The best flash drives are the ideal way to quickly and easily store, copy and transfer photos and videos. Light enough to slip into a pocket or even attach to your keys, a good flash drive can go with you everywhere, with no separate cable or other paraphernalia required, as well as no internet connection. They may be less fashionable these days, but a good flash drive is a cost-effective solution for moving your data.
Flash drives are smaller than even the best portable SSDs. And while cloud storage, is convenient and allows you to access your files from anywhere, it also requires an internet connection. A flash drive can't be scuppered by bad Wi-Fi or poor data coverage.
Some flash drives are incredibly cheap – but be wary. Go too cheap and you not only will get something with minimal capacity and sluggish transfer speeds, but it might also be vulnerable to data corruption. The best flash drives aren't too expensive, so it's worth getting something worthwhile from a reputable brand.
The typical image of a flash drive is one using the old style of USB-A plug – the kind that always has to be rotated three times before it'll go in (no one knows why). But some newer drives also offer a USB-C interface, the newer, smaller type of plug, which you may need if you're using an older laptop like a recent MacBook, which doesn't have USB-A ports. USB-C is faster in any case, so it's good to use it if you can.
For this guide, we've collected the best flash drives you can buy to keep your data safe. They're all from trusted brand, and all are pitched to different budgets. Whether you need a whopping 1TB flash drive with blistering transfer speeds, or just something simple that works, we've got you covered. If you want to know how we made our picks, scroll to the bottom of the article for a little more on what we look for in a good flash drive – otherwise, let's get to the list!
The best flash drives in 2022
Just like SanDisk's 'Extreme Pro' SD cards, the SanDisk Extreme PRO USB 3.2 Solid State Flash Drive is made to do two things: transfer data quickly, and keep data safe. It accomplishes these things in exemplary fashion, and is our number-one choice for the best flash drive for most users.
It's capable of achieving read and write speeds of 420MB/s and 380 MB/s respectively, and you'll have a job finding a flash drive that does better than this. If you need something to transfer large video files on and off, this is a workable option that won't have you spending too much of your life watching the progress bar tick up. If you get it in a big enough capacity (it goes up to 1TB), it's a credible alternative to a portable SSD.
One thing to bear in mind is that the SanDisk Extreme PRO USB 3.2 Solid State Flash Drive doesn't have a USB-C connection, just the old-style USB-A, so double check your computer still uses the old ports (though adapters are available in a pinch).
If you do want to take advantage of the newer, faster USB-C connector, then the Samsung DUO Plus is a great option. It has both the smaller USB-C connector and a built-in adapter for the older Type-A connectors, so you won't be caught out if you suddenly need to get your data onto a machine with limited ports.
The Samsung DUO Plus is also nice and speedy, with transfer speeds comparable to the SanDisk option, making it up to 400 MB/s. Though bear in mind this is a little dependent on capacity – it's only the 256GB and 128GB versions that can achieve these snappy speeds, with the 64GB topping out at 300 MB/s and the 32GB base model managing a maximum of 200 MB/s. Let's not get carried away though; these are all impressive transfer speeds.
One last thing to note is that if you need more than 256GB capacity, you're out of luck here – that's as high as the Samsung DUO Plus goes. For photos or other files this will probably do, but video users will probably want to try something a little roomier.
Not all flash drives are designed for taking from place to place – some are made to sit quietly and just give you more storage space. The tiny SanDisk Ultra Fit USB 3.1 Flash Drive is an excellent choice if your laptop has a USB-A port that doesn't see much use since all your devices these days are USB-C. It's barely larger than a USB Type-A connector plug, so you can just slot it in there and bang – you've got 16-512GB of extra storage with no increase to your laptop's footprint.
Getting 512GB isn't all that expensive, with the price for even the largest version of this flash drive being pretty reasonable. The smaller capacities are absurdly cheap, and the fact that it's a SanDisk means you can be confident you aren't being sold a dud. The transfer speeds top out at 130 MB/s, which isn't anywhere near record-breaking, but should be fast enough for most purposes.
Looking for a bargain? Then you’ll find the 128GB model of this flash drive offers the best ratio of gigabytes to cash on this list. The drawback is the very slow read/write speed. But if you’re looking for a flash drive mainly for storage, and are prepared to wait a while for downloads and uploads, you might be willing to take that hit.
This flash drive also has a push and pull sliding feature which protects the USB connection when it’s not in use without the need for a separate cap. It comes in a variety of colours including Sunkissed Yellow, Eucalyptus Green, Hot Pink, Caribbean Blue and Volcanic Orange.
Is your data highly important or sensitive? Then here’s the best flash drive we can recommend to help you sleep at night. The Kingston IronKey D300 is super-safe to use, with both sophisticated security features and a rugged waterproof design
It’s password protected, with a 256-bit AES hardware encryption in XTS mode, to comply with FIPS standards. Encryption and decryption is done on the drive, with no trace left on the host system, and the drive locks down and reformats after 10 invalid attempts, to protect against brute force attacks.
This flash drive is physically protective too. It’s rugged and waterproof up to four feet, conforming to IEC60529 IPX833. And it's tamper-resistant, thanks to its zinc casing and tamper-evident epoxy seal.
If you spend a lot of time transferring large files with a flash drive, you'll one that's as fast as possible. In which case, the Patriot Supersonic Rage 2 is our top pick. Designed with an aluminium coated housing for better thermal dissipation, and with support for UASP (USB Attached SCSI Protocol), we found its read and write speeds are blisteringly fast on big files. And while it's not exactly cheap, that time-saving may well make the extra cost worth it. This flash drive comes in 128GB, 256GB and 512GB variations.
The PRO Elite 3.0 may not look particularly inspiring, but it packs a punch. Up to 400MB/s read and 250MB/s write rates make this one of the faster USB sticks you can buy. Capacities top out at a generous 1TB, meaning this thumb drive has the speed and space to be well suited to working with high-res images and video. A nice touch is the retractable USB connector, so there's no separate cap to worry about.
The only downside is that the USB connector is an older Type-A design, meaning you'll need to use a Type-A to Type-C adapter to plug this flash drive into a recent MacBook.
USB-C is here to stay and is set to eventually replace the older (rectangular) Type-A USB port, so if you'll only be using a USB stick with modern PCs or Macs, it makes sense to go with a USB-C stick. At 42.2mm x 15mm x 6.7mm, the DataTraveler 80 USB Flash Drive is nice and compact, and that native Type-C connector means you can use it with phones and tablets, as well as computers.
Read/write speeds aren't the fastest, but up to 200MB/s read and 60MB/s write rates are by no means sluggish. Choose from 32GB up to 256GB capacities, each of which is well priced.
If you're a bit accident-prone, or just like to live life on the edge, look no further than this ultra-tough flash drive. With its anodized, aircraft-grade aluminum housing that's waterproof to 200 meters, vibration-resistant, and 40G shock-resistant, you can go virtually anywhere with this memory stick and not have to worry about your data.
Of course, with such ruggedness inevitably comes some bulk, and at 7.62cm long with a diameter of 2.54cm, this is one of the larger flash drives on the market, though it's not unreasonably big. Storage space is also sizable, topping out at 1TB, though the 256GB variant currently offers the lowest price per gigabyte.
The Flash Survivor Stealth dates back to 2015, so don't expect the latest ultra-fast transfer speeds, but if survivability is paramount, this is the drive to go for.
Another great flash drive from PNY, this stick ranges up to a generous 256GB in capacity. It features a sliding-collar, capless design that means you won't have to worry about losing the cap. And as befits the 'Turbo' name, it offers decent read/write speeds of 185 / 135MB/s. That's about all we can say: there's nothing particularly exciting about this flash drive in general. But it does the job well, and at a pretty decent price.
What is a good connection speed for a flash drive?
Most USB flash drives always use the USB 3.2 Gen 1 USB connection speed, which at 625 megabytes per second is fast enough to let even the fastest USB flash drives run at max speed. Some manufacturers may advertise their drives as USB 3.1, or USB 3.0, but it's all the same speed. The original USB 3.0 standard has been re-numbered twice over the years, yet nothing technical has changed.
Yup, we're just as confused by that as you. What is clear is that no matter what USB 3.x label your chosen flash drive has, it'll be backward compatible with USB 2.0 ports on older computers, though speed will be limited to under 60MB/s. For this reason, don't even consider cheaping-out on a USB 2.0 flash drive: it just isn't worth it when transfer speeds will be so achingly slow.
What flash drive is best for MacBook?
Since 2015, MacBooks have only featured USB Type-C ports, so if you want a USB flash drive to use with a 2015 or newer MacBook, you'll need a USB Type-C memory stick. Fortunately there's a growing number of USB-C flash drives available, as well as dual USB-A and USB-C drives that have both plugs, usually one at each end of the drive, to maximize compatibility. For our money, the best flash drive for MacBooks is the Kingston DataTraveler 80 USB Flash Drive (number 8 on our list above).
What we look for in the best flash drives
When making our picks for the best flash drives you can buy right now, there are a few key things we look out for:
• USB interface: Flash drives will connect via USB-A, USB-C, or both. USB-A is the classic style of connector that's been in use for years, while USB-C is smaller and relatively newer. USB-C connectors are both faster and more versatile than USB-A, however the USB-A is still very common, especially on older laptops.
• USB Gen: As discussed above, USB devices will have a Gen number like USB 3.1 Gen 1, or USB 3.2 Gen 2. It's complicated and not really necessary to understand – all you really need to know is that higher numbers = faster transfer speeds.
• Capacity: How much data a flash drive can hold – some can go as high as 1TB. Obviously higher capacity is better, but it also costs more.
• Physical size/toughness: The whole point of a flash drive is portability and data protection, so we look at their size and weight, as well as how well-protected they are against knocks and bumps.