We may take them for granted now, but there have been few tech accessories more useful than the best USB drives (also known as flash drives or USB sticks).
The true successor to the floppy disk (sorry CDs), USB flash drives have been around for more than 20 years, helping us to store, transfer and share documents, photos, videos and MP3s. USB drives rose to popularity in a time before your average human had access to the cloud, and before we could reliably upload and download gigabytes of data in a matter of minutes.
And while USB drives may not be as essential now that we have Google Drive and iCloud, they are still incredibly helpful, and sometimes more convenient than transferring a file wirelessly.
There are still tons of use cases for your trusty USB drives:
- If you need to transfer photos or documents between two computers that are in the same room (or to someone who isn’t tech-savvy), the best USB drives from Samsung or SanDisk can be the quickest and easiest solution.
- If you need to transfer files bigger than 100 MB
- If you have documents containing sensitive data that you need to get from Point A to Point B, a secure USB drive from the likes of Kingston or Apricorn is the absolute best option.
Or maybe you’ve used all the storage on your laptop and you want to expand your storage without replacing your current drive or lugging around one of the best external hard drives. A tiny USB drive can be a great way to add as much as 2TB of local storage for extra media files.
Whatever the use case may be for you, the best USB drives have not gone the way of the Dodo quite yet. But we do have one piece of advice: Stick to the name brands such as SanDisk, Samsung, Kingston, PNY and Corsair. You might see USB drives from unknown brands promising terabytes of storage for less than 10 dollars, but these tend to be sketchy products or even outright scams. Furthermore, the reliability of these cheap, no-name drives is questionable at best, and you run the risk of exposing yourself to a security threat if malware is preloaded on the drive. While it’s possible some of these products are fine, we’d err on the side of caution here.
And with that all said, we’ve rounded up 10 of the best USB drives that are currently available to buy right now. You can also check out the best microSD cards for additional media storage solutions. Take a look.
1. Samsung Fit Plus 128GB USB Drive
BEST USB DRIVE OVERALL
Of all the best USB drives on this list, it’s the Samsung Fit Plus that offers the most bang for the buck. When you consider the 128GB capacity, small size and USB 3.1 connectivity promising speedy file transfers, you won’t find a more well-rounded and versatile USB drive at this price. You can stick it on a keychain, leave it plugged into your computer or tuck it away in your pocket. However you choose to use it, it will be ready for use at a moment’s notice.
Samsung Fit Plus
2. Kingston DataTraveler Elite G2 64GB USB Drive
It’s true that the Kingston DataTraveler Elite G2 might offer less capacity at a higher price than the Samsung Fit Plus, but as testing from outlets such as AnandTech shows, it offers transfer speeds that place it towards the top of the pack. if you’re doing more than just storing PDFs and Microsoft Office documents — let’s say you’re regularly transferring gigabytes worth of photos between devices — you may want to prioritize the speed of the DataTraveler Elite G2 as you consider which of the best USB drives you want to buy.
C by GE Tunable White Wi-Fi Bulbs
3. SanDisk Cruzer 128GB USB Drive
The SanDisk Cruzer may not be the newest, the fastest or the most advanced USB drive. But this is a battle-tested, tried and true storage device that has hung around for years as the best-selling USB drive on Amazon. People not only love this USB drive for its simplicity, durability and reliability, but it also comes with SanDisk’s 128-bit encryption software, allowing you to secure the files on this disk. While we wouldn’t necessarily use it to store state secrets, it’s a nice extra feature.
4. PNY Turbo Attache 3 1TB USB Flash Drives
HIGHEST STORAGE CAPACITY
If you need more than a few hundred gigabytes of storage, you’re probably better off opting for an external hard drive or SSD in most cases, since they’re faster and more cost-effective. But if you really want a big-ass USB drive that can store everything under the sun, the PNY Attache Turbo will give you a terabyte of ultra-portable storage to do as you please with. But that’s as much as you’re going to get, since nobody makes a bigger USB drive.
PNY Turbo Attache 3
5. SanDisk Extreme Pro 256GB USB Drive
FASTEST READ/WRITE SPEEDS
For those who regularly find themselves transferring large batches of files, and for whom time is of the essence, the SanDisk Extreme Pro USB drive is one of the fastest USB drives you can buy. What makes this speed possible is its USB 3.2 interface which is the latest and greatest USB standard. And while you will pay a premium for this added performance, it could potentially save you hours of time with frequent use over an extended period of time.
SanDisk Extreme Pro
6. Apricorn Aegis Secure Key 30GB USB Drives
If you are tasked with handling or transporting documents that contain confidential personal data, private corporate information or the next great American novel, you’re going to want a USB drive with hardware encryption. What makes the Apricorn Aegis Secure Key the best secure USB drive is not just the fact that it features FIPS 140-2 Level 3 validation or 256-bit encryption, but that it has a physical keypad to unlock the drive. This means you don’t have to type your password into the computer it’s connected to, and removes the possibility of a keylogger exposing your password.
Apricorn Aegis Secure Key
7. Kingston DataTraveler G4 32GB USB Drive
CHEAPEST USB DRIVE
You will find no special features or best-of-class performance with the Kingston DataTraveler G4. Instead, what you get is 32 GB of storage for less than $5, which is the lowest price for a flash drive of any size you’re going to find from a reputable brand. If you need a handful of cheap drives to give away, or simply want to save as much money as humanly possible, these are the best cheap flash drives for you.
Kingston DataTraveler G4
8. Samsung Bar Plus 64 GB USB Drive
The best USB drives might be utilitarian objects by nature, but that doesn’t mean they have to look utilitarian as well. The Samsung Bar Plus reduces the form factor down to little more than the metal sheath of the USB drive and adds a bit of geometric flair to the end. This not only gives it a standout look, but makes it easy to grip while inserting and removing this drive from a USB port.
Samsung Bar Plus
9. SanDisk Ultra 64GB Dual Drive
BEST USB-A/USB-C DRIVE
If you use a laptop that only has USB-C ports (hey there, MacBook Pro owners!), the most convenient USB drive will be a combo deal that has a standard USB-A connection as well as a USB-C one. This ensures you don’t need an adapter, dongle or hub to connect to a MacBook Pro, but you’ll also still be able to connect to legacy devices.
SanDisk Ultra Dual Drive
10. Corsair Flash Survivor Stealth 64GB USB Drive
Most USB drives are water resistant, shock resistant, heat resistant and dust resistant to varying extents. But the Corsair Flash Survivor Stealth USB drive takes things one step further, adding an aircraft-grade aluminum casing that allows this USB drive to remain waterproof in up to 200 meters of water or withstand heavy impact from large objects. If you find yourself transferring data in harsh and extreme conditions (we see you, photographers), this is a great way to ensure your USB drive stays in one piece.