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The best USB flash drives: Data on the go

Choosing the very best portable storage for you.
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Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Contributor on

It's easy to think that, with the popularization of cloud storage, the days of needing to carry data with us on a storage device are over. But you'd be wrong.

While cloud storage is great for certain things -- documents, images, and such stuff -- it can become unwieldy if you need access to large amounts of data quickly. Also, you're constantly relying on having a good internet connection.

One of the most convenient ways to carry data with you when you're out and about is a USB flash drive.

Yes, it's 2022, and USB flash drives are still relevant.

Apricorn Aegis Secure Key 3 NXC 128GB

Secure your data!

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The Apricorn Aegis Secure Key 3 NXC has become my absolute go-to USB flash drive for anything that I want to keep locked away from snooping eyes. I've been using one now for many months and it's one of those things that fits so well into my workflow.

It's highly reliable and offers superb peace of mind because all the data remains encrypted at all times.

Tech specs:

  • FIPS 140-2 Level 3 Validation
  • 256-BIT AES-XTS hardware encryption
  • USB 3.2 with USB Type-C connector
  • Powered from USB port and internal battery
  • Separate admin and user modes
  • Software-free authentication and operation

Pros:

  • Securely encrypts your data

Cons:

  • Bulky drive
  • Expensive

SanDisk Ultra Dual Drive Luxe 1TB

Convenience of USB-C and USB-A

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This flash drive really comes into its own when I'm moving data between systems that have USB-A and USB-C and don't want to bother with a wireless solution.

I really appreciate having a high-capacity drive that can work with both new and legacy devices.

Tech specs:

  • Reversible USB Type-C/Type-A connector

Pros:

  • Compact design
  • Compatible with PCs, Macs, smartphones and tablets
  • Large capacities available

Cons:

  • More expensive than a regular drive

Lexar JumpDrive S47 128GB

Thumbnail-sized storage

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These drives are in that category of "plug in and forget" and are really handy for keeping in the car if that has a USB-A port and you want to have a library that's separate to your smartphone.

I find these are also great for plugging into smart TV systems and for creating small backups to store in a safe in case of disasters. 

Tech specs:

  • Low-profile, compact plug-and-stay design
  • Stores and transfer content quickly with USB 3. 1 performance up to 250MB/s read
  • Securely protects files using DataVault Lite software, an advanced security solution with 256-bit AES encryption
  • USB 3.1 (Gen1) enabled; backwards compatible with USB 3.0 and 2.0 devices

Pros:

  • Compact design
  • Cheap

Cons:

  • No USB-C support

SanDisk Ultra Flair 128GB

Cheap and cheerful!

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These are my go-to drives when I want something cheap and cheerful around the office and encryption isn't an issue. 

They're compact enough to carry around and robust enough to withstand regular use.

They're also stylish and reliable enough that you can give them to clients as gifts.

Tech specs:

  • High-speed USB 3.0 performance of up to 150MB/s
  • USB-A connector

Pros:

  • Compact design
  • Cheap

Cons:

  • No USB-C support

Lexar JumpDrive S50 16GB

Cheap twin-pack

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I keep these around because there's always someone who wants to borrow a drive. 

With these I've got fresh, clean drives that are priced as such that I don't worry if I never see them again (in fact, to be honest, I never want to get a drive back that's been out of my control).

Tech specs:

  • USB-A connector

Pros:

  • Cheap
  • Twin-pack

Cons:

  • No USB-C support
  • Bulky

iStorage datAshur PRO² 16GB

Rugged and high-security

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This is another fantastic encrypted drive that I use for legacy devices that feature USB-A. 

This drive is also super-robust and is perfectly at home in the great outdoors as it is in a smart office. 

Tech specs:

  • PIN authenticated hardware encrypted USB Flash Drive
  • Will work on any device with a USB port, no software is required
  • FIPS 140-2 Level 3 certified
  • Portable, rugged, dust & water resistant (IP68 certified)
  • Up to 168MB/s read speeds, up to 116MB/s write speeds
  • USB-A connector

Pros:

  • Secure
  • Fast
  • Reliable

Cons:

  • No USB-C support
  • Bulky

Kingston Data Traveler Locker + G3 32GB

Automatic cloud backup

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Having a backup on a USB flash drive is great, but it's even better to have both a local backup and a backup in the cloud.

That's what the Kingston Data Traveler Locker + G3 offers. Yes, you can always find ways to do this, but this makes it easy!

This drive is also super-robust, and I'm pretty sure it could survive some very significant abuse.

Tech specs:

  • Automatic USB to Cloud by ClevX backup option (Windows & Mac)
  • Durable metal casing with built-in key loop
  • Hardware encryption
  • Password protection
  • USB-A connector

Pros:

  • No USB-C support
  • End cap easily lost

Cons:

  • No USB-C support
  • Bulky

 

Verbatim ToughMAX 64GB

Super tough

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If I need to take a backup into the outdoors, then this is a go-to for me. I've dropped this into mud, trodden on it, got it soaking wet in the rain, and it just keeps on working.

For a cheap drive, this one is quite amazing.

Tech specs:

  • Extremely durable
  • Water-resistant, crush-resistant and temperature-resistant
  • Made from proprietary KyronMAX hiugh-strength plastic
  • Password-protection software (Windows only)

Pros:

  • Tough
  • Cheap
  • Compact

Cons:

  • 64GB is the biggest you can get
  • Cap easily lost

Why do you not list flash drive speeds for all drives?

First, a lot of manufacturers don't list it, and secondly, it's so dependent on the host system the drive is connected to that I don't find it a useful metric anymore.

What are your thoughts on encryption?

I find hardware-based encryption to be really good. You unlock the drive, and everything stays encrypted at all times. But I find software encryption to be not that useful and not something I'd rely on.

How reliable are the keys on the drives with their own built-in keyboards?

I had concerns when I first started using them, but they're actually very reliable.

How reliable are cheap drives?

I've never had one fail through a defect. I've either lost them or broken them through carelessness


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