USB flash drive longevity and the importance of multiple backups (Week 1, 2023)

Sound Advice
By Don Lindich

Week 1, 2023

Q. I have many important files and photographs backed up on a USB flash drive. I am worried about losing them due to data corruption with age. How long do these drives last?

-U.L., San Jose, CA

A. A quality flash drive will last more than 10 years or 10,000 usage cycles if stored properly, in a dry place away from temperature extremes. While your data is likely safe for now it sounds like you have all your eggs in one basket. I encourage you to back up your data in several places just in case something happens to that flash drive.

I am sure it is a common saying in the industry, but I will never forget when a wise IT professional told me, “There are two types of people in this world. Those who back up their data, and those that wish they had.” I strongly recommend you back up your most important data and images in several places. While cloud services like Apple iCloud and Google Drive are convenient, it is still a good idea to have important files and photographs in your possession and not just in cyberspace. My most important photographs are stored on my Mac Pro’s hard drive, an external hard drive, a Google Drive account and several flash drives. These days I even keep my photographs on the memory cards after I transfer them to other devices, and only delete the ones I do not want. A fast $20 SDXC card can hold thousands of pictures and videos. Why not buy new cards for your important trips and leave the pictures on your cards after transfer? It’s an inexpensive, effortless way to have another backup.

If you have an iPhone and use iCloud you can use a computer to log in to to find your data. If you have an Android phone or Google Photos installed on your iPhone you can log on to with your Google account and find your photographs there. Last year a friend called me because his young son had broken his Android phone and they were afraid the pictures were lost. They were happy to learn that the pictures could be retrieved by accessing the Google Photos website on a computer, and the images would likely automatically restore on a new Android phone when they set it up. It’s a good reason to install Google Photos on your iPhone, and if you have more than one Google account be sure to check Google Photos on your computer with all of them because you may have images stored under each account.

While we are discussing phones, here is a safety tip many people are unaware of. Your phone has a built in “panic button” for emergency situations. With an iPhone, hold down one of the volume buttons and the power button together for several seconds and a screen will come up with an “Emergency SOS” slider. Keep holding down the buttons and a countdown will commence. If the buttons are not released within 8 seconds an automatic call will be placed to 911 and your emergency contacts will be alerted with your location. It can be used to call for help discreetly with the phone in a pocket. You can try this at home without starting the emergency call if you release the buttons before the countdown hits zero. You can set up other ways to activated Emergency SOS in iPhone Settings. With an Android phone, press the power button three times quickly to notify 911 and message your emergency contacts.

Have a safe and happy 2023, everyone!