Author Topic: let's face it: usb-sticks are not reliable  (Read 4642 times)

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Offline Trader

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Re: let's face it: usb-sticks are not reliable
« Reply #50 on: May 18, 2022, 05:01:49 am »
USB sticks are not reliable for many reasons, on my college almost every day someone lost a pen drive with all his/her academic work, and nobody does backups.
 

Offline DiTBho

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Re: let's face it: usb-sticks are not reliable
« Reply #51 on: May 18, 2022, 05:26:22 am »
yeah, last year I must have seen something like dozens of damaged pendrives and lost academic work in the university lab when people plug them into the DSO to take snapshots.

Iomega zip 100MB cartridges were the mobile storage media we used in my academic days, never lost a single file.

[attachimg=1]
 
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Online tooki

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Re: let's face it: usb-sticks are not reliable
« Reply #52 on: June 11, 2022, 02:39:49 pm »
I used Zip disks intensively in the 90s. Also never lost a file.

Then again, in the 30 years I’ve been using computers, I’ve never lost a file to hardware failure, period. Not on a hard disk, Zip, CD-R, floppy, or flash medium. But then again I’ve always bought top-quality media, always treat it well, and always unmount correctly before ejecting/unplugging to avoid corruption, and I’ve always decommissioned storage media the instant there’s been even the vaguest indicator of potential failure. That means replacing hard disks when certain of the SMART parameters rise*, even though it’s still getting a clean bill of health by its own estimation.

*Certain changes in SMART parameters have been correlated with a high risk of upcoming failure, like a sudden rise in reallocated sectors, or in the spin retry count. If I see either of those rise suddenly, I replace the drive immediately.
 
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Online SiliconWizard

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Re: let's face it: usb-sticks are not reliable
« Reply #53 on: June 11, 2022, 05:52:59 pm »
Although CDs/DVDs also have limited lifetime, I've never had any gone bad. I have CDs that were written some 20 years ago that are still perfectly fine.

But as I often say, the best backup scheme it to replicate your data on a regular basis. Do not expect a single copy of your data to last forever, however reliable the medium is. Replicate. That's just how life works, incidentally.
 
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Offline Berni

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Re: let's face it: usb-sticks are not reliable
« Reply #54 on: June 13, 2022, 06:45:29 am »
Yep i found ZIP disks being incredibly reliable too. Never seen a single fault. (Tho some of the early drives had issues i heard)

Then again i also never lost data on any of the old flash drives. the sort of ones with capacities of 128MB. Some of them even went trough a fair but of abuse and still worked. New ones not so much, seen them fail a lot.

As for CDs. They do indeed die. The factory made stamped CDs have an nearly infinite lifespan in a lot of cases. But the CD-R stuff does go bad. I had really old ones fail. But they fail very gradually. At first they just slow down a lot where certain files or folders take oddly long to read. At some point it gets so bad that the CD drive gives up retrying and throws errors. This also seams to happen gradually where some files become unreadable while some others still work.  That being said it likely depends a lot on the CD-R media, drive and settings. A good quality CD-R burned in a good drive at slow speed is fore sure going to be more reliable than the bottom of the barrel CD-R burned in a old tired dusty CD drive at max burning speed.
 

Offline onsenwombat

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Re: let's face it: usb-sticks are not reliable
« Reply #55 on: July 28, 2022, 02:02:56 am »
Every single media will fail. Eventually. If your data is actually vital, it makes little to no difference whether we're talking about HDDs, SSDs, SD cards, USB sticks, DVDs, DAT-tapes or whatever. Each and every one of them has premature failures under their belts. You may not have, at least yet, had any, but that hardly means it could not be just around the corner. That's why all important data has at least 2 copies.
 
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Online tooki

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Re: let's face it: usb-sticks are not reliable
« Reply #56 on: July 28, 2022, 08:46:40 am »
Yep i found ZIP disks being incredibly reliable too. Never seen a single fault. (Tho some of the early drives had issues i heard)
I thought it was actually the second-gen ones, where they cost-reduced some component, that had the most problems. Between me and my family, we had several very early ones, and several later ones, and none ever had any issues whatsoever. (I got zip almost immediately after release.)
 

Offline rsjsouza

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Re: let's face it: usb-sticks are not reliable
« Reply #57 on: July 28, 2022, 12:20:51 pm »
Reliability is a hard thing to measure and make general statements, as loose media can be subjected to all sorts of abuse and neglect. I still have 30+ year old FDDs that were heavily used for many years and are still in top shape - a similar thing for some CD-R and CD-RW disks recorded in the 1990s.

I was also a heavy user of 100MB ZIP disks on their heyday and never lost a disk or data (and only met one or two people that had lost data in the large lab I worked), but I always treated everything with the due care. IMHO that is one of the major reasons why people think USB pendrives are so unreliable: the ZIP disks and drives of the time were terribly expensive (at least in Brazil where I lived) and people seemed to have a much more serious attitude towards them. 

Even nowadays I use old media with some regularity. Despite some equipment still runs NT and only like 3-1/2 FDDs, I have a few decades-old 128MB and 256MB flash drives to save screenshots and data from test gear that still runs Win98 or Win2k - larger drives have trouble being acknowledged by these older OSes. Although I had my share of larger pendrives and SD cards failing (some off brand from a local store named Microcenter; others from Samsung and Sandisk).
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Offline Berni

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Re: let's face it: usb-sticks are not reliable
« Reply #58 on: July 28, 2022, 12:21:16 pm »
I thought it was actually the second-gen ones, where they cost-reduced some component, that had the most problems. Between me and my family, we had several very early ones, and several later ones, and none ever had any issues whatsoever. (I got zip almost immediately after release.)

I could have gotten it wrong. The kind of ZIP drive i had is the one that installs internally into the case and talks over IDE and can do the high capacity 250MB disks, so i had more of a later model.

The common issues i heard of online are the click of death or smashing the head into the end stop hard enough to misalign things. From what i hear only certain models suffer from this, other models are very reliable. Certainly a huge step forward from floppy drives. Pretty good archival format for back in the day.
 

Offline David Hess

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Re: let's face it: usb-sticks are not reliable
« Reply #59 on: July 28, 2022, 03:33:17 pm »
Besides reliability of the drive, the problem with ZIP disks was their low coercivity combined with embedded servo allowed the disks to be irrevocably ruined if damaged by an external magnetic field.  The LS120 released 3 years later was a floptical which uses a laser for tracking so should not have this problem, but by then it was too late.

Every single media will fail. Eventually. If your data is actually vital, it makes little to no difference whether we're talking about HDDs, SSDs, SD cards, USB sticks, DVDs, DAT-tapes or whatever. Each and every one of them has premature failures under their belts. You may not have, at least yet, had any, but that hardly means it could not be just around the corner. That's why all important data has at least 2 copies.

M-DISC DVD and Blu-ray media should last essentially indefinitely.  Magneto-optical disks should also.
« Last Edit: July 28, 2022, 03:35:13 pm by David Hess »
 

Offline Zenith

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Re: let's face it: usb-sticks are not reliable
« Reply #60 on: July 28, 2022, 03:55:48 pm »
I needed to put a bootable Linux image on a USB stick. Had some El Cheepo 16 GB sticks that came in a pack of five. I tested them and they worked fine copying files to them. Plenty big enough for the Linux image but I couldn't make a bootable image with any of them to save my life. Bought a new Sandisk USB stick and it worked the first time.

 :-//

I've always found USB sticks to be fine, but most of mine are Toshiba or Kingston, and branded ones are dirt cheap these days. I use them as bootable drives or to transfer files. I wouldn't rely on them if that could drop me in it.

I gather that some of the el cheapos are not quite what they seem. They may be codged to say they have a capacity greater than they have, and they are probably made from floor sweepings anyway.
 

Offline David Hess

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Re: let's face it: usb-sticks are not reliable
« Reply #61 on: July 28, 2022, 10:34:48 pm »
I've always found USB sticks to be fine, but most of mine are Toshiba or Kingston, and branded ones are dirt cheap these days. I use them as bootable drives or to transfer files. I wouldn't rely on them if that could drop me in it.

I gather that some of the el cheapos are not quite what they seem. They may be codged to say they have a capacity greater than they have, and they are probably made from floor sweepings anyway.

I have ended up throwing most of my new but cheap USB sticks away because they failed with hardly any use.  Like I said earlier, I use Crucial B500 and M500 SSDs in USB SATA enclosures as big flash drives now.  An M.2 Flash drive might be just as good or better, and would be smaller.
 

Offline onsenwombat

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Re: let's face it: usb-sticks are not reliable
« Reply #62 on: July 29, 2022, 01:42:42 am »
M-DISC DVD and Blu-ray media should last essentially indefinitely.  Magneto-optical disks should also.

Should and essentially are the fatal flaw here ;)
Since I don't know their materials any better than an educated animal, I won't argue on any potential longevity issues caused by e.g. a bad/contaminated batch. True though that some medias are in general longer lasting than others. However, even if you had the media that's confirmed to last forever and beyond, the user might drop it on the floor, their pet might chew on it, heck even the house might burn down. Ok, enough stretching the topic, this is getting derailed.
 

Offline golden_labels

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Re: let's face it: usb-sticks are not reliable
« Reply #63 on: July 29, 2022, 02:13:05 am »
Every single media will fail. Eventually. If your data is actually vital, it makes little to no difference whether we're talking about HDDs, SSDs, SD cards, USB sticks, DVDs, DAT-tapes or whatever. Each and every one of them has premature failures under their belts. You may not have, at least yet, had any, but that hardly means it could not be just around the corner. That's why all important data has at least 2 copies.
By putting it that way, you are removing probability from the view. Even worse, in this particular case it becomes a degenerate distribution. While certainly true, it’s also delivering no useful information. It’s similar to dismissing a discussion on the effects of smoking by saying that we’re all going to die.

Our beloved entropy makes sure things will break, but they do not break at the same rate or in the same way. It also matters if you have backups. Even more so, because with multiple copies you have exponential decay at play. That is: less reliable media are coming out as even worse in comparison to more reliable ones, if you have multiple backups.

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Offline David Hess

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Re: let's face it: usb-sticks are not reliable
« Reply #64 on: July 29, 2022, 02:26:14 am »
M-DISC DVD and Blu-ray media should last essentially indefinitely.  Magneto-optical disks should also.

Should and essentially are the fatal flaw here ;)
Since I don't know their materials any better than an educated animal, I won't argue on any potential longevity issues caused by e.g. a bad/contaminated batch. True though that some medias are in general longer lasting than others. However, even if you had the media that's confirmed to last forever and beyond, the user might drop it on the floor, their pet might chew on it, heck even the house might burn down. Ok, enough stretching the topic, this is getting derailed.

The point is that the other media and storage devices mentioned have inherent limitations on their retention, whether that is the soft magnetic materials needed to support unassisted writing, or materials which gradually degrade like the dyes used in CD, DVD, and Blu-Ray disks, or aluminum or silver metalization.  The floating gate memory used for Flash gradually loses charge, which was not a problem with a large feature size and 1 bit per cell, but retention has fallen to months or single years.

Magneto-Optical uses a hard magnetic material for storage, and relies on heat-assisted recording; if a disk gets dirty, remove it from the envelope and clean it with soap and water.  M-Discs rely on ablation of an inert layer of carbon, or something like that.
 

Offline onsenwombat

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Re: let's face it: usb-sticks are not reliable
« Reply #65 on: July 29, 2022, 02:28:14 am »
Every single media will fail. Eventually. If your data is actually vital, it makes little to no difference whether we're talking about HDDs, SSDs, SD cards, USB sticks, DVDs, DAT-tapes or whatever. Each and every one of them has premature failures under their belts. You may not have, at least yet, had any, but that hardly means it could not be just around the corner. That's why all important data has at least 2 copies.
By putting it that way, you are removing probability from the view. Even worse, in this particular case it becomes a degenerate distribution. While certainly true, it’s also delivering no useful information. It’s similar to dismissing a discussion on the effects of smoking by saying that we’re all going to die.

Our beloved entropy makes sure things will break, but they do not break at the same rate or in the same way. It also matters if you have backups. Even more so, because with multiple copies you have exponential decay at play. That is: less reliable media are coming out as even worse in comparison to more reliable ones, if you have multiple backups.

Yes, I deliberately did leave probabilities out of the equation, and there's few reason for that. Firstly, I don't possess sufficient knowledge to give reliable rankings for any medias, and secondly, it pains me to see when people take whatever rated lifetimes, MTBFs or their purely anecdotal numbers as some kind of a baseline, and then are in shock when the probability works as probabilities do, i.e. you might get the short end of the stick as well.
 

Offline golden_labels

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Re: let's face it: usb-sticks are not reliable
« Reply #66 on: July 29, 2022, 05:10:20 am »
Hardly any of us can! Available data is from sources having a history of providing misleading data (producers) or not being able to offer comprehensive coverage (third party research). :D

However, sometimes the differences in reliability are so high that it can be seen with a naked eye. That’s at most a good estimate and not a proper scientific claim: on that would I agree. But it’s not that we should reject such claims in everyday life in absence of better options.

Given we can see how much more often USB sticks fail in common usage compared to e.g. HDDs or tapes, and that different estimates converge to that value with increasing sample size, we can make a conclusion this is much less reliable medium. And even place it roughly in “I do not want to use it for general backup purposes” range, though of course no more accurate estimate can be given. Consider that that’s an argument not weaker than ones that put an end to Aristotelean theory of gravity.

And, I will repeat if you missed earlier posts, I myself do use USB sticks for backup purposes. Just… that’s a special scenario.
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Offline nigelwright7557

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Re: let's face it: usb-sticks are not reliable
« Reply #67 on: September 27, 2022, 12:08:14 pm »
I usually buy good quality flash drives but in a fit of madness bought in a cheap one off ebay.
I backed up my pc to it.
Checked the files were on the drive ok and all was well.

I then had to get a backup of a project folder I had messed up.
Loaded files from flash drive to hard drive.
All the files were there but empty !
Had to rewrite the software project from scratch....

I just buy Lexar drives now as they seem most reliable although not the cheapest.


I use a M.2 512GB drive on my pc.
I try to keep it 25% empty to stop thrashing the same area's of the drive continuously.
 

Online tooki

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Re: let's face it: usb-sticks are not reliable
« Reply #68 on: Yesterday at 10:31:51 pm »
I usually buy good quality flash drives but in a fit of madness bought in a cheap one off ebay.
I backed up my pc to it.
Checked the files were on the drive ok and all was well.

I then had to get a backup of a project folder I had messed up.
Loaded files from flash drive to hard drive.
All the files were there but empty !
Had to rewrite the software project from scratch....

I just buy Lexar drives now as they seem most reliable although not the cheapest.
Your data loss wasn’t due to unreliability as such, but rather due to outright fraud: those vendors install a small flash memory chip (so that quick tests succeed) but program the controller to report a wildly exaggerated capacity, such that if you fill the disk, the vast majority of data gets “copied” to memory that doesn’t exist! There’s software out there to test for this fraud.
 
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Offline Ed.Kloonk

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Re: let's face it: usb-sticks are not reliable
« Reply #69 on: Today at 12:35:13 am »
Your data loss wasn’t due to unreliability as such, but rather due to outright fraud:

Thank you. So much normalization now for accepting things that are not only defective, but deceitful.  >:(
 

Online tooki

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Re: let's face it: usb-sticks are not reliable
« Reply #70 on: Today at 06:19:04 am »
How is that normalized in any way? (Or new? Consumer deception was much worse in the early days of industrialization, which is when and why our various regulatory bodies were created.)

My point was that USB thumb drives aren’t fundamentally unreliable. I’d argue the contrary. Fraudulent products don’t make the product type in general unreliable until they comprise a market share sufficient to make significant the chances of receiving a fraudulent product. I don’t think we are there with thumb drives.
 

Offline Ed.Kloonk

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Re: let's face it: usb-sticks are not reliable
« Reply #71 on: Today at 06:42:52 am »
How is that normalized in any way? (Or new? Consumer deception was much worse in the early days of industrialization, which is when and why our various regulatory bodies were created.)

My point was that USB thumb drives aren’t fundamentally unreliable. I’d argue the contrary. Fraudulent products don’t make the product type in general unreliable until they comprise a market share sufficient to make significant the chances of receiving a fraudulent product. I don’t think we are there with thumb drives.

Don't get me wrong. I'm with you.

I meant that the proliferation of these products on eBay that are not only sub-standard but fraudulent by not having the capacity as stated on the labelling.

The normalisation is annoying (to me) because it's just accepted these are on the market up alongside good products. Data reliability is one thing, but selling rubbish because nobody with the power to do so will bother to stop them is just rotten.
 

Offline 50ShadesOfDirt

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Re: let's face it: usb-sticks are not reliable
« Reply #72 on: Today at 04:32:39 pm »
As with anything (tech or otherwise) we buy these days, it's warranty and model obselescense) ... if someone warranties it for 2-, 3-yrs, or more, the quality is probably in there. I've seen warranty's drop to the 1-yr level, and some (many?) as low as 90- to 30-days.

If that isn't an obvious *don't use OUR device* red flag, I'm not sure what is ...

It isn't that flash is in everything, it's the warranty that they put on it or anything ... some are jokes, some imply real seriousness about quality (for the most part).

Next up is the intangibles behind the product ... here you have to dig into their website "support" pages, and see if they actually produce firmware updates, have healthy-looking support pages/articles, etc.

Finally, if you got this far with a prospective tech purchase, it's forum detective work ... what are others saying about it?

I couldn't buy a tech device with a 1-yr, or 90-day, or less warranty, without considering it "disposable", and planning accordingly.
 


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