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The best USB flash drive in 2022: small size, huge storage

Best USB flash drive
(Image credit: Constantine Johnny via Getty Images)

The best USB flash drives are perfect for carrying files around as they're so small – and there's no risk of them being corrupted. These flash drives are super convenient, and you can choose from an affordable flash stick (or thumb drive), a fast and powerful solid-state drive (SSD) or a hard disk (which is small and doesn't need a power supply). Though a lot of people are choosing cloud storage now, USB storage is still pretty essential in case you don't have internet. 

Creatives and students find USB storage a simple solution for keeping vital project files backed up, as carrying around portfolios or folders isn't ideal. But which is the best USB flash drive for you depends on your specific needs. Most drives still use the traditional USB Type-A connector, but you'll also see the smaller, rounded USB Type-C. Apple Macs are available only with Type-C, and you'll need a dongle or alternative cable to use older USB devices.

The performance of USB storage devices can vary wildly. Older USB 2.0 flash sticks would chug along at under 20MB/sec which could make backing up a lot of 4K video take hours. USB 3 sticks are much faster and you can expect speeds as high as 450 MB/sec. If you're looking to store a lot of files, you should also see our guide to the best cloud storage. Below, we pick out the best USB flash drives available now, with a range of capacities, speeds and price points for every budget.

The best USB flash drives available now

Samsung Fit product shot

(Image credit: Samsung)

01. Samsung Fit Plus 128GB

The best USB flash drive overall

Specifications

Interface: USB 3.1
Connector: Type-A
Capacities: 32GB-256GB
Storage Type: Flash

Reasons to buy

+
Compact design
+
Good amount of storage
+
Fast read/write speeds

The Samsung Fit Plus range offers the best USB flash drive overall for our money. It comes in capacities from 32GB up to 256GB – the 128GB option priced above strikes a great balance between cost and storage space. All models support USB 3.1 connectivity with data-transfer speeds up to 300 MBps – faster than many other USB memory sticks. The drive is also water-, shock-, magnet-, temperature- and X-ray-proof, which means you can bring it just about anywhere without fear of damaging your content. 

The device is tiny, so it's easy to carry around. That also has the downside that it might be easy to lose, but then that applies to many USB drives. It's also back-compatible with USB 2.0, it should work in any device you might have. 

PNY Turbo 256GB product shot

(Image credit: PNY)

02. PNY Turbo 256GB USB flash drive

A solid flash drive with larger storage

Specifications

Interface: USB 3.0
Connector: Type-A
Capacities: 256GB
Storage Type: Flash

Reasons to buy

+
Huge capacity
+
Good speeds

Reasons to avoid

-
No built-in encryption

PNY is a memory manufacturer that entered the USB market. This flash drive is one of the best options if you're looking for more capacity, offering a hefty 256GB. It offers decent – though not spectacular – read/write speeds of 80Mbps and 20Mbps respectively, while the capped design helps protect the device. If you need faster performance, there are other options in our list, but if you need a reliable device with decent amount of storage capacity at a good price, this is a good option.

DataTraveler 100 product shot

(Image credit: Kingston Technology)

03. Kingston Technology DataTraveler 100

The best value 64GB USB drive

Specifications

Interface: USB 3.0
Connector: Type-A
Capacities: 64GB
Storage Type: Flash

Reasons to buy

+
Good value
+
Plenty of space 

Reasons to avoid

-
Not as fast as other USB 3.0 flash drives

The Kingston Technology DataTraveler 100 Generation 3 USB flash drive is a very compact, and also very affordable flash drive. In some cases, the cost of shipping a drive is more than the price of the device itself, but this is a case where the shipping won't cost much. It's the most affordable 64GB USB 3.0 flash drive on the market and offers respectable read/write speeds of 150Mbps and 70Mbps respectively. Not the fastest, but very good value.

SanDisk Ultra USB-C product shot

(Image credit: SanDisc)

04. SanDisk Ultra USB-C

The best choice if you need USB-C

Specifications

Interface: USB 3.0
Connector: Type-C
Capacities: 16GB - 128GB
Storage Type: Flash

Reasons to buy

+
Native USB-C connector 
+
Fast

Reasons to avoid

-
Large physical size
-
Limited to 128GB

If you’ve bought a new MacBook or MacBook Pro in the last few years, you’ve had to give up the immediacy of your old USB flash storage since they've said goodbye to the old USB Type-A ports and only offer USB Type-C, which means you need a dongle, dock or converter cable to use them with Type A. 

A handy USB-C flash drive gets around this though, plugging directly into your Mac, and one of the finest examples is the SanDisk Ultra USB-C. It's a native USB-C device, freeing you from the irritating need to carry a converter for USB plugs. SanDisk has long been pushing the boundaries of USB flash drive performance with its super-fast Extreme range, and it has brought that performance over to this drive too. 

Ranging from 16GB to 128GB, it manages read and write speeds of 150 MB/sec, quite an improvement from what you might expect from old fashioned USB 2.0 devices, and a solid entry in this best USB flash drive list.

Kingston IronKey D300 product shot

05. Kingston IronKey D300

Keeps your data safe in numerous ways

Specifications

Interface: USB 3.0
Connector: Type-A
Capacities: 4GB - 128GB
Storage Type: Flash

Reasons to buy

+
Most secure storage there is
+
Wide range of capacities

Reasons to avoid

-
Slow write speeds 
-
Wide range of capacities

If you’re nervous about losing your work, this is one of the most secure flash drives on our best USB flash drive buying guide, with multiple levels of security and a rugged waterproof design. The drive is password protected with 256-bit AES encryption, to comply with FIPS standards that most corporate environments demand, with all decrypting done in hardware on the drive itself.

It’s also IPX8 waterproof, meaning it will survive being continuously submerged up to one metre, making it safe from drops in puddles, baths and even being placed in the washing machine by mistake. If the worst happens and you lose your drive, with the Managed version of the D300 IronKey, you can remotely delete your files so you can be sure they won’t fall into the wrong hands. Speeds vary depending on capacity - the largest 128GB drive has the fastest write speeds, with 250MB/sec read and 85 MB/sec write.

Samsung Portable SSD T5 SSD product shot

(Image credit: Samsung)

06. Samsung Portable SSD T5 SSD

The fastest USB storage money can buy

Specifications

Interface: USB 3.1 (Gen 2)
Connector: Type-C
Capacities: 250GB - 2TB
Storage Type: SSD

Reasons to buy

+
Fastest external storage
+
Small

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive

We’re cheating a bit by including this as the one of the best USB flash drives since it's actually a full external solid-state drive, using the same fast storage technology you'll find inside your computer. Because of this, it’s faster than any other kind of USB storage, making the absolute most of the high bandwidth of USB 3.1 to deliver transfer speeds up to 550 MB/sec.

Of course, it’s also considerably more expensive than a standard flash stick, with some eye-watering high prices for the 512GB version. You don’t need this kind of speed purely for file backup or to carry a few JPEG images around. Rather, it’s so fast you can edit and work with large files directly on the T5 itself. In fact, there are all kinds of alternative uses for a drive this fast. It works great as an external boot drive, so you can run an entire operating system from it at full performance, which is handy for Mac users who need to work in Windows too.

LaCie Rugged USB-C product shot

(Image credit: Samsung)

07. LaCie Rugged USB-C

Great for large amounts of data in harsh environments

Specifications

Interface: USB 3.1
Connector: Type-C
Capacities: 1TB - 5TB
Storage Type: SSD/HDD

Reasons to buy

+
Rugged design 
+
Backwards compatible 

Reasons to avoid

-
Ugly orange casing

This is another hard disk option that might be of interest to anyone looking for an alternative to the best USB flash drive. The unique feature of the LaCie Rugged USB-C is its orange rubber casing, which makes it extremely durable. While flash drives don’t have any moving parts, and can survive even severe drops, a hard disk (when powered on) is far more fragile. Drop your laptop while files are copying to a hard disk and there is a real risk the disk could be destroyed and your data lost.

Lacie’s rugged design apparently can withstand a 1-ton car, is resistant to rain (other versions are fully water and dust resistant) and can handle a drop of up to 1.2 meters. That makes it a great choice for content creation on the move. If you’re capturing images and video in harsh environments, and need more capacity than a standard USB flash stick, this is a great choice. One nice additional touch is that Lacie has thoughtfully included both USB Gen 1 and Gen 2 cables in the box, so you won’t need any adapter or dongles, whatever ports are on your computer.

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Beren Neale
Deals Editor

Beren has worked on creative tech magazines and websites at Future Publishing for 13 years. He started this journey as Staff Writer on the digital art magazine ImagineFX, and in 2012 found himself bridging the magazine/website divide as Commissioning Editor on the newly launched Creative Bloq. Since then he took the editor role on ImagineFX, was Launch Editor of the fine art magazine Paint & Draw, moved to Canon Pro Europe website as Deputy Editor, and then edited the graphic design magazine Computer Arts. In 2020 he moved back to Creative Bloq, the biggest global art and design website, and as Deals Editor has applied his expertise in creative tech to help digital creatives get the best deals on the kit that they need and love. Outside of work, Beren is an avid rock climber and music nut.