What to Look for in a USB Flash Drive in 2022
The primary factor you have to keep in mind when shopping for a flash drive (also known as a thumb drive) is how much storage you’ll need. Depending on the brand you buy and how powerful it is, flash drives can get pricey. Generally, it’s better to go for a higher capacity flash drive, so that you don’t fill it up and need a replacement as quickly.
Considering read and write speeds are also key to a good flash drive. If you’ll be handling large files on a regular basis, you’ll want to explore models that have at least 100Mbps read speeds. Most flash drives on the market today come with 150Mbps read speeds and write speeds that hover around 75-100Mbps. Some cheaper flash drives may not hit those speeds, so be sure to check.
Security is also an important factor. Some may value having an extra layer of privacy if the files they store on the drive are particularly sensitive, while others might be okay with something less secure that remains in their possession constantly. Finding a flash drive with good encryption and smart features like a fingerprint reader is ideal for any security-centric buyer.
In our list, we’ve found the best options that strike an excellent balance between capacity, speed, and price as well as offering extra features like protecting your data from the elements and prying eyes.
- ✓ Compact design
- ✓ USB 3.1
- ✓ Water- and shock-proof
- ⁇ Not ideal for USB-C users
- ⁇ Top speeds require 128GB or 256GB of storage
Our pick for the best flash drive for most people is Samsung’s Fit Plus. Featuring an incredibly compact design, this drive offers up to 256GB of storage and USB 3.1 speeds of 400Mbps. What’s more, the drive is reasonably priced, with the 128GB model costing just $ 23.
The Fit Plus is waterproof for up to 72 hours in seawater, as well as shockproof at up to 1,500 gravitational acceleration. It’s also magnet-proof and x-ray-proof.
Oddly, Samsung only grants the larger-capacity 128GB and 256GB models faster storage, whereas smaller variants will be stuck with speeds that sit well below 400Mbps. In addition, this drive isn’t ideal for those striving to switch all of their devices to USB-C since this drive sticks with a standard USB-A port.
All in all, though, it’s hard to find an alternative to the Fit Plus that’s as well-rounded.
Best Flash Drive Overall
- ✓ Password protection
- ✓ Low price for the feature set
- ✓ USB 3.0
- ⁇ Very slow 4Mbps write speeds
- ⁇ No added external protection
The SanDisk Ultra Flair is a great option if you’re shopping for a flash drive on a budget. Available with up to 512GB of storage, the Ultra Flair offers lower prices across the board than most of the competition, with the 128GB option priced at under $ 16.
For the money, you get a drive that offers an instantly familiar design to anyone. It features a USB 3.0 as well as compatibility with the company’s SecureAccess software, letting you lock it with a password. Plus, it’s backward compatible with USB 2.0 ports.
With no added external protection from water or shock, this flash drive won’t be for those who may have gadget-centric accidents more often than not. And while read speeds remain a terrific 150Mbps, write speeds are an abysmal 4Mbps. If you’re dealing with big files, you’ll want to up your budget a bit.
If you can live with these caveats, the Ultra Flair offers a solid mix of smart features and simplicity that many will appreciate.
Best Budget Flash Drive
- ✓ Dual USB-C and USB-A connectors
- ✓ 150Mbps read speeds
- ✓ Up to 512GB of storage
- ✓ Reasonable price
- ⁇ Slower 35-40Mbps write speeds
- ⁇ No additional privacy or durability protections
If you’re looking for a flash drive that connects over USB-C, check out SanDisk’s Ultra Dual Drive Go. Not only does it offer a USB-C connector, but it also comes with a secondary USB-A connector in case you ever need to connect it to a device with older ports.
The Ultra Dual Drive Go offers USB 3.1 speeds, which translates to 150Mbps read and around 35-40Mbps write speeds. The drive is compatible with SanDisk’s Memory Zone app, available for Android, to automatically back up important data when connected to your device, and you can get as much as 512GB of storage if you need it.
Notably, there’s no extra external protection against water, shock, or magnets. You also don’t get any additional layers of security, so you’ll want to make sure you don’t lose it.
All in all, The Dual Drive Go is a respectively versatile flash drive that should suffice for anyone who strives to use as many USB-C devices as possible.
Best USB-C Flash Drive
SanDisk Ultra Dual Drive Go
With both USB-C and USB-A connections, the Ultra Dual Drive Go is a great flash drive for anyone making the transition to USB-C and still need something reliable.
- ✓ Blazing-fast read and write speeds
- ✓ High capacity
- ✓ USB-C
- ⁇ No protection against water or shock
- ⁇ No additional security features
- ⁇ High price
If you need a flash drive that can manage a ton of data, you’ll want to check out the Kingston DataTraveler Max.
This USB-C flash drive is equipped with up to 1TB of storage, featuring USB 3.2 Gen 2 performance for up to 1,000Mbps read and 900Mbps write speeds. It’s ideal for those who may have to regularly move big files like video projects around. It’s also great if you’d rather have something compact like a flash drive over an external solid-state drive.
Without any water resistance or additional security features, the Kingston DataTraveler Max might not be for everyone. The storage also comes at a high price, costing quite a bit more than the other options on our list.
But if what you’re looking for is a flash drive with a lot of storage space that can make managing big files a breeze, it’s certainly worth considering.
Best High-Capacity Flash Drive
- ✓ Aircraft-grade aluminum enclosure
- ✓ Protection against water and dirt
- ✓ Good performance
- ⁇ Lacks additional security and encryption
- ⁇ No USB-C option
Looking for something rugged that can handle an adventurous lifestyle? Check out the Corsair Flash Survivor Stealth. It offers a strong anodized aircraft-grade aluminum enclosure that’s waterproof up to 200 meters. It’s also vibration and impact-resistant thanks to a molded shock damping collar.
In terms of specs, Corsair uses a traditional USB 3.0 connector that offers good read and write speeds of 150Mbps and 90Mbps, respectively. It can be configured with up to 256GB of storage, as well.
If you want extra security, you won’t find it here as there’s no password protection or other types of encryption. It can survive the elements, but you’ll want to make sure not to lose this flash drive if you have sensitive documents on it.
Overall, the Flash Survivor Stealth is ideal for anyone who might value extra durability given their lifestyle.
Best Rugged Flash Drive
- ✓ Fingerprint scanner
- ✓ Fast read and write speeds
- ✓ 256-bit AES encryption
- ⁇ No explicit water or shock proof
- ⁇ Fingerprint scanner software only works with Windows
If security is a priority for you, you’ll want to check out Lexar’s JumpDrive Fingerprint F35. The flash drive ships with an embedded fingerprint reader that, once set up, encrypts any data you have on it using 256-bit AES encryption. You can register up to 10 fingerprints, and unlocking your drive with your print takes less than one second.
The JumpDrive uses USB 3.0 with up to 300Mbps read speeds, while write speeds are slower — though Lexar doesn’t state what they are.
Unfortunately, the software required to set up the fingerprint reader only works with Windows, so Mac and Linux users will only be able to use it as a standard flash drive. Lexar says it tests each drive for durability on its store page, but the company doesn’t provide any further details.
Still, if you’re a Windows user who needs a secure flash drive that’s secure and easy to use, the JumpDrive is an excellent choice.
Best Flash Drive for Security
Lexar JumpDrive Fingerprint F35
The JumpDrive Fingerprint F35 features a fingerprint scanner that adds advanced encryption to your sensitive data, which makes it perfect for those who need an extra layer of privacy.