Using USB Flash drives


USB flash drives allow you store computer files in an easily portable format. A Flash drive consists of some flash RAM -- a type of Random Access Memory which does not need electrical power to store data -- with a USB (Universal Serial Bus) connector. Storage capacities vary, with common sized running from 128 megabytes to 1 gigabyte, although larger and smaller capacities exist. Flash drives are also known as Jump Drives (a brand name), thumb drives or USB drives

While flash drives can be formatted for either the Mac OS or Windows, virtually all come preformatted for Windows, which is the way we will use them. Macintoshes can read and write Windows format disks, but Windows computers cannot read or write disks formatted for the Mac OS.

Mac OS Issues

In the NSCAD Mac labs, connect your flash disk by inserting into one of the port on the USB hub located next to each computer.

Make sure you remove the disk from the computer's desktop by dragging the flash disk icon to the trash. Wait for the disk icon to disappear before disconnecting it. This process is sometimes called unmounting. Disconnecting a flash disk before unmounting it from the desktop may cause loss of all data on the disk.

Windows XP issues

Because of the wide variety of case and port designs in the Windows PC world, USB ports can be located almost anywhere. Check the front panel above the floppy disk port, the very bottom of the machine (you may need to lift or slide a protective panel) or as a lost resort, the rear of the machine.

To disconnect a USB flash drive from a Windows PC, double-click the small green icon on the lower right of the screen (in the system tray.) If you hove your mouse pointer over the icon, it will be labelled "Safely remove hardware." Next, click on the "safely remove hardware" button. At this point you may need to click stop or "OK" several times before you get the message "You may now safely remove hardware." At this point, disconnect the flash drive.

When you insert a Windows-formatted disk into a Windows PC, you may see files starting with "._" (dot-underscore). Ignore them. These files are created on Windows-formatted disks by the Mac OS to hold information needed by the Mac operating system but not used by Windows. While invisible on a Mac, Windows displays these files. Despite appearing with a proper icon, the files contain no usable data.

More information

USB Flash drive info from Wikipedia

Last modified: March 05 2014.