5 Tips On How To Use A Jump Drive Without Corrupting Your Data

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how to use a jump driveA¬†jump drive, also known as a flash drive, thumb drive, memory stick, or simply USB drive, is a tiny but powerful storage device. Flash drives are cheap, small, come with sufficient storage for big files, and they are not as easily damaged as external hard drives. However, they are not entirely foolproof and there are a few basic rules you should follow so you don’t end up damaging the device or the data on it.

In this article I will show how to use your jump drive step by step, starting with when you connect the drive to your computer and ending with general tips. My tips will help you avoid data corruption, both on the flash drive and on your computer. All tips are easy to do and will help you keep your flash drive and your data safe.

1. Disable AutoRun

how to use a jump driveAutoRun is a Windows feature, which enables programs to run automatically off an external storage medium, such as a DVD or jump drive, once that medium is inserted into the computer. It is not to be confused with AutoPlay, which merely offers to launch media on the storage device in different ways. To protect the data on your computer, AutoRun should be disabled to avoid infections from malicious software running off USB flash drives connected to your computer.

The good news is that if you use Windows 7, you are pretty much safe. Microsoft reacted to the malware exploits and disabled AutoRun, except for media inserted to the computer’s optical drive. If you’re running Windows XP or Windows Vista, you should install patch KB971029 to get the same protection from AutoRun.

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More information can be found on the MSDN blog: Improvements to AutoPlay.

2. Scan Thumb Drive for Viruses

Even when AutoRun is disabled, you can still get infected by malware if it is hiding on your flash drive. If your anti-virus software offers to scan the removable drive automatically, let it do so. In case it doesn’t, you can initiate a scan manually using your installed anti-virus or anti-malware software.

Go to > My Computer, right-click the removable storage device, and select the appropriate menu item, e.g. > Scan selected files with AntiVir. The options you see in your right-click menu depend on the software that is installed on your computer.

corrupted jump drive fix

Alternatively, you can set up scanning from the AutoPlay dialogue using Microsoft Security Essentials. For step-by-step instructions on how this can be done, refer to this article on How-To Geek –¬†Scan Your Thumb Drive for Viruses from the AutoPlay Dialog

3. Avoid Working With Documents Directly From The Drive

corrupted jump drive fixIt’s convenient to carry your files with you and work directly from them using your flash drive. However, there are several problems associated with this procedure. One is addressed in the next point and the other is that a regular thumb drive can go through approximately 10,000 cycles of writing and erasing data before it will fail.

Therefore, I recommend to not save files directly to your flash drive while you are editing them. Drag & drop them to your desktop to work with them and when you are done, cut & paste them to your jump drive again. This way you have a backup on your removable drive, while you are working on a copy of the file saved to the desktop.

If you are working on a public computer however, it may be safer to work from your removable drive rather than risk forgetting the file on that desktop.

4. Safely Remove Hardware & Eject Media

The proper way to remove a jump drive (or external hard drive) from your computer, is to go through the Windows taskbar and eject the device before removing it physically. If you simply unplug it, you risk corrupting files that are still open.

To be safe, go to the Windows 7 taskbar, find the removable drive icon, click it and on the menu that pop us click > Eject Mobile Disk for the drive you wish to remove.

corrupted jump drive fix

If you get an error message that > This device is currently in use (…), then you probably have a file, folder, or program open that sits on your flash drive. Close everything and try again. If this doesn’t work, reboot your computer and remove the flash drive when Windows has logged off and before you log back into Windows again.

Once the disk has been ejected successfully, you can safely unplug your thumb drive.

5. General Hardware Tips

Unlike hard drives, jump drives do not have movable parts and are thus a lot more sturdy and less prone to physical damage. Nevertheless, a flash drive is still a piece of hardware and should be treated carefully, especially if you carry sensitive data on it. In other words, try not to drop it, keep it away from water or moisture, and don’t expose it to extreme heat.

If your flash drive did get wet, do not connect it to your computer until it has dried! If you do, an electronic shortcut will occur and destroy the hardware and data on it. This is true for most hardware by the way. Instead, store the device in a dry and warm place (40¬įC max) for at least 48 hours or use a blow-dryer at low or medium heat.

Also keep in mind that thumb drives are small and thus easily forgotten, for example in your pocket or when inserted into a public computer. Get a lanyard to reduce the risk of losing your flash drive or accidentally throwing it into the laundry.

how to use a jump drive

It’s probably a good idea to not expose a jump drive to strong magnetic fields, such as an MRI. Small magnets, however, are not to be feared. See this article from PC World –¬†Busting the Biggest PC Myths.

For more tips and tricks on how to work with your jump drive, check out The Office Worker’s 101 Guide to a USB Thumb Drive.

What do you use your flash drives for and what is the worst accident you have had with one?

Image credits: Kirill__M, GagarianART

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18 Comments - Write a Comment

Reply

Sonny Bass

I have Linux Mint-11 installed to 16GB drive, on an 8GB I have CodySafe http://www.codysafe.com/codysafe/codysafe-free-in-sketch.html  with a number of portable apps for windows,on a 4GB I have Clonezilla,PartedMagic,Dban, and Puppy 5.25 live, I also have Puppy 5.25 installed to a 1GB. I also have several that are used for various temporary uses. 

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Brandon

I accidentally left my flash drive in my pocket and it went through the washer and dryer and it still worked (and still does) completely fine.

Mike L.

Brandon, you might find that it could fail sooner than expected. What happens is that the water and soap will have reacted with the metals (solder, copper, steel) on the components and eventually they will corrode (or rust) and connections eventually break. Even if it was 100% dried out, just humidity in the air will slowly keep the process going. So use it at “risk” of unexpected permanent failure, and don’t rely on it for storage of anything you can’t easily replace. I’ve seen this happen with car remotes and MP3 players that got wet and then dried out. – Mike

Tina

Brandon,

that’s pretty awesome! But I second Mike, make sure you backup your data and don’t use it for anything important anytime soon.

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Anonymous

Rather than rebooting when you can’t safely remove your drive, you can use the tiny (only 286KB) EjectUSB portable app. It closes all the folders and prgrams running from the drive and gives a tray notification when it’s done. I use it all the time and it works nearly always. Here it is >¬†http://bit.ly/kDuMni

Tina

Great suggestion, thank you!

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Karthik Prabhu

Really nice tips Tina. I really didn’t know the 3rd one. Thanks for the info. :)

Cell Travis

Yes, I agree with #3 as well (didn’t know about that). On my office computer I pretty much used to read/write/edit files directly from the USB drive. Guess it’s better to get that file onto the desktop.

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Colin

“A¬†jump drive, also known as a flash drive, thumb drive, memory stick, or simply USB drive, is a tiny but powerful storage device.”

None of these titles are appropriate – a “jump” drive? Where did that nonsense come from?

There is also nothing to “flash”, a memory stick has long been used for the type of memory users added inside their pc (as in “stick more memory in”), and gigabyte drives are available that connect by usb, so referring to these tiny items as a “usb drive” can be confusing.

Can we just all just agree on “USB stick” – i.e. a USB drive that you can stick in your pocket? Thanks.

Tina

Technically you’re right, Colin. I also prefer the term USB stick.

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curts

Number 3 should be amended to say “unless you back up the contents regularly”.¬† I use a TrueCrypt volume and Thunderbird Portable on a thumb drive explicitly so I can take my personal email with me between home & work and when I travel.¬† It’s much handier than a portable HDD.¬† But, I backup the individual email files every day or two (except when traveling, of course), plus I backup the TrueCrypt container in case it gets corrupted by an improper shutdown (e.g. Blue Screen of Death).

Tina

Good point. If you are using your USB stick as a workhorse, you have to back up the data. 

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Srivatsan Venkatesh

Second paragraph in #5? I believe you meant “electronic short”. And another thing. My school has a virus protection software, but every time I plug my flash drive in and it scans it, everything gets corrupted. I can’t open it. And over that, I can’t even delete. This has happened several times before and the solution I’ve found is formatting it. The software is Sophos, I believe.

Tina

Srivatsan,

thanks for catching the shortcut. ;) 

Regarding your problem, I recommend asking a question on MakeUseOf Answers.

Reply

Joe Lavery

Want your USB stick returned if lost?  Use your phone# as the volume label (fourth byte alpha) e.g. 212z5551212

Tina

Awesome tip, Joe. 

You could also drop a text file with contact information on it. And be sure to encrypt the rest of the files.

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Mike Donovan

Tina, You wrote: “…a regular thumb drive can go through approximately 10,000 cycles of writing and erasing data before it will fail.”

This is true of the cheaper MLC flash drives. However, the better flash drives (high performance drives from Patriot, upper end Sandisk, etc) use SLC flash memory which have a life expectancy cycle of  approximately 100,000 writes. Ten times longer than MLC drives. In fact, it brings them much closer to hard disk drive technology which measures its life expectancy using MTBF (Mean Time Between Failures) which is currently around 600,000 hours.

Tina

Good point and completely right, Mike! I actually explained why the high performance drives have a higher life expectancy in my Officer Worker’s Guide to USB Thumb Drives. The article was getting pretty long and this bit of information was not essential, thus I dropped it.

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