Also known as "thumb drives" (if you're very old, I guess, and have a very small thumb).
This has got to be one of the finest inventions of the computer age. I have three of them. The joy is that they're almost totally device-independent (which means they don't care what kind of computer they're plugged into) and quite stable and robust. You do need one (or more—I have three). But I do have some advice:
- The worst thing about flash drives is that they are easy to lose. Protect yourself. Don't use a flash drive as your only storage place for important stuff. Make sure you frequently back up the drive (your campus server account is a great place to put flash drive info).
- A flash drive is robust, but not indestructible. Don't run it through the washing machine. If it sticks out of the front of your desktop computer, try not to hit it. One of my students used his for a foot rest, and for some reason it stopped working.
- They're very easy to leave in a computer lab. I've done it a lot myself. Try to get in the habit of checking any school computer for your flash before you leave. (By the way, you probably shouldn't put anything potentially embarrassing on the flash, just in case it falls into the wrong hands.)
- You really don't need to spend a lot of money on one. The flash drives with incredibly large capacity were made to store a lot of music and/or photos and/or movies. If you're just storing material for college writing (and backing up your information), a $10 drive should be just fine.
- Do, however, look at the physical size of your drive. Some of them have very large, bulky, and unnecessary plastic cases around them. Fat drives are a problem on some computers. Buy something slim. A few drives I've seen have a very short plug, combined with a fat body, so they can't even reach into all computer plugs. (I own one like this.) The answer to all these problems is to buy a very simple and cheap short USB extension cord.