The 9 Best USB Flash Drives to Buy in 2018

Transfers files and documents at the drop of a hat

Samsung 16GB USB 3.0 Flash Drive
Courtesy of Amazon.com

With the growth of cloud computing and storage, physical memory is less essential for transporting data. But while emails and Dropbox are great for sharing a few documents at a time, flashdrives are a faster and more secure method of sharing large files. With USB 3.0 technology, the fastest USB flash drives can even compete with external HDDs (hard disc drives) for speed, with the advantage of being far more portable. Whether you are looking for speed, value, or security, our list of the best USB flash drives has a perfect suggestion for you. 

Best Overall: SanDisk Extreme CZ80

SanDisk is one of the most recognizable and respected names in the flash drive market and their Extreme CZ80 is among the most balanced portable storage devices available to consumers. Combining speed, durability, value and encryption, this flash drive is the best choice for most people.

With read speeds topping 245 Mb/s and write speeds of almost 200 MB/s, this drive outperforms most of its competition. Forget lengthy transfers over the cloud. This device can transfer a full-length SD movie in about 10 seconds, 50x faster than USB 2.0 drives and even lapping most competing USB 3.0 drives. It also comes with AES 128-bit encryption and RescuePRO data recovery software. While it is a bit long at 2.8 inches, it is made with durable plastic and comes with a lifetime warranty.

Best for Speed: SanDisk Extreme PRO 128 GB Drive

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 3.0 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 Durability: Samsung 32GB Metal Flash Drive

Anyone who has accidentally left their flash drive in their pants pockets through a laundry cycle will appreciate the durability of this Samsung drive. Its durable metal casing is waterproof, shockproof, magnetproof, and resistant to high temperatures. The drive is housed inside the metal casing, so it won’t break off (and the keyring is made with the same quality casing, again helping your drive live longer). Samsung believes in this drive enough to provide a five-year warranty should anything happen. Durability isn’t its only perk, either. USB 3.0 and NAND technology gives this drive data transfer respectable read speeds of up to 130 MB/s and write speeds over 100 MB/s. It is also backwards compatible with USB 2.0, but expect a drop in transfer speeds.

Best Budget: Kingston Digital 16GB DataTraveler

You can get USB 3.0 speed in a compact and durable metal USB drive from Kingston for under $10. 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. Read speeds top 100 Mb/s, while write speeds are on the slow end. With a five-year warranty, a great design, and a value price, this small drive makes a perfect addition to your keyring. 

Best for Apple Products: SanDisk iXpand 128GB

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 Macbooks: SIlicon Power C80 64GB Flash Drive

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: Farsler 32GB Fingerprint Thumb Drive

Many of the security-based flash drives available on Amazon employ numerical touchpads requiring you to remember an x-digit password. While this is a problem unto itself (ugh, another password to remember?), it also means that someone could potentially figure out your password, making that added security useless. On top of that, a lot of the high-end numerical password drives are rather expensive. The solution? This Farsler line of fingerprint-accessed thumb drives.

The 32GB model sits in the perfect sweet spot between high capacity and high speed (3600 MB/s data transfer speeds!) and affordable price points. The fingerprint sensor itself is programmed via the included software, and the retractable USB 3.0 makes it compatible with any USB 3.0 device. You can program in and store up to six different fingerprints to allow a small team to access to your encrypted files. There are also built-in partitions for both public and private access, so you can transfer less sensitive information to people without full access while keeping your most important files out of unauthorized reach. And it all works without having to remember some numerical access code.

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

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.

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

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.

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