The 9 Best USB Flash Drives to Buy in 2018

Transfers files and documents at the drop of a hat

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With so many songs, photos and other documents clogging up your computer’s memory, it’s only a matter of time before the inevitable “Your storage is full” message pops up. And thanks to the proliferation of cloud computing and the increasing storage capacity of many devices, physical memory has become less essential for transporting data. But as great as emails and Dropbox are great for sharing documents, flash drives are still a faster and more secure way to share heavy files. So whether you’re looking for speed, value, or security, we’ve compiled a list of our favorite USB flash drives for your needs. We even tried out a few ourselves.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: SanDisk Extreme PRO 128 GB Drive

4.9

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

4.3

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

4

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 Ultrabooks: Samsung 32GB USB 3.0 Flash Drive Fit

4.4

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 Speed: Sandisk Extreme Go 3.1 64GB

Offering blazing fast performance in a compact package, the Sandisk Extreme Go definitively takes the crown as the best USB flash drive. With read/write speeds of 420 MB/s and 380 MB/s respectively, the data transfer performance of the Extreme Go is so strong it can outperform that of a computer-based solid state drive.

Buoyed by its rocket-like speeds, the Extreme Go lives up to its name by transferring a 4K movie in less than 40 seconds — that's nearly 35 times the speed of a USB 2.0 drive and thanks to USB 3.1 hardware. Beyond its fast operation, the Sandisk looks as good as it performs with a sleek and slim package that's 2.79 x 0.84 x 0.45 inches in size and weighs only 4.8 ounces. The retractable connector makes it easy to store when not in use and it is backward compatible with any USB 3.0 or USB 2.0 port. Tucked inside its diminutive profile is a choice of 64GB or 128GB of storage capacity and it comes complete with data storage recovery in the event of an accidental file deletion. 

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

Silicon Power 64GB

 Courtesy of B&H

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.

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.

Tested by

How We Tested

Our reviewers spent 9 hours testing four of the most popular USB flash drives on the market. We asked our testers to consider the most important features when using these drives and we've outlined them here so that you, too, know what to look for when shopping.

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 technology. Compared to USB 2.0, which has a data transfer rate of 480 megabits per second (Mbps), USB 3.0 is 10 times faster at 4,800 Mbps.

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. A flash drive with 16GB can cost you as little as $10, while a 128GB one will run up to $60+.

Test Results: SanDisk Extreme PRO 128GB Drive (Best Overall)

4.9

What We Like

  • Extremely fast

  • Comes with a lifetime warranty

  • Large amount of storage

What We Don’t Like

  • Somewhat pricey

SanDisk Extreme PRO 128GB Drive
SanDisk Extreme PRO Drive
SanDisk Extreme PRO 128GB
SanDisk Extreme PRO 128GB Drive

One thing that stands out with this USB flash drive is speed: “I have used many other flash drives, but they were never as fast as this one when transferring files,” one tester said. Her job involves a lot of large video and photo files that she had to transfer between devices often. Our reviewers thought this flash drive may even be a solid investment to totally eliminate the need for an external hard drive, depending on how much space you need. It conveniently holds 128GB in an area the size of your finger.

Test Results: Samsung 32GB Metal Flash Drive (Best for Durability)

4.3

What We Like

  • Built to last

  • Looks sleek

What We Don’t Like

  • Could have more storage capacity

  • Not as fast as some options

Samsung 32GB Metal Flash Drive
Samsung 32GB Metal Flash Drive
Samsung 32GB Metal Flash Drive
Samsung 32GB Metal Flash Drive

Our Lifewire reviewers wished this USB flash drive could hold more files, but what it lacks in capacity, it makes up in design and durability. “This is the first flash drive I've seen that appears to have the durability appropriate to a keychain,” one tester said. Reviewers could tell that the drive had a thick metal casing that made it stand apart from its cheap plastic competitors.

Test Results: Kingston Digital 16GB DataTraveler (Best Budget)

4

What We Like

  • Simple

  • Small and portable

What We Don’t Like

  • Small Capacity

Kingston Digital 16GB DataTraveler
Kingston Digital 16GB DataTraveler

The Kingston Digital 16GB DataTraveler drive is simple, which is a quality some of our testers look for in a USB flash drive. It comes without a cap — one less thing to lose — and sports a sturdy loop, so you can keep it on your keyring. While write speeds are supposedly on the slower end of the spectrum (read speeds are 100 Mp/s), our reviewers didn’t notice a significant delay when saving files.

Test Results: Samsung 32GB USB 3.0 Flash Drive Fit (Best for Ultrabooks)

Samsung Drive
4.4

What We Like

  • Very small

  • Fast

What We Don’t Like

  • Easy to lose

Samsung 32GB USB 3.0 Flash Drive
Samsung 32GB USB 3.0 Flash Drive
Samsung 32GB USB 3.0 Drive

This drive’s small size won over our testers: “Its small profile allows it to stay plugged into a computer even when transporting it in a bag or case, which is not something most flash drives can claim,” one person said. Lifewire reviewers agree that the drive’s tiny footprint makes it much more likely to get lost, but they say its fast read speeds and convenient portability easily make up for that.