Keeping a USB Flash Drive Plugged In: Is It Ok?

Plugged in USB drive

Our USB flash drives are a constant companion through the daily work grind as well as for our personal multimedia needs. They feel like an integral part of our desktops and laptops. Because we place so much value on the data they store, it’s not unusual that we tend to ditch their portability and keep the flash drives plugged in 24 hours a day in their USB ports. However, is this a good idea? Does it cause any damage to our computers or flash drives? While there’s not a direct answer, we’ve got some facts to shed light on the situation to help you make the best judgment call for your situation.

Consider your purpose, how are you using your flash drive? There are instances when users run an operating system, automatic backups or antivirus and management software from the USB drive. This means that the device is written to intermittently yet more frequently. If you only write documents and multimedia files occasionally, USB insertion is more of a convenience than a necessity.

When a flash drive is connected to a powered system, it’s always on and constantly communicating with the host. As a result, issues can pop up. If there’s an electrical disruption to your system (lightning strike, ESD, power outage, etc.), it can damage the USB flash drive’s components or cause an error in a data transfer. Moreover, when a flash drive is plugged in all the time, it becomes easier to make a simple deletion mistake.

Additionally, a flash drive’s surface mounts control electric voltage and consequently come in contact with heat. Prolonged exposure can eventually distort the surface mounts and throw the voltage off balance. The overheating can fry your drive or hurt your hardware. While this damage won’t occur immediately or even in the short term future, maintaining an inserted flash drive all the time will invariably affect overall shelf life.

Safely removing your USB flash drive via the system tray is the best way to ensure longevity of your device and ultimately your data. Should you need to keep it plugged in constantly for certain applications, be sure that you employ alternative file backup methods (like another USB flash drive, custom hard drive, SSD, etc).

Do you keep your flash drive in the USB port all the time? Has it affected your data in any way? Share your story with us.