The best USB drives will make your most important files easily portable, letting you move data from one computer to another, or to other devices, with minimal fuss. You just plug it in and start dragging-and-dropping files.
With storage prices falling and USB technology improving, it’s no surprise that USB drives are still a popular solution for carrying around massive amounts of data. For just a few bucks, you can carry in your pocket probably all of the files and folders stored on your laptop or desktop PC.
Yet buying a USB drive isn’t as simple as you might think. There are different types of connections, including USB 2.0, USB 3.0 and USB 3.1. (Newer is better.) And you’ll want to know about the drives’ read and write speeds to get a sense of data-transfer performance.
If you’re worried about information going public, you’ll want one of the best USB drives with strong encryption. To help you make a choice, we’ve rounded up the best USB drives you can buy right now.
The following run the gamut of price, speed and size. Regardless of which USB drive you pick, it will store all the content you care about in a single, simple package.
What are the best USB drives?
In a world where USB drives are easy to come by, finding one that gets the job done and delivers significant value isn’t the simplest of tasks.
In our evaluation of a variety of devices, we found Samsung’s Fit Plus (MUF-128AB) to be the best USB drive. It offers an outstanding mix of features and affordability, with USB 3.1 support, read speeds up to 300 MB/s and a design that’s so compact that you can leave it in your laptop without worrying about damage.
We also found the SanDisk Cruzer CZ36 to be a great choice, as you get secure 128-bit AES encryption for a very low price. You just have to be willing to live with USB 2.0 compatibility. If you want zippy read/write speeds, you’ll be hard-pressed to find many devices better than Kingston’s Digital DataTraveler G4.
The best USB drives you can buy today
If you’re looking for a USB drive that offers a good mix of features and affordability, the Samsung Fit Plus (MUF-128AB) is a great place to start. The device’s tiny design makes it easy to carry around. It’s available in a variety of sizes, ranging from 32GB to 256GB, and supports USB 3.1 connectivity, with data-transfer speeds up to 300 MBps. That’s significantly faster than other USB drive options.
To keep your data safe, the Samsung Fit Plus is water-, shock-, magnet-, temperature- and X-ray-proof, which means you can bring it just about anywhere without fear of damaging your content. And since this drive is backward-compatible with USB 2.0, it’ll work in just about any device you have. Be aware, however, that the Samsung USB drive is a bit on the pricey side, making it not the best option for those looking to save a few bucks.
For years, the SanDisk Cruzer CZ36 has proved to be one of the most popular USB drives on the market. It’s earned that popularity with its solid design, support for encryption and, most important, an exceedingly affordable price. The Cruzer CZ36 comes with a black finish and a red slider that lets you extend or retract the USB connector. The feature means you can keep your connector safe without worrying about damage.
The drive itself comes with USB 2.0 connectivity, which is on the older side. However, the SanDisk’s 64GB of storage, 128-bit AES encryption and included SanDisk SecureAccess Software make this one of the best USB drives for the money. Overall, the SanDisk Cruzer CZ36 is a solid choice for transferring anything from music and photos to videos and business files.
For those who don’t want to spend a lot of cash, Kingston Digital has one of the best USB drives regarding value. The company’s DataTraveler G4 starts at under $10. You’ll get a USB drive with 16GB of storage and USB 3.0 support. So for just a few bucks, you can get a device that stores your content, easily and quickly transfers it, and does it all without putting itself at risk of damaging your data.
A cap on the connector keeps the drive safe from damage when it’s not in use, and thanks to a loop at the end, you can connect the DataTraveler to a keychain to reduce your chances of losing it when you’re walking around town. That said, for the price, you should be aware that you’re not going to get as much storage as some of the other options available, so get this drive if you’re not transferring a large amount of data.
PNY’s popular Turbo flash drive sports both a rugged design and ample storage, making it an ideal choice for someone who often travels and doesn’t want to risk losing their data. The USB 3.0 device offers transfer speeds of up to 10 times what you get in a comparable USB 2.0 drive. Add that to Turbo’s 128GB of storage, and you should be able to store nearly 24,000 songs on the device — and transfer them with ease.
The drive comes with a sliding-collar design that protects the connector when it’s not in use, which is especially important for road warriors. And thanks to the device’s integrated loop, you can attach the PNY Turbo to a keychain or backpack to reduce chances of misplacing it when you travel. Overall, the PNY Turbo offers a nice mix of features, storage and travel-friendliness, which is why it’s one of the best USB drives.
SanDisk’s Extreme Pro is one of its most capable USB devices, but be ready to spend some serious cash to get your hands on it. The drive comes with 128GB of storage and delivers USB 3.1 connectivity, ensuring fast data speeds. According to SanDisk, the device can deliver read speeds of up to 420 MBps and write speeds of up to 380 MBps. That makes the Extreme Pro one of the best USB drives for pure performance.
Thanks to an aluminum finish, the Extreme Pro should be able to withstand shocks and other damage and keep working without causing you worry about your data. SanDisk’s drive, which is also compatible with USB 3.0 and USB 2.0, offers a lifetime limited warranty. And with 128-bit AES encryption, you can safeguard data you don’t want others to steal.
Corsair’s Flash Survivor Stealth is all about one thing: keeping your data safe regardless of where you are or where you are going. The device has a cylindrical design and an anodized, aircraft-grade aluminum housing to limit the risk of damage if you drop it. This best USB drive pick also features a water seal to reduce chances of liquid intrusion. And it has a shock-damping collar around the ends to keep your data safe if you drop it.
Regarding connectivity, the Corsair Flash Survivor Stealth supports USB 3.0. And with 64GB of storage, the device will store plenty of content without damage. But for all of that, you should be aware that the USB drive costs more than some competing devices. You should also know that the device ships with a limited five-year warranty; that’s not bad, but it reduces your options for replacement several years down the road.
SanDisk’s Ultra USB-C is a slick-looking USB drive that offers plenty of storage and fast data transfers. This is easily the best USB drive for newer laptops, like the MacBook Air and the MacBook Pro, that have only USB-C ports. And since it takes advantage of USB-C, the SanDisk Ultra USB-C offers a nice mix of fast data transfers and future-proofing, so you can be sure it’ll work with a variety of devices going forward.
The drive comes with 128GB of storage and accommodates data transfers to and from a range of devices; for example, from your computer to an Android smartphone, as well as Apple’s latest Macs. SanDisk says that the drive achieves data-transfer speeds of up to 150 MBps. And when the USB Drive is not in use, you can retract the connector to limit chances of damage and keep your data away from harm and readily accessible. Just be aware that you’ll pay a bit more for this USB-C drive compared with other options.
Another favorite from Kingston Digital, the DataTraveler Elite G2 is a popular USB drive that has USB 3.1 connectivity, letting it deliver ultrafast read and write speeds and store your content with ease. Best of all, it comes with an LED light that tells you when it’s connected and data is transferring, so you don’t need to guess at what’s happening during use.
The device, which comes in versions ranging from 8GB to 256GB, allows for data-transfer speeds of 180 MBps. If you don’t have USB 3.1 ports, you can also rely on this drive to transfer data at USB 2.0 speeds. The model that ships with 64GB of storage, a solid amount for most uses, is very affordable. But prices will vary depending on the version you choose. The limited five-year manufacturer’s warranty isn’t the best, but overall, this is one of the best USB drives available.
Samsung has delivered one of the better-looking USB drives with the 32GB Bar. And if it’s a head-turning device you’re after, Samsung’s option might be the best USB drive period. The device, which is made from high-quality metal, has a ring that you can use to attach the drive to so you don’t lose it. Better yet, not only is it waterproof but also shock-, magnet-, temperature and X-ray-proof, limiting the chances of damage.
Thanks to this drive’s USB 3.0 support, you should expect fast data transfers. You also get USB 2.0 compatibility, which means it’ll work with just about any device. The Samsung Bar is a bit pricey compared with many other USB drives, but this is a device that will let you easily bring your data wherever you go, and will look darn good doing it.
If you’re in the market for one of the very best USB drives available, and you’re just fine spending some cash to get it, check out the SanDisk iXpand flash drive. The device features 128GB of storage, though you can configure the iXpand to have up to 256GB of space. It has a metal finish to improve its durability, and thanks to its USB 3.0 connectivity, the device will deliver fast data transfers.
The iXpand flash drive’s most important feature is its Lightning connector, which lets you connect to an iPhone or iPad and transfer data to and from that device. Considering how difficult it can be to transfer data from those devices without Apple’s help, that feature alone could be a major selling point for the iXpand. But to get all that, be ready to shell out: The SanDisk iXpand flash drive is on the expensive side.
How to choose the best USB drive for you
When buying USB drives, you’ll want to focus first on storage. If you have a large number of files, videos, or songs you want to carry around with you on a device, getting a USB drive with at least 64GB is critical, and many go up to 256GB or more. If you’re more concerned about getting a cheap USB drive for carrying fewer files, you can probably get by with 16GB or 32B.
Aside from that, you’ll want to consider other critical features, like read/write speeds. The faster the speeds, the more data you can write to the drive and access when you’re trying to see files. That’s why we would look for USB 3.1 support or (at the least) USB 3.0 support if you care about performance.
Another factor to consider is design. USB drives aren’t the sexiest of devices, but they come in a variety of shapes and sizes. In terms of durability, look for USB drives that have shock-proof designs, waterproof-designs, and other features that limit chances of your drive being damaged. Last but least, check the warranty on that USB drive; a lifetime warranty is preferred but 5 years is a decent fallback option.