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Other Uses for USB Flash Drives


A USB flash drive is a versatile data storage solution that can be used for many purposes, some of which are not widely known. While flash drives are popular for backing up and transferring data, other uses include boosting computer performance or serving as an operating system boot disk. Below, NeweggBusiness presents several lesser-known benefits of flash drives that you may find useful.

Increase System Performance

Certain operating systems allow you to use a USB flash drive to increase system performance by complementing the main system memory. Known as ReadyBoost ®, it is supported by Windows® Vista®, Windows 7, and Windows 8. In order for a USB flash drive to be used, it must have at least 256 MB of unused space.

Portable Applications

What are portable applications? They are programs that can be installed onto a USB flash drive and run on a host computer without modifying the host computer’s settings or configurations. For instance, a portable .pdf reader on a USB flash drive will allow you to read .pdf files without requiring installation.

Boot Disk

A boot disk can be used for many purposes, including operating system installation, updating Basic Input / Output System (BIOS) settings, and troubleshooting operating system issues. Traditionally, boot disks were specially formatted 3.5 inch floppy disks and later optical discs, but USB flash drives can also be used. The process to make a USB flash drive a boot disk varies depending on the operating system.

Automated Backup

Some USB flash drives include automated backup software bundled or preinstalled onto the drive. With automatic backup, files, folders, and settings can be backed up to a flash drive whenever it is inserted into a USB slot.

Lock or Unlock a Computer

If you have concerns about computer security and do not feel that a password is sufficient protection, a USB flash drive can be used to add an extra layer of security. Some programs, when installed onto your computer and USB flash drive, require the flash drive to be inserted in order for the computer to be locked or unlocked.

Security Tools

By installing portable security tools onto a USB drive, you can scan for viruses and malware on any computer that the flash drive is connected to. A useful tool if you need to remove viruses, malware, or other malicious software from multiple computers or frequently use public computers.

Optical Drive Replacement

Installing an operating system typically requires you to have the installation disc, which can be an issue if the computer does not have an optical drive. One workaround is to use a USB flash drive as the installation medium, rather than an optical disc. This is accomplished by formatting the USB flash drive as a boot disk and copying the operating system installation files.