While many of us have moved our entire lives to the cloud, flash drives continue to represent one of the most convenient physical ways to transport data. Whether it’s for local backup or to boot an operating system, there are quite a few different choices out there for your pen drive storage solution. From flash drives that are small as your thumb tip to options that will survive some of the harshest working environments, here are the best flash drives available and why we think they’re such great choices.
The best flash drives at a glance
- The best flash drive: SanDisk Cruzer
- The best USB-C flash drive: SanDisk Ultra Dual Drive
- The best rugged flash drive: Corsair Flash Survivor Stealth
- The best secure flash drive: Kingston Digital Data Traveler Locker+ G3
- The best compact flash drive: Samsung FIT Plus
Why you should buy this: It’s a reliable flash drive available in a wide variety of capacities.
Who’s it for: Anyone who needs a flash drive to move data between machines.
Why we picked the SanDisk Cruzer:
SanDisk is no stranger when it comes to the world of flash drive storage; in fact, you’ll see the SanDisk brand name pop up a few more times throughout this guide. The Cruzer has stood as the company’s most popular option for storing and transporting data, whether documents, photos, videos, or music. SanDisk even includes a free piece of software so that you can software-encrypt your most private files.
The Cruzer can be purchased in various capacities from 16GB up to 256GB — all for prices that don’t make you feel like you’ve paid an arm and a leg. USB 2.0 speeds allow for decent transfer rates, but users with large files may want to look at our other USB 3.0 options. The retractable USB port is also a nice touch that helps make the drive more compact and prevent itself from becoming damaged.
Why you should buy this: It connects to both USB-A and USB-C ports without hassle.
Who’s it for: Those who have a computer with a new USB-C style port.
Why we picked the SanDisk Ultra Dual Drive:
Technology never stops evolving, and that’s why you’ve likely seen a new computer, such as Apple’s MacBook Pro, sporting USB-C ports. If you’re working on a laptop with USB-C ports, you can either grab an adapter to use your older flash drives or pick up a new fancy option such as this SanDisk Ultra Dual Drive. A sleek little package, this flash drives stores connectors that allow it to interface with both traditional USB-A ports and newer USB-C ports.
Available in various capacities from 16GB to 256GB, it lets you store a few documents or load up a collection of movies for a road trip. USB-C allows the drive to connect with ease to many modern Android smartphones and iPad Pro tablets. USB-C and USB 3.1 also enable this drive to operate faster than previous USB 2.0 drives with speeds up to 150 MB/s.
Why you should buy this: It’s a tough drive that stands up to the elements.
Who’s it for: Individuals who need a flash drive that can survive in harsh environments.
Why we picked the Corsair Flash Survivor Stealth:
Do you need to throw your flash drive into a camping bag — or need it to survive environments that get a bit wet and dirty? The Corsair Flash Survivor Stealth is one hell of a flash drive that is up to the challenge. Designed from CNC-milled anodized aircraft-grade aluminum, the Flash Survivor Stealth is waterproof to 200M with the end cap closed. The built-in molded shock-damping collar also helps to protect the unit from vibration and impact damage.
Available in a few sizes, from 32GB to 128GB, it can keep essential information protected without you needing to worry about the elements. USB 3.0 speeds support fast transfer speeds, up to four times faster than USB 2.0 alternatives. While the Corsair Flash Survivor Stealth isn’t the slimmest option on our list, it’s a flash drive that will keep working; Corsair even supplies a limited five-year warranty, standing behind its products.
Why you should buy this: It offers hardware-based encryption to secure sensitive information.
Who’s it for: Anyone transporting sensitive data, such as financial and personal records.
Why we picked the Kingston Digital Data Traveler Locker+ G3:
While other flash-drive solutions offer software encryption, the Kingston Digital Data Traveler Locker+ G3 steps it up a level by including built-in hardware-level encryption. You won’t need to install any applications; insert the flash drive as you do others, and quickly unlock the unit. Perfect for storing highly sensitive information, the flash drive can even be set to lock down and wipe itself after 10 failed login attempts.
The Data Traveler Locker+ G3 also includes a cloud backup process so that you can automatically back up your flash drive’s data to popular cloud storage services, including Google Drive, OneDrive, Dropbox, and more. Running via USB 3.0 and available in capacities from 8GB to 128GB, this drive is an excellent way to transport files without worry of them falling into the wrong hands. For those concerned, the encryption feature works across both MacOS and Windows 10 without issue.
Why you should buy this: It’s a compact flash drive that doesn’t break the bank.
Who’s it for: Those who want to plug a flash drive into their machine and leave it there.
Why we picked the Samsung FIT Plus:
Flash drives are commonly used to transport data between devices, but what if you are merely looking to increase your computer’s storage capacity? The Samsung FIT Plus flash drive is an ultra-compact option that is great for plugging into your computer and forgetting. Of course, a lanyard loop is still included if you wish to throw it on your keychain. Samsung offers the compact solution in a range of sizes, from 32GB to 256GB.
Of all, we are happiest to note that you aren’t sacrificing much beyond the drive’s compact size — the FIT Plus supports USB 3.1 and can read data at up to 200 MB/s. The FIT Plus also has a resilient body design that remains waterproof up to 732 hours in seawater and can withstand operating temperatures of –13 degrees to 185 degrees Fahrenheit. If you need to expand your machine’s storage and don’t want to worry about your flash drive’s size getting in the way, the Samsung FIT Plus is your best option.
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