With storage prices coming down and USB technology continuing to improve, it's perhaps no surprise that USB drives still provide a popular solution for carrying around massive amounts of data.
Credit: KingstonFor just a few bucks, you can carry in your pocket most (or maybe even all) of the files and folders stored on your laptop or desktop PC. But buying a USB drive isn't as simple as you may think. There are different types of connections, including USB 2.0, USB 3.0 and USB 3.1 (newer is better). And you'll want to know about the drives' read and write speeds to get a sense of data-transfer performance. If you're worried about information going public, you'll want a drive with strong encryption.
So, to help you make your choice, we've rounded up the best USB drives you can buy right now. The following run the gamut of affordability, speed and size. But regardless of which of these USB drives you pick, it will get the job done.
1. Samsung MUF-128AB
Our top pick overallUSB Version: USB 3.1 | Capacity: 128GB | Encryption: No | Size: 0.9 x 0.7 x 0.3 inches | Weight: 0.16 ounces
If you're looking for a USB drive that offers a good mix of features and affordability, the Samsung MUF-128AB is a great place to start.
The device's tiny design makes it easy to carry around. It's available in a variety of sizes, ranging from 32GB to 256GB, and supports USB 3.1 connectivity, with data-transfer speeds up to 300 MBps.
To keep your data safe, the device is water-, shock-, magnet-, temperature- and X-ray-proof. And since this drive is backward-compatible with USB 2.0, it'll work in just about any device you have.
2. SanDisk Cruzer CZ36
Compact and secureUSB Version: USB 2.0 | Capacity: 64GB | Encryption: 128-bit AES | Size: 2.3 x 0.8 x 0.4 inches | Weight: 0.16 ounces
The SanDisk Cruzer CZ36 is one of the most popular USB drives out there. It's earned that popularity with its solid design, support for encryption and, most importantly, an exceedingly affordable price. The CZ36 comes with a black finish and a red slider that allows you to extend or retract the USB connector. The feature means you can keep your connector safe without worrying about damage.
The drive itself comes with USB 2.0 connectivity, which is on the older side. However, the SanDisk's 64GB of storage, 128-bit AES encryption and low price make it an outstanding option for anyone who needs a simple USB drive without all the extras.
3. Kingston Digital DataTraveler G4
Unbeatable bargainUSB Version: USB 3.0 | Capacity: 16GB | Encryption: No | Size: 2.2 x 0.4 x 0.8 inches | Weight: 1.6 ounces
For those who don't want to spend a lot of cash but still want a nicely equipped USB drive, Kingston Digital has the solution.
The company's DataTraveler G4 costs just $5. For that, you'll get a USB drive that has 16GB of storage and surprisingly, given the price, supports USB 3.0. A cap on the connector keeps the drive safe from damage when it's not in use, and thanks to a loop at the end, you can connect the DataTraveler to a keychain for safekeeping.
4. PNY Turbo
Lots of storage for lessUSB Version: USB 3.0 | Capacity: 128GB | Encryption: No | Size: 5.3 x 0.2 x 3.9 inches | Weight: 0.64 ounces
PNY'’s popular Turbo flash drive comes with both a rugged design and plenty of storage.
The USB 3.0 device, which costs $25, offers transfer speeds of up to 10 times what you get in a comparable USB 2.0 drive. Add that to this drive's 128GB of storage, and you should be able to store nearly 24,000 songs on the device — and transfer them with ease.
The drive comes with a sliding-collar design that protects the connector when it's not in use. And thanks to this device's integrated loop, you can attach the PNY Turbo to a keychain or backpack for safekeeping.
5. SanDisk Extreme Pro
Premium finish meets fast speedsUSB Version: USB 3.1 | Capacity: 128GB | Encryption: Yes | Size: 2.8 x 0.8 x 0.5 inches | Weight: 0.64 ounces
SanDisk's Extreme Pro is one of its most capable USB devices. The drive comes with 128GB of storage and delivers USB 3.1 connectivity, ensuring fast data speeds. In fact, according to SanDisk, the device can deliver read speeds of up to 420 MBps and write speeds of up to 380 MBps.
Thanks to an aluminum finish, the Extreme Pro should be able to withstand shock and other damage and keep working.
SanDisk's drive, which is also compatible with USB 3.0 and USB 2.0, offers a lifetime limited warranty. And with 128-bit AES encryption, you can safeguard data you don't want others to steal.
6. Corsair Flash Survivor Stealth
Durable designUSB Version: USB 3.0 | Capacity: 64GB | Encryption: No | Size: 3 x 1 x 1 inches | Weight: 1.6 ounces
Corsair's Flash Survivor Stealth is all about one thing: keeping your data safe.
The device comes with a cylindrical design and an anodized, aircraft-grade aluminum housing to limit the risk of damage to the device if you drop it. This drive also features a water seal to reduce chances of liquid intrusion, and it has a shock-damping collar around the ends.
On the connectivity side, it supports USB 3.0. And with 64GB of storage, you'll be able to put plenty of content on this device without fear of damage.
7. SanDisk Ultra USB-C
Best for USB-C portsUSB Version: USB-C | Capacity: 128GB | Encryption: No | Size: 0.4 x 1.5 x 0.8 inches | Weight: 0.32 ounces
SanDisk's Ultra USB-C is a slick-looking drive that offers plenty of storage and fast data transfers. It's a great choice for laptops, like the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro, that have only USB-C ports.
The drive comes with 128GB of storage and accommodates data transfers to and from a range of devices, from your computer to an Android smartphone. SanDisk says that the drive achieves data-transfer speeds of up to 150 MBps. And when this device is not in use, you can retract the connector to limit chances of damage.
8. Kingston Digital DataTraveler Elite G2
Helpful LED lightUSB Version: USB 3.1 | Capacity: 64GB | Encryption: No | Size: 2.3 x 0.8 x 0.4 inches | Weight: 0.64 ounces
Another favorite from Kingston Digital, the DataTraveler Elite G2 is a popular USB drive that comes with USB 3.1 connectivity. Its LED light tells you when it's connected and data is transferring.
The device, which comes in versions ranging from 8GB to 256GB, allows for data-transfer speeds of 180 MBps. If you don't have USB 3.1 ports, you can also rely on this drive to transfer data at USB 2.0 speeds.
The model that ships with 64GB of storage, a solid amount for most uses, costs less than $30.
9. Samsung 32GB Bar
Premium (and tough) metal designUSB Version: USB 3.0 | Capacity: 32GB | Encryption: No | Size: 1.6 x 0.5 x 0.4 inches | Weight: 0.32 ounces
Samsung has delivered one of the better-looking USB drives with the 32GB Bar.
The device, which is made from high-quality metal, has a ring that you can use to attach the drive to yourself so you don't lose it. Better yet, it's water-, shock-, magnet-, temperature and X-ray-proof, limiting the chances of damage.
Thanks to this drive's USB 3.0 support, you should expect fast data transfers, and you also get USB 2.0 compatibility.
10. SanDisk iXpand Flash Drive
Works with iPhone and iPadUSB Version: USB 3.0 | Capacity: 128GB | Encryption: Yes | Size: 2.4 x 0.5 x 0.7 inches | Weight: 0.16 ounces
If you're in the market for one of the very best USB drives available and you're just fine spending some cash to get it, check out the SanDisk iXpand flash drive.
The device features 128GB of storage, though you can configure the iXpand to have up to 256GB of space. It has a metal finish to improve its durability, and thanks to its USB 3.0 connectivity, the device will deliver fast data transfers.
The iXpand flash drive's most important feature is its Lightning connector, which allows you to connect to an iPhone or iPad and transfer data to and from that device. Considering how difficult it can be to transfer data from those devices without Apple's help, that feature alone could be a major selling point for the iXpand.
But to get all that, be ready to spend: The SanDisk iXpand flash drive costs $53.