Understand the Basics of Buying Promotional USB Flash Drives

Before you place an order for promotional USB flash drives printed with your company, school or university name on there are a few basic things you ideally need to be aware of.

Unfortunately just like lots of other sectors that supply businesses and schools with products there are “scam merchants” about that are only too willing to take your business and turn a profit at whatever cost even if that means supplying you with fake or poor quality goods. Given your name will be printed on the USB flash drives you need to be sure you don’t fall prey to their scams or it will reflect badly on your brand and organisation.

Some of the basic things to watch for when buying promotional USB Flash drives are:

1)      Is your supplier using or planning to use “re-cycled” or Grade B flash memory chips inside the USB flash drives they supply you with. As the name implies a re-cycled flash memory module will have been salvaged from a Grade A product that has perhaps failed a full QA process. They are likely to be to correct memory size but they will have a much higher failure rate and will typically perform poorly, e.g. the read/write speeds will be slow.

2)      Check the drives have not been “masked”. Masking is a growing problem and it’s particularly difficult to spot. It involves making smaller capacity flash drives appear to look as though they have more storage capacity than they actually do. Externally the USB sticks won’t look any different, even when you plug them into a PC everything will look “OK”. If you’ve ordered say 1GB USB sticks they will appear as 1GB sticks on the PC (even when you check the properties of the drive) But, if you load data on the drive up to the supposed limit and then take out the drive and plug it into another PC you’ll find the data isn’t there!!

What’s happened is that the manufacturer/supplier has taken say a 256MB flash drive and “masked” it to make it look like a 1GB – they’ll sell it to you as though it’s a genuine 1GB. This is the reason why some supplier prices look so cheap – it’s because you’re not getting what you ordered. Worse they’ll sell it at a 1GB price and pocket the extra profit.

3)      Cheap controller chips and cheap flash memory modules - at the heart of any memory stick are two core components: the flash memory module and the controller chip that manages the read/write process to the flash memory. Both of these components are available from a number of different sources (Intel, Samsung, Hynix etc.) and some perform better than others – the price of them is a reasonable indicator of the performance.

So, if you get offered “cheap” USB sticks then be prepared for these two components to be at the lower end of what’s available. This in turn will impact the speed and performance of the USB sticks. This is not always an issue but if you are planning to load lots of data on the USB sticks or you’re a photographer that will be hoping to load lots of high resolutions images on the sticks then make sure you go for high spec memory chips and controllers.

4)      It’s not unknown for some suppliers to just put a 1GB sticker on a 256MB flash drive and hope they’ll get away without you noticing.

If you don’t want to fall victim to these scams then buy from a trusted and reputable supplier and ideally a local supplier that will take ownership of problems or issues you might have once they have been delivered.

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