The 9 Best USB Flash Drives of 2021

Transfer files and documents at the drop of a hat

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The Rundown
"Gives you blistering speeds three to four times faster than a standard USB 3.0 drive."
Best for Multiple Devices:
SanDisk Ultra 128GB Dual Drive at Amazon
"Fast, reliable, and with some handy app support, this drive takes full advantage of the USB 3.1 standard."
Best for Apple Products:
SanDisk iXpand at Amazon
"Designed for ease of use with iPhones and iPads."
Best for Ultrabooks:
Samsung FIT at B&H Photo Video
"Slim and compact, about the size of your thumbnail."
"Features a dual interface with USB Type-C and USB Type-A 3.0 ports."
"This USB 3.0 drive offers what the company is calling business-grade security with 256-bit AES hardware-based encryption."
"Constructed with aircraft-grade aluminum housing."
Best Capacity:
PNY Turbo 256GB at Amazon
"Nothing fancy here, but when you need a quarter of a terabyte in a flash, the PNY turbo has got your back."
"With a five-year warranty, a great design, and a value price."

The best USB drives fill a vital niche and can be a lifesaver in a number of situations. They not only provide a quick hit of additional storage for phones, tablets, and PCs, they remain one of the quickest and easiest ways to transfer data between devices. Not only do they provide excellent read/write speeds for quickly shifting your media, they're one of the most portable storage solutions available, and with improvements in density/capacity, they're more useful now than ever before.

If you're often moving files between work, home, and friends PCs, flash drives are both faster than wireless transfers and more portable than even the smallest of the best external hard drives (though said drives generally offer greater capacity). USB drives are also incredibly cheap given their capacity and utility, so you can get a healthy bump of additional capacity for a very low investment.

For a great PC to attach one of these drives to, take a look at our lists of the best laptops and best desktop PCs currently available, or read on for the best USB flash drives themselves.

Best Overall: SanDisk Extreme PRO 128 GB Drive

SanDisk Extreme PRO 128 GB Drive
  • Slick design

  • Options up to 256 GB

  • Affordable

  • Read/Write Speeds could be faster

The SanDisk PRO gives you blistering speeds, offering 420 MB/s on the reading front and 380 MB/s on the writing end, which is 3–4x faster than what a standard USB 3.0 drive will offer. The sleek, aluminum casing is both super durable and very eye-catching, so you can bring it with you to your business meetings and look professional as well.

The onboard AES, 128-bit file encryption gives you top-of-the-line security for your sensitive files. That USB 3.1 connection is also backward compatible with USB 2.0, so you won’t hit any snags with an older computer. SanDisk is so confident in the functionality of this little drive, that they’ve even backed it with a full lifetime warranty in case any issues befall it. Finally, there’s a file backup system you can download called RescuePRO that will let you recover lost files if needed.

Best for Multiple Devices: SanDisk Ultra 128GB Dual Drive

  • USB-A and USB-C connectivity

  • Affordable and scalable options up to 256 GB

  • Below average Read / Write Speeds

With a focus on design both aesthetically and functionally, the Ultra Dual Drive from SanDisk is fast, reliable, and features handy app support. One of its best features is the reversible connector that lets you swap between USB-C and USB-A, so it's a breeze to transfer data between your phone, tablet, laptop, or desktop, regardless of what ports are available.

The Dual Drive also takes full advantage of the USB 3.1 standard to deliver transfer speeds of up to 150MB/s, and even has a retractable plug so that it's easy to stow and carry (and the connector isn't exposed to the elements when retracted). There's even an Android app that makes backing up your data virtually hassle-free and allows for painless transfers to new smartphones.

Best for Apple Products: SanDisk iXpand 128GB Flash Drive

SanDisk iXpand 128GB
  • Lightning port allows you to transfer files off Apple phones

  • Plenty of size and pricing options

  • iXpand makes backing up photos from your iPhone simple

  • Slightly awkward shape

  • Exposed lightning jack can potentially be damaged.

Apple smart products don’t come with USB ports, so you will need a backwards compatible drive that can also plug into lightning devices. This thumbdrive from SanDisk is designed for ease of use with iPhones and iPads, thanks to a curbed plastic connector that fits behind the back of the screen. It has high-speed USB 3.0 transfer speeds and can hold over 7,200 photos or 8,000 songs. It has automatic photo backup and contact transfer to help free up space on your devices without having to deal with the slow upload speeds.

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

  • Remarkably small...

  • Adequate transfer speeds

  • Excellent price per GB

  • ...perhaps too small

With their paper-slim profiles, Ultrabooks and tablets are barely thick enough for a USB port. That's why some of the bulkier drives on this list are not ideal for those devices. Meanwhile, Samsung’s Fit drives are slim and compact, about the size of your thumb nail. This unobtrusive storage is constructed with a metal casing that is resistant to the elements and NAND flash technology. With USB 3.0 tech you can expect fast read speeds, while the price is easy to stomach. Just make sure to attach it to a lanyard, so you don't lose it.

Best for Macbooks: Silicon Power C80 64GB Flash Drive

Silicon Power 64GB
  • Convenient ring design

  • Remarkably cheap

  • Enclosed USB promotes durability

  • Only available up to 64GB

Macbooks require a USB Type-C device, which is where this swivel dual flash drive from Silicon Power comes in handy. It features a dual interface with USB Type-C and USB Type-A 3.0 ports on opposite ends of a compact device. The 360-degree swivel cap protects whichever connector is not in use and attaches easily to keychains. The C80 doesn’t require any special drivers or software to work; just plug it into the port and it is ready to go. But it has an optional file management app, which is a free and simple automatic file categorization that puts your work in the appropriate folders. Expect fast read and write speeds and 64 GB of storage to hold all your photos and files.

Best for Security: Kingston Data Traveler Vault

  • AES 256-bit encryption

  • Available in sizes up to 128GB

  • Slightly more expensive

  • Lower than average transfer speeds

High-security flash drives aren’t exactly a new concept. For as long as companies have been transferring confidential info via USB drives, there’s been a concern of keeping that info confidential. While you might be swayed by flashy gimmicks like fingerprint sensors and password keypads, these end up being too expensive and not overly powerful (with a few exceptions of course). But that’s why our security pick goes to the Kingston Data Traveler Vault.

This USB 3.0 drive offers what the company is calling business-grade security with 256-bit AES hardware-based encryption. You can also choose a stepped up “managed” version that offers a more complete set of management tools using SafeConsole as support. Finally, there’s an anti-virus version that loads in ESET antivirus software out of the box to avoid trojan horses and other hacker tracking programs. All of the models are TAA-compliant, so this drive won’t be in breach of government regulations, and that USB 3.0 means that you’ll have nearly the fastest transfer speeds possible. You can pick it up in sizes ranging from 4GB to 64GB.

Most Rugged: Corsair Flash Survivor Stealth 64-bit USB 3.0 Flash Drive

  • Uniquely durable design

  • Waterproof up to 200m

  • Available in sizes up to 256 GB

  • screw top design can make fitting into some USB ports difficult

If you are taking your data to the extreme ends of the Earth and need to go a step above and beyond to keep it safe, the rugged Corsair Flash Survivor Stealth 64-bit is the drive for you. Constructed with aircraft-grade aluminum housing and outfitted with a molded shock damping collar, this drive is meant to survive anything you can throw at it. It can even be submerged in up to 200 meters of water because of the EPDM (ethylene propylene diene monomer rubber) waterproof seal. With speeds at around 85 MB/s, this isn’t the fastest drive around, but its ruggedness is unparalleled.

Best Capacity: PNY Turbo 256GB

  • Available in sizes up to 1TB

  • Relatively fast transfer speeds

  • 1 TB model gets very pricey

  • Design feels a bit flimsy

Nothing fancy here, but when you need a quarter of a terabyte in a pinch, the PNY turbo has got your back. Boasting a capacity of up to 256GB, this flash drive has got it where it counts, making storage of all but the most colossal files just a drag-and-drop away. Equipped with a collapsable USB-A port, the PNY Turbo utilizes USB 3.0 architecture to supply the best possible transfer speeds currently available over a USB-A connection.

While it doesn't offer features like wireless connectivity, or data encryption, the PNY Turbo is still great for offloading a glut of files that might otherwise be taking up valuable real estate on your machine. It may not be the cheapest flash-drive available, but the price per GB still provides excellent value.

Best Budget: Kingston DataTraveler SE9 G2 Flash Drive

Kingston Digital 16GB DataTraveler
  • Compact, durable design

  • Five-year warranty

  • Transfer speeds could be faster

You can get USB 3.0 speed in a compact and durable metal USB drive from Kingston for ridiculously cheap. The DataTraveler comes in a variety of capacities and regardless of which you choose, you're getting a huge discount per GB compared to nearly any other competing USB flash drive.

It sports a capless design with a sturdy keyring, perfect for travel or as a part of your everyday carry. The design can even be customized to add your logo or company name. The USB 3.0 standard means read speeds top 100 Mb/s; not the absolute fastest drive available but still very speedy, especially if you're moving smaller files. With a five-year warranty, a great design, and a value price, this small drive makes a perfect addition to your keyring. 

Final Verdict

A perfect balance of capacity and performance at a very reasonable price point, Sandisk's Extreme Pro takes our top spot. It's a drive that takes full advantage of advancements in solid-state storage to deliver amazing transfer rates. For an absolutely bargain-basement alternative that still provides plenty of storage, Kingston's Data Traveler which comes in a number of different sizes that are all very competitively priced.

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.

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.

FAQs

Should I 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.

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