The 10 Best USB Flash Drives of 2021

Transfer files with ease from your pocket or your keychain.

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The best flash drives carry a lot of data and transfer it to and from your computer quickly and easily, without worrying about wireless connectivity. When it comes down to it, wireless connectivity can be unreliable. A device that plugs into your USB port is about as reliable as it gets. Bottom line, if you need to keep a large number of files on hand, or you need to move them between computers quickly and securely, a flash drive is the best way to do that.

Flash drives have size, cost, and portability all going for them. If you frequently move field between work and home, or if you frequently install apps onto multiple computers, or even if you have a lot of files to distribute to a number of people, a bag full of flash drives is an economical way to do that. Flash drives are faster than wireless transfer and more portable than even the best external hard drives.

Some things to look for in a flash drive include size, the types of ports they plug into, storage capacity, read/write speed, and price. Prices have come down considerably for flash drives, so regardless of your choice, you probably won't be paying too much. But our experts have looked at many flash drives and rounded up our favorites below.

The Rundown
This drive looks like a tool for professionals.
Best for Multiple Devices:
SanDisk Ultra 128GB Dual Drive at Amazon
Whether you have a new computer, old computer, or Android phone, this drive has your back.
Best for iPhones and iPads:
SanDisk iXpand at Amazon
If you have an iPhone and you need to periodically back it up, this is a great device to do it.
Best for Ultrabooks:
Samsung FIT at Walmart
The Samsung Fit 32GB flash drive is proof positive that a flash drive doesn't have to be an inconvenient dongle sticking out the side of your computer
You get a nice stylish flash drive with a beautiful design that will look great along with your Mac.
It all comes back to encryption and the Kingston Data Traveler Vault which comes with AES 256-bit encryption and antivirus built in.
Wouldn't it be embarrassing to be in a situation where you need a flash drive to survive 200 meters under water and you just don't have one?
Best Capacity:
PNY Turbo 256GB at Amazon
The PNY flash drive can go all the way up to 1TB and still fit on your keychain.
When it comes to value for the dollar, the Kingston DataTraveler is a great pickup.
If you use a variety of mobile devices, this is the drive for you.

Best Overall: SanDisk Extreme PRO 128 GB Drive

The Sandisk Extreme Pro is our pick for best overall USB Flash drive.
What We Like
  • Solid Design

  • Available up to 256GB

  • Built-in file encryption

What We Don't Like
  • Read speeds inconsistent

  • Expensive

The SanDisk PRO is an easy top pick because of its capacity and its read/write speeds. At 420/380 Mbps read/write you're getting about three times the speed that USB 3.0 would offer. Our reviewer Eric found the read speed would drop about halfway through a file transfer. It was frustrating and inconsistent, so it was hard to track.

The drive itself is made of an aluminum casing that looks premium. There's a single LED light and a keychain loop for easy carrying. This drive looks like a tool for professionals.  That continues on the inside with 128-bit file encryption and USB 3.1 connectivity. That's backward compatible, so the drive also works with older machines. 

The drive comes preloaded with SanDisk's RescuePRO software that can help you recover lost files. Plus, SanDisk backs this drive up with a full lifetime warranty if there's any trouble. Because of all that, the drive is among the more expensive drives out there, but the extras you get here make it worth it.

Capacity: 128 or 256GB | Interface: USB-A (3.1) | Read speed: 420 MB/s | Write Speed: 380 MB/s

"Using the solid state drive, we were able to write Avengers: Infinity War in 30 seconds, but it took a full 90 seconds to transfer it back." — Eric Watson, Product Tester

SanDisk Extreme PRO 128 GB Drive

Lifewire 

Best for Multiple Devices: SanDisk Ultra 128GB Dual Drive

The Sansdisk Ultra is our pick for best USB flash drive for multiple devices.
What We Like
  • Versatile for USB Type-A and UYSB-C

  • Solid price

What We Don't Like
  • Slow speeds

People not only sit down at computers at work, but they're also carrying around pocket computers. The SanDisk Ultra Dual Drive is appropriately named because it has a USB-A and USB-C plug, suitable for computers, smartphones, and more. If you're someone who has computers with varying types of USB ports or if you move files back and forth between your computer and Android phone, this is a good choice.

The drive has relatively low read/write speeds of just 150 MB/s.  We like that both the data connectors are retractable into the body of the drive, which reduces the risk of damage. You can stick this into a backpack or a pocket without worrying about it. The data connector is often the most vulnerable part of the flash drive, so pulling it back into the body is very reassuring. Mostly, we love the versatility that the dual connectors provide. Whether you have a new computer, old computer, or Android phone, this drive has your back.

Capacity: Up to 256GB | Interface: USB-A and USB-C (3.1) | Read speed: 150 MB/s | Write Speed: 150 MB/s

Best for iPhones and iPads: SanDisk iXpand 128GB Flash Drive

The Sandisk iXpand USB Flash drive is our pick for best for apple products.
What We Like
  • Lightning and USB-A

  • Software automates backups

What We Don't Like
  • Odd design

  • Potential durability issues

While the rest of the world moves on to USB Type-C, Apple is still clinging to its lightning connectors. We're not judging, but it does require a different kind of connector for those who want to move files between a computer and an iPhone. SanDisk also has you covered here with the iXpand 128 GB Flash drive. It's a bit oddly shaped with the lightning connector curling up on the end to form a loop. Our reviewer, Eric questions the drive's long-term durability since the lightning connector is exposed on the end.

Assuming you have a computer with a USB-A drive (not all Macs do) you can use this device to move files between your computer and iPhone or iPad. The drive also comes with SanDisk's iXpand software which helps you backup your phone quickly and easily just by plugging in the device. If you prefer to transfer individual files, instead of a complete backup, you can do that as well. If you have an iPhone and you need to periodically back it up, this is a great device to do it.

Capacity: Up to 256 | Interface: USB-A (3.0) and Lightning | Read speed: 150 MB/s | Write Speed: 150 MB/s 

"Most USB flash drives feature a USB 3.0 connector, but the SanDisk iXpand pulls double duty with an added Lightning connector." — Eric Watson, Product Tester

SanDisk iXpand 128GB

Lifewire 

Best for Ultrabooks: Samsung FIT 32GB USB 3.0 Flash Drive

What We Like
  • Remarkably small...

  • Solid transfer speeds

  • Great price

What We Don't Like
  • ...perhaps too small

The Samsung Fit 32GB flash drive is proof positive that a flash drive doesn't have to be an inconvenient dongle sticking out the side of your computer. The Fit is barely larger than its USB-A body and sticks out of the slot by mere millimeters. One tiny little nub can give you up to 32GB of extra storage. Of course, that tiny size also comes at a price since it's so small it can be easily lost. Our reviewer recommends attaching a lanyard because of that, even though that might defeat the purpose.

You still get good read and write speeds of 200 MB/s and 60 MB/s respectively. We recommend this for Ultrabooks because the tiny size of the USB drive is a match for the tiny size on the ultrabook, but you'll want to make sure your ultrabook has a USB-A port before picking one up. If it does, this drive is a great addition that is resistant to the elements and clocks in at a great price.

Capacity: Up to 256GB | Interface: USB-A (3.1) | Read speed: 200 MB/s | Write Speed: 60 MB/s 

Best for Macbooks: Silicon Power C80 64GB Flash Drive

Silicon Power 64GB
What We Like
  • Nice ring design

  • Great price

  • USB connectors protected

What We Don't Like
  • Maxes out at 64GB

  • Unlisted Read/Write speeds

Depending on which Macbook you own, you could need either a USB-A or USB-C. This USB flash drive has both. Plus, the design is built with a zinc alloy that looks great next to your Macbook, making it an ideal companion. This flash drive has a USB 3.2 interface but Silicon Power is shy with their read and writes speed specifications, which is a little disappointing. The fact that storage tops out at 64GB is also disappointing. 

But the ring design looks great, and of course, it's easy to add the drive to a keychain or lanyard. The USB-C port is protected by the zinc alloy shell and, while the other end does stick out, it is also zinc alloy which is pretty durable. The device also includes free file management software if you want to use it. Otherwise, you get a nice stylish flash drive with a beautiful design that will look great along with your Mac.

Capacity: Up to 64GB | Interface: USB-A and USB-C (3.2) | Read speed: Not Listed | Write Speed: Not Listed

Best for Security: Kingston Data Traveler Vault

The Kingston Data Traveler is our pick for best security USB Flash Drive.
What We Like
  • Built-in encryption

  • Antivirus protection

  • TAA compliant

What We Don't Like
  • Transfer speeds are slow

  • Pricey

Flash drive security is a whole industry that has sprung up, and it makes sense. Data on a flash drive is easily accessible when you physically have the drive. Some flash drives use fingerprint readers, and others have keypads built-in. Those are nice, but it all comes back to encryption and the Kingston Data Traveler Vault comes with AES 256-bit encryption and antivirus built-in.

This "business-grade" security can also be beefed up further with a managed version of SafeConsole that also includes extra management tools. The flash drives are TAA compliant which means they follow government protocols. They're available in sizes up to 64GB, but they're very expensive and the security results in slower transfer speeds, so that's important to keep in mind.

Capacity: Up to 64GB | Interface: USB-A (3.0) | Read speed: 165 MB/s | Write Speed: 22 MB/s

Most Rugged: Corsair Flash Survivor Stealth 64GB USB 3.0 Flash Drive

The Corsair Flash Survivor Stealth flash drive is our pick for the most rugged Flash Drive.
What We Like
  • Built tough

  • Waterproof

What We Don't Like
  • Tough to plug in

Wouldn't it be embarrassing to be in a situation where you need your flash drive to survive 200 meters underwater and you just don't have one? Admittedly it's a niche case, but there is definitely a certain set of people who need a rugged USB drive, and the Corsair Flash Survivor Stealth flash drive is designed for those folks. Campers, construction workers, first responders all could benefit from a flash drive that's as rugged as they are. 

The drive is constructed with an all-aluminum build and has EPDM (ethylene propylene diene monomer rubber) seal. The screw top housing can make the flash drive a little hard to plug in because the plug is a bit higher up than the average flash drive, so that's something to consider. Beyond that small limitation, and the fact that the price is a tad higher than average due to the construction, this is a great pickup if you need a flash drive that can survive challenging conditions.

Capacity: up to 256GB | Interface: USB-A (3.0) | Read speed: 85 MB/s | Write Speed: 85 MB/s

Best Capacity: PNY Turbo 256GB

The PNY Turbo is our pick for best capacity USB flash drive.
What We Like
  • Goes up to 1TB

  • Transfer speeds

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey

  • Not premium

PNY is one of the leaders in flash drives due to the fact that they typically have a higher capacity for lower costs. That's hard to compete with, but the PNY flash drive can go all the way up to 1TB and still fit on your keychain. You may not need a full terabyte of storage, but 256GB in your pocket for a very reasonable price is a good reason to recommend it.

In terms of read and write speeds those are 140/80 respectively which is not terribly fast, but the USB 3.0 architecture gives you backward compatibility, regardless of your computer's age. We'd like to see a better build for this much data, to be honest. One wrong move and you lose 256 GB worth of data, but overall as long as you take care of it, you can get a ton of value out of this drive.

Capacity: Up to 1TB | Interface: USB-A (3.0) | Read speed: 140 MB/s | Write Speed: 80 MB/s

Best Budget: Kingston DataTraveler SE9 G2 Flash Drive

The Kinston DataTraveler Se9 is our pick for best budget USB flash drive.
What We Like
  • Durable

  • Good price

What We Don't Like
  • No cap included

If you're looking for a lot of storage on a budget, the Kingston DataTraveller SE9 is a great choice. Regardless of the size you choose, you're getting a great GB to dollar ratio with this series of flash drives, all the way up to 256GB. Read and write speeds are decent at 200 and 60 MBps respectively.

The drive comes in a solid metal casing which is nice and sturdy. We'd like to see a cap included on the end to protect the USB connector which is typically the most vulnerable part, but we can understand its omission. All the same, if you put 256GB on something, you want it to be as safe as possible. But there is a five-year warranty which helps. But overall when it comes to value for the dollar, the Kingston DataTraveler is a great pickup.

Capacity: Up to 256GB | Interface: USB-A (3.2) | Read speed: 200 MB/s | Write Speed: 60 MB/s

"Plug it into a USB slot, and the PC instantly recognizes an empty storage drive. There’s no software to install or any setup required." — Eric Watson, Product Tester

Kingston DataTraveler SE9 G2 Flash Drive

Lifewire 

Best for Phones: SanDisk iXpand Luxe Flash Drive

SanDisk 128GB iXpand Flash Drive Luxe
What We Like
  • Works with iOS and Android

  • Well-built

What We Don't Like
  • iCloud photos issues

  • Pricey

The iXpand Luxe flash drive has a unique layout and configuration and sports both lightning and USB-C connections on either end. This is a good option for mixed-device families like those who have both Android and iOS devices. It's also a good option for people who use iPhones and iPads Pro which can USB connections. Basically, if you use a variety of mobile devices, this is the drive for you.

Our reviewer, Andrew, had some trouble with the iXpand app and his iCloud photo library. He writes, "In my case, because of my years of iPhone photos saved to iCloud, the iXpand Luxe saw some 55,000+ photos ready to be backed up—even though they aren’t all locally stored on the device."  Beyond that though, this is a great USB stick that can be used on iOS or Android or even PCs with USB-C ports. That makes it about as versatile as they come.

Capacity: Up to 256GB | Interface: USB-C and Lightning | Read speed: 90 MB/s | Write Speed: 60 MB/s

"When I plugged the SanDisk iXpand Luxe Flash Drive into my Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max, the phone prompted me to download the necessary iXpand Flash Drive app from the App Store." Andrew Hayward, Product Tester

SanDisk iXpand Luxe Flash Drive

Lifewire / Andrew Hayward

Final Verdict

Overall, we really like our top pick, the SanDisk Extreme Pro. It has the best mix of stylish looks, storage, and affordability that we like to see in a USB drive. You also get great transfer speeds and a clean professional look. Otherwise, we really like the Kingston DataTraveler SE9 for its bargain-basement price per GB. The sturdy build of the Kingston should keep it safe for years to come.

About Our Trusted Experts

Patrick Hyde lives in Seattle where he works as a digital marketer and freelance copywriter. He is an expert in consumer technology and electronics, including USB flash drives.

Eric Watson has more than five years of experience as a professional freelance writer for numerous tech and gaming-related websites and magazines. He is a consumer tech expert and praised SanDisk's Extreme PRO Solid State Flash Drive for its high speeds.

Andrew Hayward is a Chicago-based writer who has been covering technology and video games since 2006. He tested the SanDisk iXpand Luxe Flash Drive with his Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max, and found the drive to be a straightforward backup method.

Adam Doud has been writing in the technology space for almost a decade. When he's not hosting the Benefit of the Doud podcast, he's playing with the latest phones, tablets, and laptops. When not working, he's a cyclist, geocacher, and spends as much time outside as he can.

FAQ
  • Should you buy an external hard drive or a USB flash drive?

    If you're looking for a large amount of storage, faster transfer speeds, and don't mind a large form factor and higher cost, check our list of the best external hard drives. For smaller amounts of data in the most portable size available (and even greater plug and play convenience), a USB flash drive is the way to go.

  • Are USB flash drives good for backing up data?

    Flash drives are some of the less reliable mediums for storage and are really designed (and best used) as temporary envelopes for data transfer. For long-term backup, traditional HDDs are the best solution, providing the most data stability and capacity for the price (or for a faster solution at a higher price tag, an SSD).

  • What's the difference between USB 2.0, USB 3.0, USB-C, etc. flash drives?

    The USB standard a flash drive is built around will determine a number of things about its potential performance, including maximum transfer rate. The transfer ceiling for USB 3.0, for instance, is theoretically ten times higher than 2.0. Letters following a USB designation (like USB-A, USB-B, or USB-C) indicate the physical type of connection; USB-A is the familiar rectangle most associated with the standard, while USB-C is a reversible flat oval.

"One way to make the most out of your USB flash drive is to use it to supplement your existing hard drive space. Older computers often don’t have as much internal storage as we need but USB flash drives can quickly expand the available disk space for these machines in a very cost-effective fashion." — Weston Happ, Product Development Manager, MerchantMaverick.com

SanDisk Extreme PRO 128 GB Drive

 Lifewire

What to Look For in a USB Flash Drive

Speed

If it’s speed you seek, go for a flash drive that has USB 3.0, 3.1, or 3.2 technology, which is up to ten times faster than the USB 2.0 standard.

Security

Often times the data you’re transferring is highly sensitive, which means your basic flash drive won’t cut it. Spring for a flash drive with a numerical touchpad that allows you to password protect your files. Or better yet, snag one that requires your fingerprint.

SanDisk iXpand Luxe Flash Drive

Lifewire / Andrew Hayward

Capacity

More so than any other feature, capacity will drive the price of a flash drive up the most. So before you make a purchase, consider how much you’re willing to spend on a flash drive and weigh that against how much capacity you’ll likely need, and what kinds of files you're looking to shuffle around.

"With the price per gigabyte of USB flash drives continuing to drop, 32 gigabytes is a good baseline for the minimum size drive buyers should consider. From there, matching your individual sizing needs for data storage while also weighing budget considerations will hopefully land any buyer in their USB flash drive sweet spot." — Weston Happ, Product Development Manager, MerchantMaverick.com

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