How Do Flash Drives Work?

By Amanda Kondolojy

Flash Drive Connects to Computer

Flash drives are "plug and play" devices, which means that they start working as soon as they are plugged in to your computer. When you plug your flash drive into a computer for the first time, the computer and the flash drive start communicating. The flash drive downloads small amounts of data, known as drivers, to the computer. These drivers identify the flash drive, and sets up rules that will govern the computers future interaction with the drive. This process can take up to several minutes, depending on your processor.

Emulation Mode

Once the connection has been established, the flash drive goes into emulation mode. This means that it acts like an external hard drive, and is accessible in the same place your main hard drive is accessible. Though flash drives use much different technology to store your files (see below) the drive emulates a standard hard drive and sends information to the computer that allows it to respond to the drive as such. This means that saving files and transferring data will be a lot easier, as you can use your computer's regular interface to do so.

Data Transfer

The way that data is transferred in a flash drive is a lot different from the way it is in a traditional hard drive. Instead of data being "written" on a stationary drive, flash drives harness the speed of the USB data transfer method to facilitate the Electrically Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memory (EEPROM) style of storage which uses a microprocessor to record the data. The EEPROM can electrically program and erase data using a technique known as "tunneling" or field electron emission.

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