Blinking LED Flash Drive: What It Means

Blinking LED on USB Drive

That tiny beam of light coming from your USB flash drive is not just for show.  It may seem like a feature just inherent to your electronic devices, but a flash drive LED light indicator tells a story of its own.  Think of it as an activity barometer for what you’re doing with your storage.  The LED light is meant to communicate to you what’s going on the data transfers, be it reading or writing files.

A USB drive’s circuit enables this LED light to flash for attention—only requiring the power of the USB drive to light up.  Depending on the manufacturer or model, these little LED bulbs at the top of your drive may be green, red, blue or orange.  Some memory makers even incorporated the LED use into the design of the drive.  Not all custom USB drives have them, and there’s not just one universal solution to troubleshoot a blinking flash drive.  However, these tips will give you a good starting point.

What’s normal with a flash drive LED light:

  • Blinking solely for data transfers is a sure sign of proper function.
  • Fast, repeated blinking of a flash drive when it’s first plugged in.  Essentially this means it’s going through the first contact of communication with your system; then the light will turn off.
  • The flash drive LED gradually growing brighter followed by a slow dimming.  This can occur (but not in all flash drive models) when the device is plugged in, but you are inactive on your system.  This reflects the nature of USB technology itself—where peripherals like flash drives do not have to be in use but are still actively polled for data.

What’s not normal with a blinking flash drive:

  • The LED indicator on your USB drive will not light up at all.
  • A USB drive LED light that stays on without flashing, when it had previously not behaved this way before.  (Keep in mind, a continuous glowing light can also be a normal function, so it's important to know how it should operate out of the box.)

These abnormal LED activities could suggest a corrupted USB drive.  In this case, reformatting the flash drive for a clean slate may be the answer.  If the LED USB flash drive continues to blink nonstop without transferring data, consider what else you may have operating from your USB hub (like another flash drive or storage device).  A reinsertion or removal of that extra device may solve your blinking USB drive issues.

Have you experienced any strange LED light behavior with your USB flash drive?  What, if anything, did you do to solve it?