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What Is a Pen Drive?

A pen drive usually has a large storage capacity and provides quick data transfers.
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  • Originally Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Revised By: Terrie Brockmann
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 26 June 2014
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    2003-2014
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A pen drive is a portable Universal Serial Bus (USB) flash memory device for storing and transferring audio, video, and data files from a computer. As long as the desktop or laptop has a USB port, and the pen drive is compatible with the operating system, it should be easy to move the data from the hard drive to the device — and to another computer — in a matter of minutes. The drive gets its name from the fact that many have a retractable port connector like a ballpoint pen, and they are small enough to fit into a pocket. Other names include flash drive, jump drive, and thumb drive.

How to Use It

Using a pen drive is simple: the user inserts one end of the drive, which is equipped with a USB connector, into the USB port on a desktop or laptop and activates it. Once the drive is active, files can be dragged and dropped or copied and pasted into the memory. The process is usually no more difficult than attaching files to an email or copying files onto a disk, mp3 player, or other storage device.

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There are several different computer operating systems in use today, so most manufacturers configure their pen drives to work with a variety of systems. Before buying any portable storage device, a consumer should read the packaging carefully to make sure that it will work with his or her computer system. Frequently, even users who own older operating systems can find compatible storage devices, as long as those computers have a USB port.

How It Works

Technicians classify pen drives as NOT AND, also called NAND, gate-style data storage devices. This technology works by storing data in blocks rather than randomly; as such, it doesn't work in the same way that a computer's main memory systems — read-only memory (ROM) and random-access memory (RAM) — do. Using blocks rather than allowing random access allows the drive to store more information and be made at a lower cost.

Transfer Speeds

The actual transfer speed depends upon several factors, such as the computer's speed at reading and writing to the device. Generally, a pen drive's advertised speed is the reading speed because it is faster than the speed at which data can be written to it. Manufacturers usually list the speed in megabytes per second (MB/s). The age of the drive and how it's being used — such as for writing and erasing small files — also affects the transfer speed.

Benefits

Equipped with a large amount of memory, the pen drive is often considered to be an improvement on both the older floppy drive disks and the more modern compact disks. They can transfer data much more quickly than these older technologies. Because they are solid state — there are no moving parts — flash drives usually last longer and the data stored on them is safer. Depending on the storage size, flash drives can hold anywhere from 128 MB to 32 GB or more; by comparison, a standard CD-ROM holds about 700 MB of data.

Even a pen drive with a relatively low storage capacity tends to provide plenty of space for all different types of files. Any file that can be stored on a computer's hard drive can usually be copied to a flash drive, as long as there is enough memory. There are also programs that can be run directly from the drive, without needing to be installed on the computer first.

Limitations

Pen drives do have a few limitations, including how many times they can be used. Each drive has a limited number of program-erase cycles (P/E cycles), which is the act of putting files onto the drive and erasing them. Typically, the device can go through 100,000 P/E cycles before the integrity of the unit is compromised and files become corrupted.

Another limitation concerns the way manufacturers build the devices. The NAND gate-style allows a user to program or read the data one byte or word at a time, but erases data in blocks. When only small amounts are erased, the storage capacity is reduced.

The NAND gate-style device also may cause the loss of data because of the way that the information is accessed. Reading data in one cell may trigger changes in the cells that surround it. Generally, a user must read the cell thousands of times before this occurs, however, and rewriting the surrounding cells periodically may prevent this problem.

The computer chip in the drive can also wear out, causing the device to operate more slowly. The NAND gate-style method of programming and erasing files that are smaller than a block can also slow things down. This can make the device mark some blocks as bad, even though they are not completely full; trying to read bad blocks and remapping them can reduce the speed with which the device functions.

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Discuss this Article

rezaur
Post 42

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anon287348
Post 40

Think of it this way. Inserting the pen drive into a USB port is like putting a blank CD into your machine. Depending on how your computer is set up, this means you can probably copy files onto the jump drive in one or two ways.

First, you can located the file you want to copy to the drive, do a "save as" and save the copy to whatever drive your computer is identifying as the pen drive. (If you are using Windows, open up "My Computer" to see which drive is showing as the drive in use for the pen drive). An alternative is to open your Program Files in one window, your pen drive in a second window, then "drag and drop" the files you want to copy into the pen drive window.

anon119665
Post 38

Actually, a pen drive is a type of flash memory. flash memory uses transistors to store data. when a current of 5v is applied to a transistor it is similar of storing 1 bit of data in it. thus whatever data we are copying in the pen drive is stored in transistors. but the working of thousand of transistors is is simplified into a single IC. this is known as VLSI (very large scale integration). thus a pen drive has an IC which is capable of storing data.

anon119581
Post 37

I have a lot of experience with computers, but aren't pen drives just a low capacity hard drive?

anon112167
Post 35

where can we get pen drives and their current prices?

anon110822
Post 34

This is pritesh. Please tell me the process of transferring of data to a pen drive and its working with suitable scenarios.

anon110449
Post 33

i need some details for pen drive to a presentation?

anon101847
Post 30

Recently my son has purchased one pen drive for me. I am at a loss to know whether it is compatible with my PC. I own an old computer (dell 2003). Please let me know how I can know if the pen drive is compatible with my PC.

anon88432
Post 29

i want to know more details about this.

shivamani006
Post 26

i want the pen drive configuration in detail, i.e. the circuit diagram regarding pcb, ic and assembling details as i come to a decision to start a small unit in manufacture of pen drives so please mention the required.

anon83218
Post 24

could we able to use a pen drive as a memory card as both work on the principle of chips?

anon82914
Post 23

I need to learn how to use a pen drive because i have one but i don't know how to use it. So please help me. By the way all these drives get damaged all the time so i would advise you to please backup elsewhere. I can be on you computer hard drive or online. But please help me. AD

anon75069
Post 22

no you do not need to upload any program. you just need to click and drag the songs icons to your desktop and then take out your usb/flash/pendrive.

anon74470
Post 21

What are the parts of a pen drive. Please give me the architecture.

anon62392
Post 20

I put a movie clip onto my pen/flash drive but it won't play when I click on it. I get a message saying "windows media player cannot play this file". The movie clip plays normally from my pc when on the player but not from the flash drive. Do I need to upload a special program onto my pc to make the movie clip play from the flash drive? Thanks. Tom

anon52320
Post 18

Forgive me, but I am totally new to many of the functional aspects of a computer - but am quickly learning. In this particular case I need to know about how to best use a pen drive for the transferring of data, including photos, from other computer sites. Would someone please explain how to do it - and in very simple terms. I would appreciate it.

- halpippin

prvnkdvd
Post 16

Can you please post me the actual construction of a pen drive? that means the parts of the pen drive and their uses or working of pen drive with explanation of its different parts. I shall be very thankful to you! please do surely reply.

anon44595
Post 14

how do i use a pen drive? please explain to me.

anon41703
Post 13

which material is used to make a pen drive.

anon40383
Post 12

What are the parts of a pendrive. Please give me the architecture.

anon37984
Post 11

Can you please post me the actual construction of a pen drive -- that means the parts of the pen drive and their uses or working of pen drive with explanation of its different parts .

anon35838
Post 10

What are the parts of a pendrive. Please give me the architecture.

anon18701
Post 8

Can u please post me the actual construction of a pen drive that means the parts of the pen drive and their uses or working of pen drive with explanation of its different parts . I shall be very thankful to you !!!!!

Srivastava
Post 7

What is the future of pen drives business in India?

yashmica
Post 5

has anyone tried using a pen drive with a mobile handset. as the same would be a better data storage utility for people on the move

can anyone guide me in this matter ???????

anon12525
Post 4

Really useful article about pen drives. A perfect guide for novice about Pen drives. For Pen drive reviews i just visited an interesting site with unique style of writing.

anon11990
Post 3

Hi,

Just a word of thanks for the very explicit and straightforward explanations on the various terms which I was ignorant about and feel that I am less of a geek and I learn and read from your articles. Well done and thanks again. I will certainly visit again.

Lysiane

mdt
Post 2

Have you already copied some files off your computer hard drive onto a CDR? If so, then you have the basic process of using a pen drive down already.

Think of it this way. Inserting the pen drive into a USB port is like putting a blank CD into your machine. Depending on how your computer is set up, this means you can probably copy files onto the jump drive in one or two ways. First, you can located the file you want to copy to the drive, do a "save as" and save the copy to whatever drive your computer is identifying as the pen drive. (If you are using Windows, open up "My Computer" to see which drive is showing as the drive in use for the pen drive). An alternative is to open your Program Files in one Window, your pen drive in a second window, then "drag and drop" the files you want to copy into the pen drive window.

Loading the saved files onto another computer is simply reversing the process.

The instructions that come with your pen drive should walk you through the process recommended by the manufacturer of the drive. Also, make sure before you purchase the pen drive that you make sure it lists your operating system on your computer as being compatible with the drive. If you have a new computer, this should not be a problem. But if you have an older system, you may have to shop around a little for a pen drive that is compatible.

halpippin
Post 1

Forgive me, but I am totally new to many of the functional aspects of a computer - but am quickly learning. In this particular case I need to know about how to best use a pen drive for the transferring of data, including photos, from other computer sites. Would someone please explain how to do it - and in very simple terms. I would appreciate it.

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