The 10 Best USB Flash Drives of 2021

Transfer files with ease from your pocket or your keychain.

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The Rundown
This device is among the more expensive drives on the list, but we feel the extras it offers more than makes up for that.
Best for Multiple Devices:
SanDisk Ultra 128GB Dual Drive at Amazon
We love the dual connector idea making this a great drive for just about any device in your life.
Best for iPhones and iPads:
SanDisk iXpand at Amazon
This device allows you to transfer files from your computer to your iPhone
Best for Ultrabooks:
Samsung FIT at Best Buy
Ultrabooks are ideal for their convenient size and portability, so you may want a USB drive to match.
The zinc alloy looks great along with your MacBook, making this an ideal companion.
The Kingston DataTraveler Vault with its 256-bit encryption is the best protection you can buy.
This is a USB drive that is built to withstand basically anything and it comes with a five-year warranty besides.
Best Capacity:
PNY Turbo 256GB at Amazon
If you have a ton of data you need to store in a portable solution, this drive from PNY goes up to 1TB in size.
The Kingston DataTraveler SE9 gives you a ton of storage on a budget.
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.

It's not hard to justify carrying around one of the best flash drives in your bag or pocket. They can be lifesavers at times with a little bit (or a lot) of extra storage, a handy device to install apps on your computer, or a great way to store and transfer data. If you need to move anything from one computer to another, a flash drive is one of the fastest and safest ways to do so. 

This is especially true if you often find yourself moving files between home and work, or if you want to share a program with a friend. Flash drives are faster than wireless transfer and more portable than even the best external hard drives. If you want to distribute a lot of files to a number of different people, a bag full of flash drives is a great way to do that.

Pricing has come down considerably on flash drives (or thumb drives as they're sometimes called) to the point where it's almost silly to not have one or two laying around just in case. So read on for our picks.

Best Overall: SanDisk Extreme PRO 128 GB Drive

The Sandisk Extreme Pro is our pick for best overall USB Flash drive.
  • Great design

  • Sizes up to 256 GB

  • File Encryption

  • Inconsistent read speeds

  • Pricey

Our top pick is the SanDisk PRO which offers 420/380 read/write speeds which are around 3 times faster than what a typical USB 3.0 drive will offer you. Our reviewer Eric found read speeds dropped about halfway through the process, which was a bit frustrating. The drive is made of a nice-looking aluminum casing with a single LED light and keychain loop on one end. It looks and feels like a professional's tool

Onboard, you've got 128-bit file encryption for sensitive files and the USB 3.1 connection is backward compatible, so you can still work with older machines. This drive also comes with RescuePRO, a file backup system that helps you recover lost files. Finally, SanDisk backs this drive up with a full lifetime warranty in case you run into any trouble. 

This device is among the more expensive drives on the list, but we feel the extras it offers more than compensate for that.

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.
  • USB-A and USB-C

  • Great price

  • Slow Read/Write Speeds

The SanDisk USB Dual Drive is aptly named because it comes outfitted with both a USB-A and USB-C connector. That allows you to connect the drive to just about anything, including computers, Android smartphones, and even some iPads Pro. If you're one who often moves files between a computer and a mobile device, this is your best choice and it comes at a great price.

This drive does suffer from low read/write speeds of just 150 MB/s. The dual connectors are also retractable, so you're not exposed to risk when not in use. That makes it easy to stow in a pocket or backpack without worrying about the connector which is often the most vulnerable part of a USB drive. Mostly though, we love the dual connector idea making this a great drive for just about any device in your life.

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.
  • Connect to iPhone and computers

  • iXpand software easily backs up your phone

  • Odd shape

  • Exposed lighting connector

Apple isn't fully onboard the USB-C train just yet. Apple's phones still carry lightning ports, which can make it tough to expand the storage of devices that often run out of space. SanDisk has you covered here with an oddly shaped USB drive with a curled-up lightning connector at one end and a typical USB-A connector on the other end. The lightning end in particular is exposed which makes our reviewer, Eric, questioned its long-term durability.

But this device allows you to transfer files from your computer to your iPhone, assuming you have a computer with a USB-A port (not all Macs do, after all). The iXpand USB drive also comes with iXpand software which helps you backup your phone quickly and easily, just by plugging in the device. You can also use it for individual files rather than a full backup if you prefer.

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

  • Remarkably small...

  • Good transfer speeds

  • Good value

  • ...perhaps too small

Ultrabooks are ideal for their convenient size and portability, so you may want a USB drive to match. The Samsung FIT drive is exactly that, barely sticking out of the USB-A connector so when you plug it into your computer, you have a tiny little extra nub, and that's about it. It's super small, but that can be a bad thing since it can be very easily lost. Our reviewer recommends keeping a lanyard on it, though that may defeat the purpose of having such a small device.

Regardless you get good read and write speeds of 200 MB/s and 60 MB/s respectively. You'll want to make sure your ultrabook has a USB-A port before picking one up, but if it does, this Drive should fit right in. It's resistant to the elements and comes in at a good 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
  • Ring design

  • Very inexpensive

  • Protected USB connectors

  • Only goes up to 64GB

  • Read/Write speeds not listed

Macbooks typically require a USB-C interface, so this drive's design which includes both a USB-A and USB-C connector is ideal. The zinc alloy looks great along with your Macbook, making this an ideal companion. You'll get a USB 3.2 interface, but Silicon Power is shy with its read and write speed specifications, which is a little disappointing. It's also disappointing that the storage capacity only goes up to 64GB. 

But the ring design is sharp looking and it hangs well on a keychain or lanyard. The USB-C connector is protected by the body, while the USB-A end is solid zinc-alloy, so it's durable as well as stylish. The device also includes free optional file management software if you want to use it.

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.
  • AES 256-bit encryption

  • Up to 64GB

  • Slow transfer speeds

  • Expensive

Security on flash drives is nothing new. Indeed, whole industries have sprung up around keeping data on flash drives safe. There are concepts like fingerprint readers and password keypads built-in, which are nice, but they tend to just jack up the cost of the drive. In our world, the Kingston Datatraveler Vault with its 256-bit encryption is the best protection you can buy.

Kingston calls this "business-grade" security, and you can even step it up even further with a managed version that uses SafeConsole for extra management tools. Plus, the drive comes with ESET antivirus software loaded to avoid trojans and viruses. Importantly, the flash drives are TAA compliant which means they follow government protocols as well. It's available up to 64GB in size, but you will pay for that privilege both in cost and in slower than usual transfer speeds.

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.
  • Durable

  • Waterproof up to 200 meters

  • Screwtop design

If you are more of the rugged sort, or you just like to periodically dropkick your USB drive into a pool, then the appropriately-named Corsair Flash Survivor Stealth is a great choice for you. It is waterproof to 200 meters thanks to an all-aluminum build and EPDM (ethylene propylene diene monomer rubber) seal. It's shock-resistant and vibration-resistant too. The screw-top on the housing can make plugging the drive into laptops a little tricky since it raises the end a bit.  But beyond that, this is a USB drive that is built to withstand basically anything and it comes with a five-year warranty besides.

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.
  • Up to 1TB in size

  • Good transfer speeds

  • Gets expensive

  • Cheap feel

If you have a ton of data you need to store in a portable solution, this drive from PNY goes up to 1TB in size. Specifications vary with different sizes. Generally, as the size goes up, so do the specifications. That's probably why the 1TB drive costs more than 4 times the 256 models. That being said, the 256GB model is quite reasonably priced, and keeping that much data on your keychain is awesome.

Read/write speeds are respectable at 140/80 MB/s respectively. USB 3.0 architecture ensures you'll be able to use this drive on just about any computer. We'd like to see a sturdier build for this much data to be perfectly honest, but overall, as long as you take care of it, this drive will help you offload a ton of data and free up a lot of storage.

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.
  • Compact and durable

  • No cap

The Kingston DataTraveler SE9 gives you a ton of storage on a budget. Plus you get pretty decent read/write speeds of 200/60 MB/s. You can buy the DataTraveller in sizes up to 256GB and at every level, you're getting a great dollar to GB ratio.

The drive is a solid metal casing with no moving parts and no cap on the end. Kingston designed the drive that way, but we'd feel better about preserving the electronics inside if there was a cap included. We get where Kingston is coming from, but if you put 256 GB of anything on a device, you want to see it protected as much as possible. Add in the five-year warranty and slim design, and this is a great value for a USB drive.

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
  • iOS and Android compatible

  • Sturdy

What We Don't Like
  • Issues with iCloud photos

  • Expensive

If you are a multi-device family, or you need to move files regularly from devices with Lightning and USB-Connectors, this unique flash drive is great for that. Like some others in this list, this flash drive has two different connectors; one is a UCB-C and the other is Lightning. Typically that sets up an Android vs. iOS situation, but iPads Pro are also adopting USB-C, so this is a device that can bridge that gap.

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 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.

FAQs

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.

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.

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