Using a USB stick with and its Derivatives

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Using a USB stick with and its Derivatives

Postby PGAGA » Fri Feb 03, 2012 4:32 am

There have been many reports of data loss when files are written to USB sticks. In the light of these reports USB sticks should be used only following these instructions.

The key word for using USB flash drives is backup. This is due to a number of factors which can contribute to data loss:

  1. drive caching – drives will cache data from drives in memory. This is as true of installed hard drives, USB drives and USB flash drives. Caching makes drives vulnerable to power failure because data in the cache, including saved data, has not been written to a drive.
  2. drive failure – with the introduction of solid state drives, of which USB flash drives were the precursor, drive failure means total loss of data. With older magnetic drives, installed and USB, data was still on the platters so it could be recovered.
  3. power failure – because the memory size and use in modern computers, work is cached during writing in memory. This is in addition to whatever drive caches one might have. Thus in a power failure the working cache is lost.
So, non-exclusive to USB sticks:

  1. turn OOo backup on (found in Options>Load/Save). Set the backup to a drive on which you are not working. For example if you are saving to My Documents on Drive C, set the back up to a location on another physical drive. At a minimum save to a different partition on a hard drive. If the drive is SSD, it should be another physical drive.
  2. invest in a battery backup to give one time to save during power failures.
  3. save a file every time you stop to think. This means all one can lose is a few lines. If you are looking at an OOo window and the save button is not greyed, you have made a mistake by not saving.
Exclusive to USB sticks:

  1. always buy quality USB sticks. Regular usage requires build quality.
  2. treat them as you used to treat floppy disks. Pay attention to regular maintenance. This applies to hard disks as well, but USB sticks seem particularly vulnerable to file corruption. My first maintenance is done after purchase before I put any of my data on stick - I check the volume settings and reformat.
  3. Eject the sticks using operating system tools and wait the few seconds until the disk stops flashing before removing. Systems will give the OK to remove before hardware has actually finished the release. The flashing is the final writing of the cache as the disk is ejected.
  4. check your cache settings to make sure data is saved when the system is quiet.
  5. use a powered hub. Power fluctuations can cause transfer problems.
  6. back up the USB stick daily. I move between four computers and four operating systems using two USB sticks, a 4 GB and an 8 GB. Each morning I back up new files on those two sticks to a single 16 GB stick. I change the 16 GB stick monthly so permanently archived data is not saved more than a month on the backup stick.

Phil Griffin-Allwood
Last edited by acknak on Sun Aug 02, 2015 3:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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