Where can I find cheap bulk 256mb usb drives?
April 13, 2011 10:03 PM   Subscribe

Where can I get a pack of four or five 256/512 mb usb flash drives to be used as give-aways?

Since no one really uses blank cds anymore, I lack my previous medium of choice for mixes... This is what I was just thinking when it hit me: With the pace that usb flash technology has been cruzering along (why yes, that was a pun), the smaller, pre-gig drives out there must be going for pennies! So I decided to order a bunch and simply hand them out to friends, pre-loaded of course with some of the wonderful things i listen to. Here's the problem though, I have no idea where to find a cheap pack of these things (like 5 for less than $10). None of my usual storefronts--amazon, ebay, google/froogle--are producing the results.

So I turn to you dear metafilter friends; rain that knowledge on down.
posted by robobrent to Shopping (19 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Since they aren't generally made in that capacity, that's probably why you might have trouble sourcing them, pricing aside. Here's a five-pack of 256 MB sticks for $30, if you need that capacity.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:16 PM on April 13, 2011

You might try someone like bulkflashdrives.com, although they're going to want you to order more than five.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 10:28 PM on April 13, 2011

You could get five 1Gb drives for about $30 from dealextreme.
posted by pompomtom at 10:31 PM on April 13, 2011

Response by poster: thanks guys, but 30 bucks and 1 gig a-piece is just too much for me to hand out as mix tapes. I know these things have to be cheap as dirt right now and I'm confident that they're floating around out there. Hell, I'd even order more than 5 if i can get them for what i'm thinking they should be going for. Any other ideas?
posted by robobrent at 10:39 PM on April 13, 2011

... actually, the bulkflashdrives.com seems to be still $5 each. Try going to every dollar store in your area, sometimes they have obsolete computer peripherals.

eBay is another option, if you're willing to buy 10+ it looks like they get down to about $4 each. SD cards are a little cheaper, but still not pennies.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 10:41 PM on April 13, 2011

Hell, I'd even order more than 5 if i can get them for what i'm thinking they should be going for.

Buying in bulk from China gets you a 128 MB flask disk for $4-5 apiece, 500 minimum. Your expectations just might not be realistic.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:51 PM on April 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

Dealextreme can get down to 1gb for $7. They claim to be Kingston (but I doubt it).

Fry's has a store brand 1gb for $5. I am pretty certain that in the store (at least the South Bay ones) I have seen plenty of cheaper drives on various sales.
posted by fief at 10:53 PM on April 13, 2011

Best answer: You might have better luck getting micro sd cards and putting them into card readers.

Cheapest place to get low-capacity micro sd cards would be ebay. Just put in your capacity and "micro sd" and you'll find a bunch. You can probably buy those card readers on ebay for cheaper than DX, but if you're buying in bulk you get a discount anyway.
posted by Sallysings at 11:29 PM on April 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

On another search, maybe something like this.
posted by Sallysings at 11:31 PM on April 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

$6 each from NewEgg.

I don't think you're going to get them cheaper than this. They would have to charge about this much for a package of air in order to make it worth their while to stock it. And it's an obscure (and likely low volume) product because most people want larger capacity.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 11:43 PM on April 13, 2011

It's the same reason why older generation RAM chips cost more than the current generation ones. At my computer parts wholesaler DDR3 RAM costs half as much as DDR2 RAM.
posted by xdvesper at 11:59 PM on April 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It's the same reason why older generation RAM chips cost more than the current generation ones.

Yep: the production volume just isn't there any more, and the housing represents the bulk of the cost at the low end, judging from the base prices at direct-from-China outlets like FocalPrice. (Not so easy to find a 100GB hard drive either.) You could try a Freecycle or Craigslist request to sweep up long-discarded USB keys, though people may be loathe to get hand over something that may have stored personal data.
posted by holgate at 12:46 AM on April 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

Previously, previously, previously, previously, and previously. Bottom line is that they probably aren't going to be as cheap as you're looking for.
posted by anaelith at 5:18 AM on April 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

how about storing your music online -- on something like rapidshare.com -- then share links with your friends -- not quite as easy, but also no need for a throwaway drive either. You can just send a link to your music.
posted by indigo4963 at 6:57 AM on April 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think the only way you're going to meet your price target is to happen to find them somewhere on clearance. I've got a 256MB flash drive sitting here on my desk that I paid $1.74 for on clearance at Target.

I think the best route will be storing online and distributing a link.
posted by chazlarson at 8:02 AM on April 14, 2011

there are some 512MB kingstons on ebay for $4.50 apiece with free shipping. Listing says they ship from NY.
posted by BishopFistwick at 11:37 AM on April 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Yeah, while the cost-per-megabyte for flash storage has come down dramatically since USB drives became popular, most of the cost isn't in the memory, it's in the packaging. We order a lot of promotional trade show swag, and even in lots of 500 or 1000, the difference between 256MB drives and 4GB drives is about twenty cents.

Your best bet is probably not going to be newly-manufactured stuff, but rather snatching up new, unsold stock. Newegg occasionally has closeouts (at least, I've been able to pick up 128MB CF cards crazy cheap), and you might try places like Overstock.com or Big Lots.

It also never hurts to keep your eyes and ears open for second-hand stuff. At least around here, a lot of companies use relatively low-capacity (<1GB) flash drives for distributing promotional materials, either at trade shows or by mass-mailings. If you get wind of a company sending a bunch of these out, see how many you can grab.
posted by xedrik at 3:44 PM on April 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. It's unfortunate that smaller capacity drives have gone the way of smaller/slower RAM (holgate). This has been an enlightening experience. I think I'll end up trying out the micro sd option provided by Sallysings. The rapidshare link was also a good suggestion, but I've previously gone that route and its got its short comings. The lack of a physical medium (or physical transaction for that matter) makes it somehow less personal and also it tends to make some of my less-tech-savvy friends nervous (there could be a virus behind that link!).

All that being said, I'm amazed at how difficult it is to find a new medium to fill the niche of the blank cd. Hopefully this isn't signalling the decline of one of my favorite gifts/artforms: the mix tape.

On a more expansive philosophical note: As we continue to move away from physical media for data storage towards a landscape of primarily online-hosted information, does something intimately human get lost in the process? That is to ask, what role does the physical transaction of goods play in the formation and maintenance of interpersonal relationships? If giving becomes less rewarding for both parties involved (as I recently experienced with uploading a mix to a filesharing service and sending a link to a friend), will the act of doing so eventually fade out?
I know the debate about whether the internet is killing "real" human connections is somewhat trite (though definitely interesting), but I've never heard the component of physical transactions (gifts or otherwise) factored into it.

posted by robobrent at 6:07 PM on April 14, 2011

I would strongly disagree that the internet is killing "real" human connections. I used to play Final Fantasy XI, Square's first big MMO. Our Linkshell (guild) there was really close. One of our member's apartment building burned down and he lost everything. We took up a collection and managed to send him a few hundred dollars to help him get back on his feet. Of the dozen or so people who contributed, only one had ever met the guy IRL. Our only interaction with him (and each other, for the most part) was through the game, and still so many people were willing to help out a friend in need, though they'd never actually met.

As far as the physical transactions go, it's never really prevented me from buying something; heck, most of my PC games library is on Steam (which I just love to death!) I love streaming music and loading up my phone or (LOL) Zune with a bunch of music and movies and having entertainment wherever I go. I buy a lot of music digitally; that is, I pay for a download but never receive any physical media. And I'm fine with that. The one area I can't "go digital" is books. Yes, e-readers are neat, but nothing replaces the experience of reading an actual book. The tactile feel of the pages, the musty smell of book paper, the sound of turning the page... Nothing can replace that.

Also, random thought... Why is it that you're going away from CDs? Is it because people don't like getting CDs anymore and would prefer a more universal, portable format? Or is it just because CDs are hard to pocket? Have you considered the smaller 80mm (as opposed to standard 120mm) CDs, or the "business card" CDs? The only downside, other than availability, is that the smaller CDs generally won't play in slot-loading drives.
posted by xedrik at 3:06 PM on April 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

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