The days of floppy disks are long past, and while CD-Roms are still around very few people use them for anything besides the occasional mixtape or digital photo album.
As we race ahead into the era of cloud storage, it's worth keeping an eye on our friend — the USB Flash Drive, which has by no means expired.
Flash drives are reliable even when the Internet is down, files are too large to upload, or when you can't remember your password. Plus, they're easily shared among other people and can be used to distribute large amounts of information as well or store the final version of a project for later reference.
So whether you want a place to keep your digital movie collections, the latest year's worth of schoolwork, or all the material for a particular client, a thumb drive is a versatile and inexpensive solution to your problem.
In this guide, we'll help you choose the best flash drive that works with your MacBook Pro. In addition, you'll learn tips and tricks on how to keep the drive in good shape.
Want to be on the cutting edge of the future and enjoy using USB Type-C? Luckily Samsung offers the USB Type-C 64 GB Flash Drive, which contains plenty of storage while allowing you to use a newer MacBook without dongles.
If you're looking for as much space as you can get at a great value and reliability, the PNY Turbo 256GB USB 3.0 Flash Drive will have you covered with a sleek design and an expansive 256 GB of storage.
Just need something that will last a while and have enough space for your old photos and videos? The AntDisk 3.0 Flash Drive 32GB Memory Stick is durable and the 32 GB of space includes a keychain attachment so you can't lose the drive anytime soon.
Who Should (& Should Not) Get This?
USBs are almost completely universal devices, so you don't have to worry about which ones will or won't work with your computer unless you have the newest MacBook Pro, which has no USB-A slots at all! In that case, you'll need a USB-C dock or adapter in order to use most flash drives, or you can purchase a specialty USB-C model.
Beyond that, almost everyone can benefit from having a USB drive on hand. They work on both Macs and PCs without reformatting so file transfer and backup are very easy. You can keep any type of file on them, and you'll doubtless need one soon in the future to save something large or pass a file to a friend.
However, for those who've been used to live "in the cloud" (aka, using cloud storage or services for all kind of files), you probably won't need a physical disk drive at all.
Buying a Flash Drive for Mac: What to Consider?
When you're storing files, space is everything. Especially since thumb drives aren't expandable, you'll want to pick one big enough to encompass your needs for quite a while. Alternatively, if you like to keep each project separate, buy many small flash drives so you don't have an excess of space that you don't end up utilizing.
These days, USBs are coming in more and more varieties. The classic USB-A actually has two variations- 2.0 and 3.0, and you'll want to get a 3.0 model whenever possible since at this point 2.0 is fairly outdated though widely available. You can also step it up a notch by going for USB-C, which has the new reversible design and doesn't look anything like you would expect. It'll be faster and more efficient, but only newer computers have the correct port to use it.
Do you lose things easily if they're too small, or would you prefer something that fits in your wallet? USB drives can be as small as one joint of your finger or include keyrings or other attachments that make them easier to keep track of. The size is also relevant when inserting it into your computer -- if your USB ports are close together, especially if you already use them regularly, a small flash drive will make sure the other accessories don't get pushed out in the process.
Best Flash Drives for MacBook: Our Picks
Kindly note that all the products recommended below are chosen based on the criteria above (plus our own personal preferences). They are, however, by no means ranked in this order.
Hate dongles and adapters but using the newest MacBook Pro with only Type-C ports available? This flash drive from Samsung has you covered. The progressive design is made for the future and using USB-C, so you can copy, read, and store files even faster than USB-A 3.0 without ever needed a middleman for your laptop.
- Pros: Available in 64 and 128 GB, this USB-C drive is ready to work with your modern Mac. The Type-C connection is cutting edge and allows faster file transfer than legacy models.
- Cons: Not all computers have a USB-C port yet, so you may be able to use the drive with your main MacBook but not with the computers of peers or your own other models.
Need space in epic proportions? PNY offers a 256GB flash drive that will have you covered for quite a while. With a sleek sliding design and transfer speeds 10 times faster than with USB 2.0, you'll be able to utilize that space quickly and efficiently. PNY has a great electronics reputation isn't expected to fail anytime soon.
- Pros: Sliding cover is attached and cannot be lost, securely covering the electronics from the elements. Reading and writing speeds are much faster than on a USB 2.0 model, and the drive has enough space to store thousands of songs or most any other file type.
- Cons: Does not include an activity indicator light.
For an all-around winner, the AntDisk 3.0 drive hits all the important points. It's extremely damage resistant, easily attaches to a keychain so you can keep track of it, and the slim design leaves plenty of space for peripherals in other ports of your MacBook. The 32GB size is more than sufficient for a casual user.
- Pros: Slim design is durable -- waterproof, shock-proof, and magnet proof- your data will be safe no matter what. The built-in key ring makes it hard to lose, and the 32 GB of space gives you plenty of options when it comes to what data you want to store- from movies to Word documents.
- Cons: None, this drive does everything right (unless you only have type-C ports, but in that case, any USB-A device is going to be a struggle to use).
Useful Tips and Tricks
A USB flash drive is more than a place to store files. There are tons of fun things you can do with it, as demonstrated in this article from Lifehacker that shows you how to make custom icons or even run ChromeOS from it.
If you're out of luck when it comes to USB-A ports, Apple has you covered with their USB-C to USB-A dongle (see on Amazon). This means you'll be able to use any standard flash drives you have because the new USB-C port on your computer will be converted to the legacy version for a perfect fit.
You can't go wrong with a flash drive. From backing up your important files to storing extra video games, they're extremely versatile and reliable. Flash drives can be used for years, and you're never really done with one unless it becomes corrupted or lost.
What do you use your flash drives for the most? Tell us (via the Contact page) and share your ideas!
Published Mar 12, 2018.