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In addition to available capacity, data read and write speeds are among the most important qualities a flash drive offers. Other key features to consider when shopping around for a new flash drive are available encryption levels, as well as a body that's waterproof and shockproof.
Just make sure you buy a USB 3.0 flash drive, because USB 2.0 models are sluggish and outdated. And, if you're transferring large files (like 4K video) or a large photo or music library, we recommend getting at least 64 GB of storage. For those who are just moving over Word documents, PowerPoint presentations, and a few files at a time, 32 GB should suffice. We don't recommend getting any with less than 32 GB of space.
It's also worth noting that some newer USB-C-equipped laptops don't have older legacy ports, so most of these picks require the purchase of a separate adapter if your computer lacks USB-A ports. But, if you don't want to fuss with another dongle, we've made sure to include a best USB-C flash drive pick, too, which also works with Android devices.
from $32.99 (for a 64 GB variant)
Although this flash drive from SanDisk is slightly bigger than most other offerings, it offers impressive transfer speeds, plenty of storage, and smart design. It features an excellent sliding mechanism and a convenient keychain clip, and it comes with a lifetime warranty. You have the choice of 64 GB or 128 GB variants — both are priced competitively under $50, and you can expect read speeds around 180 MB/s and write speeds around 60 MB/s.
from $71.88 (for a 128 GB variant)
Best for Fast Speeds
For those in search of a flash drive that's as speedy as they come, we recommend SanDisk's Ultra CZ48 flash drives. SanDisk says the flash drives are capable of delivering read speeds of up to 420 MB/s and write speeds of up to 380 MB/s. It comes with either 128 GB or 256 GB of storage space, but we think 128 GB should be suitable for most users. The drives have a durable aluminum metal casing, and they're backed by a lifetime warranty. SanDisk also includes free access to its Secure Access software suite, so you can easily encrypt your files.
from $10.99 (for a 32 GB variant)
Best Budget Buy
If you misplace your flash drive as much as you do a tube of lip balm, or you just plan to transfer a few files here and there, the SanDisk Ultra CZ48 is the best cheap flash drive to get. In addition to being capable of delivering zippy read speeds — you can expect around 100 MB/s — the drive also features a retractable design, which protects its USB connector.
The gadget's low price means that it won't bring the fastest write speeds or a waterproof and durable metal-casing, but it works well enough to transfer photos, music, and files with ease.
from $11.99 (for a 32GB variant)
Best for Durability
The USB 3.0 flash drive by Samsung has a no-nonsense design and a sturdy metal body that's waterproof, shockproof, and X-ray proof. It can reach data read speeds of up to 130 MB/s. Samsung offers variants with up to 128 GB of storage capacity. The gadget comes with a solid five-year warranty. We're also big fans of its design, which makes it easy to attach to your keys. It's a great flash drive for everyday carry.
from $89.00 (for a 128 GB variant)
Best USB Type-C Flash Drive
This flash drive by Samsung has a USB Type-C connector, which allows it to connect to today's latest Android smartphones. The USB 3.1-compatible connector is also found in high-end laptops like the Apple MacBook and a host of Windows 10 offerings. The SanDisk Ultra USB Type-C is quite a performer for its price range, and it delivers data read speeds of up to 150 MB/s.
Best of all, it's reversible, so you'll never be fumbling and flipping it over again and again to stick it in your laptop. We would have preferred a retractable design, because this one's cap is removable and easy to lose, but you'll be glad knowing its casing is waterproof, shockproof, magnetproof, and X-ray proof
from $69.99 (for a 256 GB variant)
Best for the Most Storage
The Patriot Supersonic Rage 2 is a high-end option that's available with up to 512 GB of storage. It supports USB 3.1 standard, so it can reach impressive data read and write speeds (up to 400 MB/s and 300 MB/s, respectively). The device's aluminum housing is shock-resistant, so it can take a beating without damaging the user's data.
from $13.99 (for a 32 GB variant)
Best Low-Profile Flash Drive
The Samsung FIT is incredibly compact and affordable. Designed to plug into a port and stay out of sight, the USB 3.0 gadget can reach maximum data read speeds of up to 150 MB/s. It's an excellent option for casual users, as well as people looking to expand the memory of their Chromebook or affordable Windows 10 notebook on the cheap. Plus, it's waterproof, shockproof, and X-ray-proof — just don't lose it!
from $29.99 (for a 32 GB variant)
Best for iPhone and iPad
The SanDisk iXpand is a USB 3.0 flash drive with a built-in Apple Lightning connector, which allows it to connect to an iPhone or an iPad. A free app by SanDisk allows users to easily sync photos and videos from their mobile device, while 128-bit encryption ensures that the data stays safe. Users can also play music and popular video formats on their iPhone or iPad straight from the SanDisk iXpand.
from $143.51 (for a 30 GB variant)
Best for Securely Storing Files
If you're obsessed with keeping your files secure on the go, be sure to add the Apricorn Aegis flash drive to your shopping list. In addition to being water- and dust-resistant, the USB 3.0 drive has a built-in keypad, and it requires a 7- to16-digit PIN to pass through its 256-bit encryption. Failure to enter the right PIN 20 times automatically wipes out the data on the device, ensuring that your data won't be seen by the wrong people. A pricey option, but it's well worth it for the right user.