I got my first PNY Attache USB drive from my then employer about five years ago, as for my job, I needed to transfer computer files (mostly Microsoft Word and Powerpoint documents) between home and the office. I was very impressed with it. These so-called ''Flash drives' or pen drives' or 'memory sticks' - there seem to be a lot of names for them, that as far as I'm aware get used pretty much interchangeably - have effectively replaced disc-type components such as floppy discs and CDs for backing up data on computers and transferring it between machines.
The Attache is an approximately two and a half inch long little block of plastic, with a flat metal port at one end, shaped for it to slot into one of the appropriate USB ports on a computer . Mine is a silver colour on the outer case, and has an inset, translucent plastic 'insert' in the middle, through which an LED bulb shines to show that the USB is working when you plug it into a computer. The USB comes with all software needed to operate it already stored on the memory stick, which means in effect that when you plug it into a new computer it starts working straight away (the older versions of these memory sticks came with the software on CD, that you had to load onto every computer you wanted to use it on). Once it's plugged in to a (eg.) Windows Office-running machine, usually a pop-up dialogue box appears to allow you to access the data on the USB. Alternatively, if you're running something like Windows Explorer, it'll 'appear' as a 'removable disc' or 'removable storage device' in with all the other disc drives, but with a new disc drive letter assigned to it. Apparently you have to 'tell' the computer to shut the USB drive off before you remove it from a computer (you just check a box in the option 'safely remove hardware') and the little flashing light goes on, then off to confirm you've done that, too.
I got the one gigabyte Attache USB to use for transferring photos between my computer and the automatic photo printing machine at the supermarket. I have another, smaller capacity Attache USB but I've lost the removeable cap that covers the USB port part of that one, and although it still works in computers perfectly well, I don't want to have to carry it about in my bag or in my pocket as the 'sensitive part' - the port - is exposed as there's no cap. Of course, now I have a second, identical Attache USB I can use the cap interchangeably with the old one, as the two devices look exactly the same on the outside (apart from the colour of the plastic, which I don't think is intended to indicate anything in particular), but I find it's still handy to have one 'designated' one just for printing photos (as, when you use one of those automatic photo printing machines, it 'reads' every image file you have stored on the USB, and if you have a lot of 'keepers' - ie. pictures that you're backing up on your USB and don't intend to print, it takes a while to select the ones you do want to get hard copies of).
This is a really handy little gadget that cost about £10 new three years ago. These days a basic USB seems to have generally a four gigabyte capacity, and costs about the same as the two gigabyte ones did back then (ie. around the tenner mark). I wouldn't be without one of these now, they're extremely easy to use, and useful.
Well this morning I had a real treat when I logged on (in fact I would have had a treat no matter what time I logged on, the fact it was morning made me appreciate it all the more as I am not a morning person!) I found in my email in box no less than 4 emails from my rather distant boyfriend all of which displayed the attachment symbol meaning to me more photos of him doing whatever it is that squaddies do on tours!
So opening them I discover that the photos were not exactly the kind of thing I want saved on my family's pc, to be honest if I didnt know better I would say that my boy has 'problems' and was considering joining The Village People, so I ran upstairs and grabbed one of my flash drives. This one as it happens the Attache 1 GB.
The flashdrive itself looks exactly like the picture above, it is about the size of a standard pack of chewing gum, and feels like its made of quite substantial plastic (unlike some which feel very flimsy, giving me concerns about their portability), the Attche range are all silver with a coloured central portion, this coloured section is different depending on the storage size of the device.
It has a silver cap which you remove to expose the USB plug, this cap itself is also made of sturdy feeling plastic. The main length of the device therefore is taken up with 'memory' itself and an LED. At the opposite end is a small hole to attach the lanyard which comes supplied (a common feature with these devices) meaning you can secure it more effectively.
As with all modern USB devices its compatible with USB 1.1 and USB 2.0 ports. Although the technical details of this are beyond me quite simply it mean that USB 2.0 has much quicker file transfer rates than USB 1.1 and can therefore support more modern devices (though this makes very little difference when talking about the device itself).
Once you plug the device in to your USB port the windows set up wizard starts askingyou to install the software to make it work with your PC, unlike some flashdrives you actually do need to install the software!
Once this is done you have effectively 1 GB of mobile computer memory which has the benefit of being portable. In my case this device is specifically for photographs, as my laptop is getting clogged and I wanted to keep these separately - given that I only use a digital camera now I have no negatives to retrieve lost photos if I delete them!
When the device is plugged in the LED will flash steadily but slowly, to alert you to its presence this feature again is pretty standard and I have found it invaluable as more than once I have logged out of a public PC and almost forgotten one of these but have been reminded by the flashing - much like a lighthouse I suppose. When data is being written to it the flashing increases in rate so that you know it is working.
As mentioned I use mine primarily for storing my photos, but also some short video clips, but as with any computer memory you can store anything on it that your PC can produce sadly this does include viruses although some flashdrives have their own firewall. This does also mean that in the same way files on a hard drive can be password protected they can on here also. To put files on the device is as simple as moving the files around in your harddrive, once plugged in the flahsdrive will appear on your My Computer as external storage and you can drag and drop or copy and paste files to it with ease - as long as they arent larger than the capacity obviously!
The transfer time for my current photo file which is 259Mb in size takes just over a minute on the PC and would be quicker if not for the fact that I am also using several other applications at the same time.
As far as I remember I paid around £18 for this from PC World in Harrogate but I expect that this can be bought for less online or in the frequent sales that this type of store is always advertising.
Of the several flash drives I own, the are all made by different manufacturers but I would say that all are comparable in terms of transfer speeds and reliability- though that is because none have corrupted any of my data nor picked up viruses despite being used of fairly insecure computers (my laptop for one is almost totally unprotected from viruses) and public access PC's.
This drive gets used almost weekly as I upload any photos taken or have been emailled to me and there have been no problems with writing the data to it, nor reading the data off it, although I rarely delete things from it I wouldnt expect that rewriting things to it would be an issue unless it was being done on a frequent basis (one of my cheaper and lower storage drives has got slower the more it has been rewritten to), though the company as a whole has a very good reputation for reliable products so I wouldnt think that this is overly likely to happen.
My one minor issue is that if your USB ports are side by side the width of the device makes it hard to fit any but the narrowest of devices in to the port next door, but again this is a problem common to the devices and is easily solved though the use of either a USB extension lead or a USB hub. Many larger devices come with extensions and they are usually easy to use for any USB device (eg the Stand which came with my USB wifi adaptor also works with this and my camera).
Overall if you need smaller storage capacity and extremely easy portability then a flashdrive is more than adequate for the job, as long as you buy a fairly robust one they will stand up to fairly rough handling and wont let you down, though the cheaper options will save money short term in the long run you are probably better spending those extra few pounds for a better quality item and the attache range I would happily recommend to anyone. Although if you are as careless as I can be they are reasonably easy to lose (hence mine is always zipped in to a pocket of my laptop bag).
However if you need storage of any great size (for example transfering a computers entire contents) then you would be better off with an external hard drive (does what is says on the tin).