Durability of flash drives (off-topic?)

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Durability of flash drives (off-topic?)

Postby xlucas » Oct 13, 2017 18:09

I am not sure on which sub-forum I should post this. It is not directly related to FB in any way, but I'm sure you guys have some experience with the topic and that's why I want to ask it in FB forum. If a moderator thinks another sub-forum would be more adequate, feel free to move the thread.

I've been looking up all over the internet about how long I should expect an SD card or USB drive to work for and there's tons of info, but not for the exact question I have. I don't want to be everyday reading and writing the drive. What I want is to use it as a backup. Write it once, keep it safe, stored maybe for years with no use and then go and pick it up again and retrieve my data. What I would like to know is:

- Are flash drives (such as SD cards and USB drives) reliable for long time storage with no use?
- How long would you guys expect them to last this way? Anybody has an experience?
- Is there anything bad about not using the drive? That is, can I make it last longer if I read it from time to time or does it make it last shorter or does it have no effect?
- I am aware that writing to the drive shortens its lifetime. What's the effect of reading from it?
- Any other tip you guys consider relevant?

My experience: all USB drives and SD cards I've had are still working. Only one SD card is now much slower than it used to be because it's old and I know it's been written to many times. Not much experience.
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Re: Durability of flash drives (off-topic?)

Postby marcov » Oct 13, 2017 18:18

I've had heaps of failing USB drives. What does strike me though is that those were the most used ones i.e. they had the most insertion/extraction cycles.

I've also had a SD card of a rpi failing, but only one in many years (and before that in sheevaplug and the like).

Still, everybody says that best for backup is a quality optical medium (CD/DVD) stored under the right circumstances (dry, not to cold/hot, no light) should last 10-15+ years.
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Re: Durability of flash drives (off-topic?)

Postby MrSwiss » Oct 13, 2017 19:05

Apart from mechanical failure (as stated, by marcov), a good quality thumbdrive,
stored in a safe (farraday cage), can be considered, a safe method of backup.

The less use (read/write), the better ... (no long term tests available yet).
(CD/DVD drives, are not any longer, standard, on small Notebook's, USB is!)
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Re: Durability of flash drives (off-topic?)

Postby BasicCoder2 » Oct 13, 2017 20:25

As memory is cheap these days I copy my most valued data (pictures, video, source code, accounts) to more than one memory and onto more than one computer. Thus my pictures are saved on ram sticks and other family computers. I figure I don't want the saved data device always connected to my current computer in case something like a ransom virus encrypts all the files including those connected at the time to the computer. Failure on any of them only means I lose the last save. Some less sensitive stuff might be stored "in the cloud" whatever that is. Not sure as I avoid it myself. This also acts as a protection of data lose due to one of the devices failing.
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Re: Durability of flash drives (off-topic?)

Postby Kuron » Oct 14, 2017 4:31

Redundancy is the key to backups, and using a variety of media. I can get good brand thumb drives for around $30 for a 128GB drive. Normal mechanical hard drives are fairly affordable and come in mega capacities. I still have thousands of blank DVDR/CDRs waiting to be used.

Most (99.99%) of my computer stuff is still packed up, but for now, I am relying on backups on thumb drives and also on hard drives. Both of which are only used for backups. Once things get unpacked, I think I will invest in some of the really large capacity hard drives and then copy all of my CDR/DVDR discs over to it.

I have backups going back to the early 80s. Some are only in hard copy (old source code printed out), but usually it is stuff that as one medium becomes extinct, I copy it over to a newer storage medium.

Regardless of the method or medium, the key is to backup and use redundancy.
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Re: Durability of flash drives (off-topic?)

Postby caseih » Oct 14, 2017 4:54

I've not had good luck with CDRs and DVD-Rs. I have a stack of them somewhere, but I doubt the CDRs are writeable any more, and maybe not the DVD-Rs either. They use ink as a medium for the laser to burn/read, and that just fades with time, period. Besides all that, a DVD just isn't big enough to be useful as a backup medium. I have the odd file that won't even fit on a DVDR (hard drive image for VM).

For me the only practical backup system involves a combination of cloud backup for some things, and a rotation of external USB backup hard drives (spinning disk, not solid state at this point). I can buy USB disks very cheaply and rotate them out of use after a year or two. And I can drop one off at a family member's house for off-site storage. Since I'm rotating them out of use after a couple of years, I can switch formats easily if OS's and disk formats change. I've got data on my disk going back 30 years that's still in usable form (I can even open old WP documents with LibreOffice).

To answer your original question, no USB flash drives are not reliable and should not be used for long-term backup.

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