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How Good Are Flash Drives for Long-Term Storage?

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  • How Good Are Flash Drives for Long-Term Storage?

    Any one know? I like to back up to two different media. So far that's been optical and hard drives. But I would think flash drives would be more fail-safe than hard drives...anyone know?
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  • #2
    I've got a 2 gig one that I've had for around 6 years and it still works just fine. Still has stuff on it from when I bought it. It's one of my backups for passwords.

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    • #3
      Depends on how long "long term" is. They're probably OK for a year or two, maybe 5, but there's a computer (of sorts) inside that flash drive, and whenever a computer is involved, at some time it's going to bite you in the patootie. When it comes to on-the-shelf storage, a mechanical hard drive probably has a better chance of lasting 20 years unless it falls in the ocean. And if a hard drive won't play after being stored for longer than it has a right to be, if the data on it is important enough to pay for it, there's a better chance of recovering data from a mechancial drive than a flash drive.

      Probably the most difficult part of recovering data from a 25 year old drive is finding something that it will talk to. I have a bunch of (parallel) IDE drives with projects recording on my Mackie HDR24/96. I've backed up the ones I care about on newer SATA drives, but who knows how long that interface will be around. I have a few computers around here (as well as the Mackie recorder) that still use IDE drives, but they're going to be replaced within the next couple of years. Fortunately, I still keep things that I don't think I have any use for, so one or two of them, as well as compuers with floppy disk drives, will still be at hand - as long as they last, anyway.

      If you're talking long term like 25 or 100 years, the only way to store something that long is not to. Copy it on to the medium de jour every few years and don't forget.
      Last edited by MikeRivers; 12-06-2016, 09:47 PM.
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      • #4
        There needs to be an active storage unit; a freezer for SSDs and a spec to go with it; intermittent or constant power plus periodic cell maintenance. This doesn't sound particularly challenging except for the failing PC market.
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        • #5
          I've had a couple flash drives fail, but others hold up for many years, as much as 10 years so far. The problem is predicting which in a new crop of flash drives will hold up for the long term. Though I've had good experience, flash drives are risky as a species. Mechanical stress is the main issue with those that have failed.
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          • #6
            I don't think we know yet ; enough time has not passed to test the media...

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            • #7
              recommend saving important data to multiple media. I like dvd and cd storage, external HD. digital advice
              if it doesn't exist 3 places, etc.

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            • #8
              Yes, along the lines of Beck's comment - I doubt seriously that all flash drives are equal - I suspect they are a lot more unequal than hard drives, simply because of their "buy 'em by the pack, use 'em or lose 'em, they're just a temporary thing" market position.

              Flash drives certainly are not, in my experience, at all equal in terms of speed and performance - so I've always assumed it's not a good idea to lean too heavily on their reliability over time, either.

              If a batch of Seagate HDs go south, word would get around. Not so sure that flash drives would get the same attention.

              nat whilk ii

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              • #9
                Originally posted by Beck View Post
                I've had a couple flash drives fail, but others hold up for many years, as much as 10 years so far. The problem is predicting which in a new crop of flash drives will hold up for the long term. Though I've had good experience, flash drives are risky as a species. Mechanical stress is the main issue with those that have failed.
                It's also worth noting that flash drives, though they seem to have become a commodity item, aren't all the same. I haven't bought one for years, but I have a big bowl of drives as small as 64 MB to 8 GB, all that have been giveaways, most of which had press releases on them. I reformat them and use them to sneaker net files around home, give to someone who needs to take something out of here, but none used for what I consider "long term" storage.

                Programs that I download that I think I may want to (re)install in the future remain on the drive on the computer that downloaded them, and get backed up as long as that computer is activeI (which, for me, is typically 10 years). They also get their own CDs, which help me find them if I need them. If a downloaded program gets updated, depending on my state of laziness at the time, either I'll put the update on the same CD as the original so I'll know where to go if the new version is a bust, or I'll put it on a new CD, and once proven, will toss the CD of the older version so I don't use that by mistake.

                Music I download just stays on the computer that downloaded it, and stays there until the disk starts getting too full. That's the first batch of files that get deleted to make more room. I don't have any music I've downloaded that I feel I can't live without.
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                • #10
                  Great info, thanks. Guess I'll stick with optical and HDs for now. I'm looking at only 10 years for "long term" storage. The Blu-Rays I use for optical do a lot better than that.
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                  • #11
                    Like other posts, I agree the issue is 'how long?'. If it's longer than 1 or 2 versions of the OS, odds are pretty good that the USB driver will not work (similar to a most pro & consumer audio stuff: only good for 1 or 2 OS upgrades, then becomes an orphan product due to lack of driver updates).

                    Another thing I've run into recently: a thumbdrive with an expiration date. You plug it in, it loads the driver, it appears to work fine until you browse to that drive, but the drive volume will not populate and there is no way to access any data on it.

                    One last consideration is background ionizing radiation. If you fly on jets a lot, or just have an environment with higher than normal levels, an effect called NSEU will randomly set or clear individual bits in the memory device. And there's no way to tell if the data was corrupted except to implement your own CRC scheme...
                    Last edited by philboking; 12-12-2016, 09:14 AM.

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                    • #12
                      Originally posted by Anderton View Post
                      Great info, thanks. Guess I'll stick with optical and HDs for now. I'm looking at only 10 years for "long term" storage. The Blu-Rays I use for optical do a lot better than that.
                      Has Blu-Ray been around for 10 years? Remeber what they told us about DAT from accelerated life testing.

                      I have a friend who swears by magneto-optical disks and have a few drives and disks. It's pretty expensive thought. I don't recall the brand, but he has a couple of hardware recorders that use M-O disks. He backs up as much of his recording projects as he can afford on them.
                      --
                      "Today's production equipment is IT-based and cannot be operated without a passing knowledge of computing, although it seems that it can be operated without a passing knowledge of audio." - John Watkinson, Resolution Magazine, October 2006
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                      • #13
                        And as for CDs I've had those fail before flash drives. I still use CD-R to back things up, but I have everything on backup hard drives as well. The biggest killers of CD and CD-R in my experience over the years are finicky players that unexpectedly retract the CD tray causing the CD to be physically damaged. With some older equipment it felt like the CD player was haunted and it would be a game of cat and mouse trying to insert or remove the CD without the tray closing at the wrong time. I've had some success polishing CD surface with Brasso to restore them. The most reliable backup format next to a backup hard drive has been older backup tapes. I've not had one fail yet, though I've heard some people have.
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                        “Music is well said to be the speech of angels... nothing among the utterances allowed to man is felt to be so divine."

                        ~Thomas Carlyle

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                        • #14
                          When CDs were new, Sony had a demo suite at an AES show and the rep was challenging visitors to make a CD skip. Mostly people were putting fingerprints on it, or writing on it with a ball point pen, and it still didn't skip. Finally one wiseass went out in the hallway with a paper cup to the elevator where there was one of those sand-filled ash trays and filled the cup with sand. Brought it back and ground it into the CD surface, and sure enough, the CD skipped. The rep looked at it, took it into the bathroom, polished out the scruffed area with some toothpaste on a damp towel, put the disk back in, and it no longer skipped.

                          Of course we don't treat our CDs like that, do we? Sometimes they just die of natural or un-natural causes. Oh, this was a real molded CD, not a CD-R like what we use for backups. They have their own problems with chemistry that have nothing to do with the condition of the outer surface
                          Last edited by MikeRivers; 12-08-2016, 08:05 PM.
                          --
                          "Today's production equipment is IT-based and cannot be operated without a passing knowledge of computing, although it seems that it can be operated without a passing knowledge of audio." - John Watkinson, Resolution Magazine, October 2006
                          Drop by http://mikeriversaudio.wordpress.com now and then

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                          • #15
                            Originally posted by MikeRivers View Post

                            Has Blu-Ray been around for 10 years? Remeber what they told us about DAT from accelerated life testing.
                            There is a precedent. There are many reasons why CDs can fail, but properly manufactured and stored ones last a long time. I've been doing through old CD-Rs lately and there have only been a few duds.

                            I have confidence in Blu-Ray...probably unfounded but it was designed to be more robust than DVDs, and in terms of construction, they are. So we'll see. I suspect they'll outlive me, but whether anything will play them back is a different issue.
                            N E W S O N G ! To Say 'No' Would Be a Crime (Remix) is now streamable from my YouTube channel.

                            Subscribe, like, and share the links!

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