The Ultimate Buyer’s Guide To Flash Memory

Woman connecting usb flash drive on a laptop


What You Need to Know About Flash Memory

Flash memory is a non-volatile memory chip used for storage and for transferring data between a personal computer and digital devices (such as digital cameras, televisions and solid-state drives). Flash memory is widely used for storage and data transfer in consumer devices, enterprise systems and industrial applications. Flash memory retains data for an extended period of time, regardless of whether a flash-equipped device is powered on or off.


How Does Flash Memory Work?


The architecture of a flash memory includes a memory array stacked with a large number of flash cells. Flash memory uses electrical circuits to log data. Here’s the process:


  1. Current flows through the transistor between each cell’s source (electric input) and drain (electric output).
  2. The transistor controls the current path of by acting as an on/off switch, or a gate.
  3. An ‘on’ transistor allows the flow of electrons across the cell, which stores a 1 in binary code.
  4. An ‘off’ transistor blocks electrons and stores a 0.


Volatile memory such as random access memory (RAM) returns all the gates to the 0 state when the power source turns off, thus erasing all stored data.



What are the Uses of Flash Memory?


Flash memory is used for many forms of electronic data storage. Its convenience of use has meant that in recent years, its use has increased significantly and is available in many formats. Everything from the familiar Flash USB memory sticks and camera memory cards right through to the solid state hard drives that have replaced the older disk technologies.


What is the Importance of Flash Memory?


You’d be surprised that flash memory lives among you – It’s in your smartphone, GPS, MP3 player, digital camera, PC and your USB drive. Flash drives require no batteries or other power to retain data which makes it incredibly convenient and relatively foolproof for users. 


Imagine if you woke up every single morning and didn’t remember a thing. That’s exactly what computers would have if it wasn’t for flash memory. An ordinary computer chip ‘forgets’ everything (i.e. it loses all content) when the power is switched off, however, large computers today get around this by having powerful ‘memories’ called hard drives, which can remember everything whether the power is turned on or off. More smaller, portable devices such as digital cameras and MP3 players need smaller and more portable memories – These chips are called flash memories and it’s used to store information permanently.


In today’s environment and the rapid rise of the use of technology, flash memory becomes even more important to our everyday lives. Flash memory allows you to take your data anywhere and gives you the ability to access files and programs wherever required.


Things to Consider Before Buying a Flash Memory


Based on the variety of flash memories on the market, it shouldn’t be a surprise that they come in varying degrees of quality from the inside out. With USB flash drives for example, the quality starts at the chip. Every flash drive is originally cut from a large silicon chip built with mazes or circuitry. The location of where the chip was cut from the original piece will determine its quality. 


Tier 1 or Grade A chips are considered superior and manufacturers from this tier will always mark their name and serial number on each one. They have very few to zero glitches and are backed by lifetime warranties. Brands such as Samsung, Intel, Micron and Hynix are considered Tier 1 chips.


Tier 2 or Grade B chips will show the manufacturer’s signature on the majority of its chips. They offer similar reliability as Tier 1 chips but will have the occasional failure to the fact that they can’t endure as rigorous of standard measures . Tier 2 chips are also made for smaller capacity flash drives.


Tier 3 or Grade C chips are made from discarded fringe parts. Third-party vendors buy these from manufacturers and assemble them into flash drives to sell to consumers at inexpensive costs. They are characterized by large failure rates, no warranties and limited life spans.


Types of Flash Memory


There are two basic types of flash memory. Although they use the same basic technology, the way they are addressed for reading and writing is slightly different. The two flash memory types are:


NAND Flash Memory


NAND flash memories have a different structure to NOR flash memories. This type of flash memory is accessed much like block devices (e.g. hard disks). When NAND flash memories are to be read, the contents must first be paged into memory-mapped RAM. This makes the presence of a memory management unit essential.


NOR Flash Memory


NOR flash memories are able to read individual flash memory cells which allows it to behave like a traditional ROM in this mode. For the erase and write functions, commands are written to the first page of the mapped memory as defined in the ‘common flash interface’ which was created by Intel.


Flash memory is a particularly important form of semiconductor memory. Today, it’s widely used and is possibly one of the most important forms of medium term storage. 


How Important is a Flash Memory Card for Your Computer


Flash memory is known as a computer memory that is not volatile. This means that you can have unconditional support for memory whether you have powered the device or not. There are plenty of memory cards in the market that users can now choose from. These types of flash memory cards have strengthened the data recovery industry as users today can now store, save and transfer data more easily. Users can find these memory cards in a wide selection of capacities and storing strength. 


Listed below are four different types of flash memory and how they are most commonly used:


A server-side flash is the use of a solid state drive with flash memory in a server. A server-side flash is often used as a high speed cache or in places where high IOPS (input/output operations per second) count. Also referred to as cached storage, this drive gives you access at the fastest speeds with a lower capacity. 
An all-flash array (AFA) has consistent storage with greater capacity. It’s a solid state storage system that allows for multiple flash memory drives, rather than spinning hard disk drives. An all-flash array storage is also referred to as a solid-state array (SSA). AFAs and SSAs offer speed, performance and agility for your business applications. 
The greatest advantage of a traditional flash storage system is that users will have a cost-effective capacity that can be scaled, all while receiving consistent storage. This is also known as the HDD storage method. 
Hybrid array can be described as an intelligent caching solution. It’s a type of storage that combines the large capacity of HDD with the efficient performance of an SSD. The key to hybrid arrays is dynamic data placement. This is based on the concept of the preset system, policies that are user defined and performance targets. Hybrid arrays are capable of delivering high-end performance compared to traditional options such as slower hard disks. 


Where to Buy Affordable Flash Memory


With plenty of flash memory options to choose from, it can be incredibly confusing and daunting with the amount of information made available online. Storables fortunately have made it easy for users to find the most affordable flash memory in the market.



Advantages and Disadvantages of Flash Memory


As with any technology, there are various advantages and disadvantages. When considering the use of flash memory in any particular application, it’s necessary to weigh up the advantages and disadvantages.


Flash Memory Advantages


  • Non-volatile memory
  • Easily portable (e.g. USB memory sticks, camera flash cards, etc.)
  • Mechanically robust


Flash Memory Disadvantages


  • Limited number of write/erase cycles
  • Data typically erased and written in blocks
  • Typically a higher cost per bit than hard drives


What are the Limitations of Using Flash Memory?


While there are plenty of advantages of using flash memory, it does come with a few limitations. One limitation of flash memory is that although it can be read or programmed a byte or a word at a time in random order, it must be erased a ‘block’ at a time. Flash memory (specifically NOR flash) offers random-access read and programming operations, but cannot offer random-access rewrite or erase operations.


When compared to a hard disk driveCheck Latest Price , a further limitation is the fact that flash memory has a finite number of erase-write cycles so that care has to be taken when moving hard-drive based applications, such as operating systems, to flash-memory based devices. Also, the cost per byte of flash memory remains significantly higher than the corresponding cost of a hard disk drive, and that has prevented flash from becoming a solid state replacement for the hard disk drive on normal desktop and laptop computers.


It’s also important to note that flash memory cells have a limited number of write and erase cycles before failing. Most flash drives do not have a write-protection mechanism. Flash memory may also require a special version of a program to run on a flash-based drive to protect from prematurely wearing out the drive.


How to Reformat Your Computer Using 32GB Flash Drive


Reformatting your computer can be done in a few clicks. The process of reformatting your computer using a 32GB USB flash drive on a PC (non-MAC) computer is outlined below:


Step 1: 

Install USB Disk Storage Format Tool on your computer. Next, create a USB flash drive that has a boot sector. Insert the blank USB flash drive and run HP USB Disk Storage Format Tool.


Step 2:

On the format tool platform in the Device tab section, select the flash drive that you want to create as bootable. Make sure that it’s the right device – This makes it easy to reformat your computer using a USB flash drive.


Change your USB storage disk into a bootable USB disk. To do this, you have to empty your flash drive. You will also need Windows 98 MS-DOS files and HP USB Disk Storage Format Tool.


Step 3:

To reformat your computer using a USB flash drive, download Windows 98 MS-DOS system files. It’s free to download. After downloading, extract the zipped file into a folder that you can easily explore.


Step 4:

Download HP USB Disk Storage Format Tool. This software is free to download.


Step 5:

Go to the File System tab and change settings into FAT 32.


Under Format Options, check the Create a DOS startup disk option. Next, click the ‘…’ button to browse the folder where you have extracted Windows 98 MS-DOS files earlier. 


Select the folder and click ‘OK’.


Step 6:

On the format tool, click the ‘START’ button. A pop-up message will prompt you before proceeding that the data on the drive will be lost. Click ‘Agree’ to continue. Instantly, your bootable USB flash drive will be ready. You can now reformat your computer using a USB flash drive.


Step 7:

Start reformatting your notebook, laptop or desktop computer using your bootable USB drive. 


Before turning your computer on, plug in your bootable USB.


Step 8:

As the screen display starts, press either ‘Del’ or F2 or F10 to display the BIOS setup. Go to the Boot menu to change the Boot order. Make the USB flash drive to be on the first boot order.


Step 9:

Press F10 on the keyboard to save changes. As the computer restarts, click ‘Enter’ when asked to boot from a USB flash drive or wait until the flash drive loads automatically.


Step 10:

If you have made a Windows 7 installer on your bootable flash drive, the installation will automatically start. The installation will take several minutes. Wait until the installation is completed. Now you’re done!


Is Flash Memory Rewritable?


Flash memory is a type of non-volatile memory that can be electronically erased and reprogrammed. Unlike RAM, which is volatile, flash memory retains the information stored in the chip when the power is turned off. This makes it ideal for use in digital cameras, laptops, network switches, video game cards, mobile phones and portable multimedia players. Also, unlike ROM chips, flash memory chips are rewritable so you can update programs via software.


Frequently Asked Questions About Flash Memory


1. How Important Is A Flash Memory Card On Your Computer?

Having a flash memory card on your computer is extremely important as it acts as a storage medium for your computer. It is used to store data such as texts, pictures, audio and video. It is mainly used on small, portable and remote computing devices. Flash memory cards will help data to remain stable on the card.


2. What Are The Top 10 Models Of Memory Sticks?

Memory sticks are aplenty these days: so many models, variations and types are available that it can get overwhelming for the buyer. We’ve made the task easier for you by whittling the list down to the top 10 memory stick models.  


3. How To Use A Flash Drive On Your Computer?


To use a flash drive on your computer, follow the below steps:


  1. Insert the flash drive into a USB port on your computer. You should find a USB port on the front, back, or side of your computer (please note that the location may vary depending on whether you have a desktop or a laptop).
  2. Depending on how your computer is set up, a dialog box may appear. If it does, select ‘Open folder to view files’.


If a dialog box does not appear, open ‘Windows Explorer’ and locate and select the flash drive on the left side of the window. Note that the name of the flash drive may vary. Once you’ve connected the flash drive, you can work with it just like any other folder on your computer, including moving and deleting files.


To safely remove a flash drive from your computer, follow the below steps. Please note that you will need to disconnect your flash drive properly to avoid damaging files on the drive.


  1. Right-click the flash drive, then select ‘Eject’ or ‘Disconnect’.
  2. You can now safely remove the flash drive from the USB port.


For a more detailed guide, head on over to our article on flash drives.



4. What Is The Best Flash Memory Card Created By Intel?


The Intel® Compute CardCheck Latest Price is just slightly longer than a credit card, but it’s ready to power anything from entry-level to full featured devices. The modularity and flexibility of this computer on a card allows compute integration via card slot into devices such as digital signage, kiosks, smart TVs, appliances, and more.


5. How To Save Big Files Using Your Flash Storage?


To save large files using your flash storage, a solution around this is formatting your documents in exFAT. The exFAT file system allows a single file larger than 4GB to be stored on the device. The great thing about this solution is that it’s also compatible with Mac. 


Windows 7 and Mac OS 10.6.6 and higher are compatible with exFAT, however, older operating systems may need a patch installed for exFAT compatibility. Please note that the exFAT file system is NOT compatible with some host devices such as TV, game systems, older operating systems, car stereos, etc. To format a drive in exFAT, you can follow the below steps:


  1. Double-click on ‘My Computer’
  2. Right-click on the flash drive or memory card, then select ‘Format’
  3. In the ‘File System’ list, click ‘exFAT’
  4. Click ‘Start’
  5. Click ‘OK’ to start formatting

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