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USB Flash Drives, Memory Sticks and Information

What's a USB Flash Drive / Memory Stick and Why Would I Need One?
USB Flash Drives can store large amounts of data (1 Gb is not uncommon these days), they are cheap, and are an easy way to transfer data from one computer to another. In the past we were restricted to the 1.44 Mb of the floppy disk, which today is wholly inadequate for everything except a few text documents. USB Flash Drives can be used without the installation of any additional drivers, they are completely portable - many designs can be attached to keyrings - and they have no moving parts.

What's the difference between a USB Flash Drive and a Memory Stick?
There is no difference - the names are interchangeable.

Where can I buy one?
Try USB Flash Drives at:

Why USB?
USB (Universal Serial Bus) is a universal interface that allow parallel ports, serial ports and PS/2 etc to be replaced by a single, easier to operate interface that is recognised by current and future versions of Windows. USB allows you to plug hardware devices into your computer while it is running and they will be recognised instantly, unlike with serial and parallel reports. This makes installing new devices much easier, as with USB devices you no longer have to worry about IRQ conflicts or installing additional pci cards to the motherboard in order for them to work.

The operating systems that support USB are Windows 98 and Windows 2000 / XP, although in many cases you will still have to install the USB driver for the device (not in the case of USB pen drives as they work without the installation of driver software). Note that if the USB device does have a drivers disk that needs to be installed, you should install it before connecting the device to the computer.

Examples of USB devices
Examples of USB devices include digital cameras, printers, scanners, card readers, joysticks, mice and keyboards. As data can flow both to and from the device, this has allowed the innovation of devices such as Force Feedback joysticks and writing data to memory cards

USB Versions
Windows 98 is compatible with USB 1.1. However, USB 1.1 is quite slow when using devices that require the transfer of large amounts of data, such as digital video cameras and external hard drives. So in 2001, the USB 2.0 Standard was introduced. USB 2.0 is over 40 times faster than USB 1.1, but shares the former version's compatibility.

USB Adapters and Cables
All recent computers have USB ports fitted as standard. USB cables can have one of two types of connectors on either end, namely Type A and Type B. The Type A connector is rectangular with a white half size rectangle inside it - this is the connector that plugs into the computer. The Type B connector is smaller and squarer and plugs into the USB device. Note that some maufacturers such as Sony have their own proprietary connectors into their USB devices, so that you can only use their USB cables.

USB ports have 5V of power which can be used to power the devices. In many cases, 5V is sufficient to power the device and eliminates the need for an external power source.

Do 1.1 ports Support 2.0 Devices and Vice Versa?
Generally, yes. If you use a 2.0 device in a 1.1 port, it will work, but only at the slower 1.1 speeds. Conversely, if you plug a 1.1 device into a 2.0 port, it will work as it did in the 1.1 port - there will be no speed increase.