Why do my photo flash drives keep failing?
May 5, 2015 8:29 PM   Subscribe

I have had three flash drives recently, and they keep failing. This is why I am buying more. When I used the newest one tonight (not for the first time) I got a balloon message saying, "Your drive has malfunctioned and is no longer recognized by the computer." (I got that message or similar on the first two.)

After that it just didn't show up on the desktop. Now, I know to click on the icon on the desktop and get the message "May now be safely removed." My laptop is not that old -- well it's two years old, but new to me. The drives hold a standard camera disk (disk says SDHC multi-use) but i may have a couple different kinds. The brand were Memorex, Targus, and FC. The Memorex lasted the longest, and Targus lasted least. My fancy photographer friend has a disk that plugs directly in the computer, but I'm still paying off my hospital bills of late last year and will have to work with what I have for at least a while. Some of my incentives in my hospital bills crowdfunder are original photographs, so it would be lovely to find out why the disks are failing and make them stop if possible. Thank you for any help you may offer.
posted by intrepid_simpleton to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Have you tried plugging the drives into a different computer? It's possible that the drives are fine and the problem is on your computer (corrupt driver, etc.).
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 8:51 PM on May 5, 2015

Where did you get the computer from, and where did you get the photo flash drives from? The fact that the laptop is "new to you", meaning you got it used, has me suspicious that something about the laptop itself may be borked.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:51 PM on May 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

Some flash drives are just crap. You're a bit better off with ones that have a brand name on (although I've never heard of Targus or FC, and Memorex these days is likely just a white label brand) but the companies can still sometimes use substandard flash memory - if the drive is even what it says it is. There are a whole lot of cowboy flash drive manufacturers in Asia who use defective memory that's been rejected by quality control or simply don't include as much memory as the drive says it has.

At an old workplace, we bought 1,000 cheap 1GB flash drives for an event we were hosting and had a few hundred left over at the end. They were fine for the event (they were just to distribute a single ~600KB PDF document to attendees) but when we tried to use the remainder afterwards it was a disaster. Most of them reported 1GB of capacity to the computer, but actually had about a quarter of that available for use - storing more than this would lead to all sorts of mysterious error messages as the poor confused computer couldn't work out why it couldn't save data to a drive that was reporting free space. I think "your drive has malfunctioned" was one of the messages it spat out.

I'd switch to using a known brand of flash memory (I've never had a problem with SanDisk myself). And I'm sure you're already doing this, but I'd also backup original irreplaceable photos in several places to guard against disk failure. Dropbox is free up to a certain amount of space, and there are alternative services from Microsoft and others.
posted by winterhill at 3:51 AM on May 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

Did you get name brand stuff or just random **** off eBay for **** prices?

Flash mem is now a commodity, so any sort of cheaper-than-usual means some sort of corner was cut. A common scam is force the controller to report a capacity larger than it actually is, i.e. a 256MB drive pretending to be 1GB, and so on. Yes, it can be done. Add a label and you won't be able to tell the difference without a hardware ID reader (which reads the internal ID, thus exposing the real max capacity).

I buy name brand stuff... Kingston, Centon, Sandisk, Toshiba, Samsung, etc., from name-brand retailers (mostly Amazon, sometimes Best Buy) and I've never had problem with them except my own stupidity.

Look for sales on Amazon. Often you can get 32GB SDHC for about $16.
posted by kschang at 4:41 AM on May 6, 2015

I would try plugging some other device (not a flash drive) into the same port you used and see if the problem isn't the port. For so many drives to "fail" seems highly improbable. The common factor has been your computer and/or the port.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:21 AM on May 6, 2015

I bought the laptop new. I bought the drives new. ("New to me" because apparently anything over 45 minutes old is outdated in this world). Sorry if I wasn't completely clear on that. And I already tried another computer. Interesting facts on the memory. Just plugged the mouse in that drive (does that count?) and it worked fine. I will buy one of the ones recommended and see what happens.
posted by intrepid_simpleton at 5:34 AM on May 6, 2015

intrepid_simpleton: "The drives hold a standard camera disk (disk says SDHC multi-use) but i may have a couple different kinds. "

Are you talking about a USB flash drive (like this) or some kind of USB-to-SDHC adapter (like maybe this)? If it is the latter, I suspect the problem may be with the SD cards (the disk that goes in the camera) rather than the adapter. Have you tried using different SD cards? You might also check your camera documentation to see if there is a way to plug your camera directly into the computer (via a cable that may have come with your camera when originally purchased) and upload that way.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:22 AM on May 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

Just a couple remarks on the media brand you say you use: Memorex, Targus, and FC

Memorex is... tolerable. It's considered a name brand, and an old one, but it's nowhere as famous as SanDisk, Samsung, or other peripheral makers in terms of reputation. Doubt they make their own, but rebrands someone else's stuff.

Targus is a peripheral maker. They rebrand someone else's stuff and while their peripherals are okay, I have no experience with their flash media.

Never heard of FC brand, and searching Google didn't bring up anything within first page, which suggest it's some random Asian maker.

Look for Amazon or Newegg sales (and Rakuten, and so on) on flash media and get name brand. As I said, Sandisk, Samsung would be preferable. And you can often find them, 32GB for about $16. I wouldn't buy 64GB or 128GB yet until they fall to similar price ratios.
posted by kschang at 10:43 AM on May 6, 2015

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