USB key anomaly
May 5, 2006 6:08 AM   Subscribe

There should only be 5 mb of data on my 1 gig usb drive, but it says there's 493 mb used up. what's going on?

is there something i'm missing? did i make it bootable or something? and can i format it again to wipe everything out?
posted by jadanzzy to Computers & Internet (15 answers total)
Have you emptied your trash/recycling bin recently? When you trash something on a portable drive it will be sent to an invisible trash folder until you clear your bin.
posted by Evstar at 6:36 AM on May 5, 2006

On a Mac, if you drag stuff off a USB drive into the trash, it is not actually deleted unless you empty the trash before you eject the drive. Also, if you drag it off the drive onto the desktop, it stays on the drive. Something similar for Windows?
posted by planetkyoto at 6:37 AM on May 5, 2006

Or, what he said...
posted by planetkyoto at 6:38 AM on May 5, 2006

Response by poster: i did what was suggested and it nothing changed...
posted by jadanzzy at 7:10 AM on May 5, 2006

You know how flash memory has limited write cycles? I believe flash drives can detect when flash is used up and mark bad areas as gone.

Maybe you've either been doing something very write-intensive with the drive or it's defective.
posted by landtuna at 7:15 AM on May 5, 2006

I know this.. depending on how the drive is formatted will determine how much usable space you get..

For instance.. if its formatted FAT.. reformat it to FAT32..

That helped me a lot.
posted by cowmix at 7:22 AM on May 5, 2006

Do you have some security type software that hides a partition (separated section of the drive) until you enter a password? My thumb drive has security software that will do this. Once I enter my password the remaining storage space is revealed.
posted by randomthoughts at 7:50 AM on May 5, 2006

cowmix is spot on. I used to have a sandisk mp3 player that would show 400 megs free, but I couldn't copy a 30 meg folder on to it. (disk full) I know this isn't your exact problem, but a quick format always cured the problem.
posted by AllesKlar at 8:07 AM on May 5, 2006

Response by poster: @ landtuna: yeah i know about the cycles, but this is relatively new. didn't think go out that fast. and, well if transferring episodes of 24 on and off somewhat frequently is intense, then maybe?
posted by jadanzzy at 8:18 AM on May 5, 2006

Do you swap between Mac and Windows systems? Do you have hidden files set as viewable? Do you have a large number of files in the root directory?

-Hidden files (like the .DS_STORE files that Macs add by default) can take up space, can be invisible on a Windows system, and hidden files from both systems can clog your USB key.

-Having too many files in the root directory can (on Windows) really screw up your ability to add new files. If it's formatted as a FAT drive, you're limited by the FAT16 or FAT32 file issues.

I'm assuming that if on WinXP you are already running at least SP1, but there was a known issue with ejecting USB keys leaving the filesystem "dirty" on the key.
posted by caution live frogs at 8:36 AM on May 5, 2006

Oh. Forgot to add: Your best option might be to back up anything on the drive you want to keep, then reformat it. Run a disk utility to check for bad sectors.
posted by caution live frogs at 8:37 AM on May 5, 2006

If you are using your key on a Mac and emptying the trash didn't work, try pulling up Terminal and looking at the contents using the command line. Try deleting from there. Or what caution live frogs said.
posted by halonine at 10:01 AM on May 5, 2006

I've defragged mine to resolve a similar situation. If you use windows try the Disk Defragmenter at It's the bomb.
posted by horseblind at 12:49 PM on May 5, 2006

Check that you've turned off System Restore on that drive. (Assuming Windows - Right click 'My Computer', 'System Restore' tab. My 20 gig mp3 player just randomly decides it needs monitoring sometimes, and I frequently regain 1/2 gig by turning system restore off.
posted by punilux at 4:39 AM on May 6, 2006

'My Computer', 'Properties', 'System Restore' tab
posted by punilux at 4:41 AM on May 6, 2006

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