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It's time to throw out those old USB sticks


I like using USB pendrives. A lot. But those old ones are really showing their age.

At the time I write this in February 2023, the best deal for USB pendrives are the SanDisk Ultra 128GB, 256GB and 512GB USB 3 flavors, with emphasis on USB 3. The Ultra is a "full case" design (which I prefer) while the Ultra Flair has a thinner case.

In the above photo is my small pile of USB 2 pendrives I have. At this point, these things are borderline unusable. The only thing they're good for is operating system installation software these days.

And speaking of operating systems, modern Linux really hates USB 2 flash drives. It doesn't matter what distro you use. Mounting the pendrive is easy enough. But if you write 1GB or greater of data to a USB 2 stick and then go to unmount, prepare to wait at least 30 seconds to a full minute or even longer before the OS says you can safely eject.

Why does this happen? It's because of the way Linux writes data. Before it allows an eject of a pendrive, some file sync has to happen in the background. If you wrote small files to the pendrive, the unmount is quick. If you wrote large files, that USB 2 bogs down the file sync speed, resulting in wait time and a lot of it.

The solution? Don't use USB 2.0 and use 3.0 or greater instead.

Does using sync -f /usb-drive help when using USB 2.0? A little, but not all that much. Better to just use faster USB pendrives.

In Windows, the wait time for eject of a USB 2.0 pendrive is minimal, but it takes about 2 minutes 45 seconds to copy 1GB to a USB 2.0 stick, whereas with USB 3.0 it takes fewer than 20 seconds.

Whether you use Windows or Linux, dump those USB 2 sticks and just get 3's. This also makes sense when transferring files from the phone to a flash drive. Yeah, connecting a USB 2 stick to a phone technically does work, but you wait a long time to copy anything more than a few photos.

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