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Thumb Drive FAQ
(a.k.a. USB, Flash, Keychain, or Disk-on-key drive)

What is a USB, flash, thumb etc. drive?

A thumb drive is a plug-and-play portable storage device that uses flash memory to store data-- works like a floppy or Zip disk.

Which operating system works with thumb drives?

Windows 98, SE (Second Edition), ME, 2000, XP and Mac OS 8.6, 9.0 or higher support USB drives. PCs need to be USB 1.1 compatible in order to use a USB thumb drive. All of the cluster machines are 1.1 compatible.

Can I use a thumb drive on both Mac and PC?


How can I secure my files on the thumb drive?

Each thumb drive is different. Some drives use software, some use a hardware switch, and some use fingerprint technology to secure data stored on the device. Check with the manufacture on how your particular drive secures data.

How much data can a thumb drive hold?

Thumb drives range in size. You can purchase drives from 8MB to 2 gigabytes, depending on manufacturer. Prices vary by size and manufacturer. For comparison of tested thumb drives, try the following CNET website: USB Flash Drive review

How do I use a thumb drive?

If using a PC:
  1. Insert the thumb/USB/flash drive into an open USB slot
  2. Double-click My Computer on the desktop.

    Note: A Windows dialogue box may appear asking what application you would like to use for the files that are now being recognized. You can either choose an application from the dialogue window or click cancel. If you click cancel, you should still be able to see the flash drive by double-clicking the My Computer icon on the desktop.
  3. Your drive will appear as a new drive letter (that's not currently in use), like, "E:\Removable Disk"

  4. Note: Drive mappings may interfere with the displaying of your removable device as a drive.
    • For example, a user has five different physical drives (hard drive, CDRW, DVD, floppy, Zip) and also has a mapped drive (G:) to their AFS web space using PC-AFS.
    • After inserting the thumb drive, the computer recognizes the device but doesn't display the device in Windows Explorer.
    • This is because, physically, the G: drive was the next available drive for a physical device to use. So, the thumb drive was assigned to the G: drive.
      Although, the G: drive is already being mapped to your Leland AFS space.
    • The fix is to either map your AFS space to a drive letter lower in the alphabet or to change the drive letter for the removable device.
    • The latter solution can not be done on the cluster machines because the user does not have admin rights to the machine.
  5. Copy and paste files to this drive as you would a floppy disk
  6. When finished, you should stop the USB hardware service before unplugging the device.

    Note: Windows XP users can just remove the device from the computer without stopping the device. Windows 2000 doesn't handle unplugging USB devices as well as XP. So (2000 users), be safe! Stop the device before removing.]
    • Double-click the icon in the system tray that refers to devices plugged into your computer (see below)
    • select USB Mass Storage Device and click Stop
    • Confirm which device you want to stop, select it and click OK (i.e.; USB Mass Storage Device)

    • Remove the device when you see the message, "It is safe to remove the device"

If using a Mac:

  1. Insert the thumb/USB/flash drive into an open USB slot
  2. Drive should appear on the MacOS desktop with some label
  3. Copy and paste files to this drive as you would a floppy disk
  4. When you are finished using the device,
    • Drag the thumb drive icon on the desktop to the trash
    • Wait for confirmation from the computer stating that it is safe to remove device
    • Unplug device from computer

Ronnie Fields
User Services Technology Manager
Information Center
Cecil H. Green Library, Stanford University Libraries



Last modified: July 7, 2006

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