Really cheap flash memory

2007-06-28 21:01:18 UTC

At your local Micro Center, behind the counter, they have USB flash-memory sticks for $16 for 2 GB.

Here's a photo comparing the size of the stick to the size of a US 25¢ coin. The stick is about twice as long as the quarter, and ⅔ of the width.

There is a catch: It comes with a second read-only memory device containing preinstalled software for Windows. Fortunately, this is easy to disable with a simple fstab rule.

The main storage device, on the other hand, is easily reformatted in Disk Utility. The stick is USB 2.0, as you can see from my dd results:

Plugged into my keyboard (thereby constrained to USB 1.1)

dd bs=62914560 count=1 if=/dev/zero of=temp          %/Volumes/Stick of data(0)
1+0 records in
1+0 records out
62914560 bytes transferred in 63.105605 secs (996973 bytes/sec)

Plugged directly into one of my USB 2.0 ports

dd bs=62914560 count=1 if=/dev/zero of=temp          %/Volumes/Stick of data(0)
1+0 records in
1+0 records out
62914560 bytes transferred in 11.250311 secs (5592251 bytes/sec)

In case you’re wondering, 62,914,560 bytes is 480 megabits, the theoretical maximum throughput of USB 2.0. If I were using 100% of that bandwidth, the write would have happened in one second. As it was, the write did about 5+⅓ MiB per second over USB 2.0, and 1920 MiB per second over USB 1.1.

Pretty good for $16, I think.

UPDATE 2008-11-29: Sometime in the last few months, Micro Center reorganized the front of their store. Now, the cheap store-brand flash memory is in racks right there on the counter.

And prices have come down even further, of course. Now, 4 GiB will cost you $10. And they no longer limit you to USB thumb drives: they now offer SD cards, as well.

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