In this day and age almost everyone has a USB drive that they use to transport data, and if you’re like me you probably have more than one. I use one drive for carrying documents when needed, another that has helpful apps (antivirus, etc…) for fixing other people’s computers, and one to backup important files from my computer.
Once you become a USB drive owner you need to start thinking about tools that can help make the device even more useful, and also ways to protect the data you have on it. If you use the USB drive a lot you also need to consider backing up the data because they are very susceptible to failures… I’ve had two USB drives fail on me over the last few years.
That’s what we’re here for. Today we’ll talk about ways to encrypt, backup, and recover files on your USB drive.
–Encrypt a USB Drive–
There’s a good chance that you carry your USB drives around on a keychain, in a pocket, or in a purse/bag. Heck, I’m sure most of us have at least started to walk away from a computer before realizing that you had plugged in a USB drive (especially when you have to plug them into the back of a computer). Much like a wallet we’re prone to lose or forget them, and that could possibly put some valuable information into the hands of someone else.
The best solution is to encrypt the drive using free software like TrueCrypt. With it you can encrypt your entire USB drive in real-time without ever thinking twice about it. It has several different encryption algorithms that you can choose from, and works on Windows, Mac, and Linux. It’s a must-have app for anyone needing to protect the data on their USB drive.
–Backup & Restore a USB Drive–
Just like a hard drive USB drives are susceptible to crashes and failures. The data you have on the drive could be gone in the blink of an eye, which is why it’s important to backup any valuable data you may have on the drive.
There are all kinds of ways that you can go about doing this. The most obvious would be to manually copy over the files of importance from the USB drive onto your computer, but many of you would probably want to do something that takes a bit less thinking. Believe it or not Microsoft makes a tool that provides a one-click backup solution for USB drives.
Not only is this handy for backing up important data, but it also makes it possible to quickly switch between data sets on your USB drive. For example, you can backup all of the music you have on your drive and then wipe it out so that you can temporarily use it to transfer some files. Restoring the backup containing your music is just as easy as making the backup.
The program is a few years old, but does work on Vista despite only having XP listed under the compatibility. Hopefully Microsoft will get around to revamping this valuable tool!
–Recover Files from a USB Drive–
Let me guess, you didn’t do the backups we just talked about? Sigh. It’s okay, you might be able to recover the files from your USB drive. Last year we covered some excellent free tools that can help restore deleted or missing files, but another free app has worked well for us lately.
Recuva has a nice clean interface that is ready to scan your USB Drive looking for those files you oh so desperately need. It will scan the drive looking for files that are recoverable, and will tell you the status of each file. The status partially correlates to how successful the recovery process is.
P.S. Download Recuva from here in either the portable or slim formats. That way it won’t try to install a toolbar on your computer.
–Speed Up Vista with a USB Drive–
Windows Vista has a nice new feature called ReadyBoost that will let you turn a high-performance USB drive into additional memory for the operating system to use. If you already have 2GB or more or RAM you might not notice much of improvement, but it should be helpful when you have under 1GB of memory in your PC.
How do you use it? It’s actually very simple. Whenever you plug in your USB drive Vista should popup asking what you’d like to do with it. One of the options that should be listed is using the drive with ReadyBoost. After selecting that option you’ll be taken to a configuration screen where you can choose how much space you want dedicated to ReadyBoost.
You might run into a problem where Vista doesn’t want to use your USB drive with ReadyBoost because it doesn’t meet the performance requirements. If that happens, and you really want to use the USB drive with ReadyBoost, you can follow these instructions to tell Vista that the performance of the drive is good enough.
USB drives are going to keep getting more useful as they grow in storage capacity. The fact that you can get a 32GB drive for under $100 is insane, and in another year or two those probably won’t seem all that big. More storage means more people will be using them, and that’s when tools like these will become extremely valuable.
Let us know in the comments what tools you use to get the most out of your USB drive!