, you'll find out really quickly that it's the easiest of the three to actually use - once the files are in place, any computer or device you use, even if it's not yours, can access anything you put there, no cables/media/compatibility/etc. Now when the someone dies, you just click right to the pictures on whatever device you currently have in your hands.

  3. #3
    archimedes's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    CONUS, top left

    Default Re: thumb drive?

    Some good points are mentioned in this brief summary ...

    TL;DR ... flash memory is not very stable (over a time course of ~ years, let alone decades)
    Last edited by archimedes; 09-15-2019 at 02:12 PM.
    ... is the archimedes peak

  4. #4

    Default Re: thumb drive?

    Quote Originally Posted by archimedes View Post
    Some good points are mentioned in this brief summary ...

    TL;DR ... flash memory is not very stable (over a time course of ~ years, let alone decades)
    Most magnetic media is prone to particle drift over time. Old school, but a portable CD burner shouldn't be ruled out.
    "It's not rocket surgery"

  5. #5
    *Flashaholic* Str8stroke's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
    On The Black Pearl

    Default Re: thumb drive?

    Best to save a copy "offsite". Send one to me for safe storage.

    Seriously, I have two drives with most of my info. Pictures that can't be replaced (before the clouds) are backed up on 3 SSD's. All in wrapped in a bunch of Aluminum foil in waterproof Pelican cases, in fire resistant Cash boxes, in fire resistant safes on bottom floor near a outside wall away from plumbing. Most safes will give you something like a hour, I figure this way they have a few hours to survive. If after all that I loose them, Oh well.
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  6. #6
    Administrator Kestrel's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Willamette Valley, OR

    Default Re: thumb drive?

    Email the document to yourself & move it to the email archive / 'saved' / etc.

    and of course, retain a couple of flash drives - desktop computers will have the older usb ports for as long as we're still using mice, lol.

    I've done very well with Samsung flash drives, over the past ~15 yrs or so.

    Edit: oh, and the file in DropBox / Google drive / etc.
    Last edited by Kestrel; 09-15-2019 at 03:36 PM.

  7. #7
    *Flashaholic* StarHalo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    California Republic

    Default Re: thumb drive?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kestrel View Post
    desktop computers will have the older usb ports for as long as we're still using mice, lol.
    The last desktop computer and mouse (trackball!) I owned/used was in 2009.

    One of the laptops that replaced that computer had a CD drive, I had it until ~2012, that was the last device I owned with a CD/disc drive.

    I got this MacBook in 2017, the older model it replaced was the last device I owned with standard USB-A ports or card media slots.

    If you're going the USB key route, you might consider using a USB-C key, as it will be more ubiquitous over the coming few years.

  8. #8

    Default Re: thumb drive?

    A dual layer bluray burner can put up to 50gb on certain discs
    a single sunbeam is enough to drive away many shadows- St. Francis of Assissi

  9. #9
    *Flashaholic* PhotonWrangler's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    In a handbasket

    Default Re: thumb drive?

    Another note on thumb drive longevity -

    Some of them can be trashed by dropping on a hard surface. One of the heaviest items on the PCB inside the drive is the clock oscillator crystal, and sometimes they can pop loose from their solder pads. While this doesn't kill the data stored in it's memory, it renders it impossible to retrieve it or write anything more on it. If a drive fails in this manner (a dead controller) you could theoretically buy another drive of the same type and swap parts, but this requires microsoldering which is extremely difficult for the average Joe to accomplish.

  10. #10

    Default Re: thumb drive?

    As for the remark of USB obsoleting USB A thumb drives that isn't a problem just get a USB C male to USB A female adapter for it as long as it is truly USB should be backwards compatible in fact Apple, Walmart, Target and other places sell them online now. If you are worried about damaged USB thumb drives you can simple get an SD card or micro SD card and a reader for it. In reality backing up data should have you making multiple copies of it on multiple devices. Depending on the data you can back up a lot on a 8 GB of space which means a Dual Layer DVD-R or BDR or USB stick or SD card of external hard drive or the cloud ot a laptop or your phone or tablet or whatever.
    The more copies you have of it spread around the less chance ALL of them will be lost/destroyed.
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