There is an effect where the data will eventually be lost, yes. The actual chips are rated for more along the lines of 10 years.
For most flash drives, plugging it in wouldn’t help. Refreshing the stored data requires reading and then writing it back again.
Now, I’ve never seen this myself, and I’ve plugged in flash drives from years ago and they still worked. Not quite 10 years, and old data stops mattering anyway.
What you are supposed to do is keep all your data in just a few places on your computer’s main storage. Have those directories backed up automatically to somewhere else.
Personally, I have 4 layers of defense :
a. Windows backup runs periodically and makes a daily incremental backup of key folders (the “my documents” directory mainly) to a second storage device in the same computer.
b. Backblaze is set to backup everything on both hard drives, except the Windows and Program Files directories. Backblaze is a paid service and they are storing the files on their own servers, elsewhere, providing protection if the whole computer is destroyed or stolen.
c. Github is being used to track incremental code changes in a repository stored on their servers. The most valuable data is stored this way.
d. I email by gmail, sometimes to myself, sometimes to collaborators copies of key files and documents.
I don’t rely on thumb drives. Everything above is either automatic or part of normal workflow. I do have them, but I pretty much just use them for moving files from computer to computer, since it’s still the easiest way these days…
I have an old 512mb flash drive that still works (I had it in college so it has to be more than a decade old at this point) that I haven’t touched in five or more years I decided to plug in to see what was on it. I can still copy data from it just fine and nothing seems wrong with it (it was a bunch of old music files) but writing to it is impossible, files won’t “stick” to it as if I unplug and replug it back in the file I just put on it is gone.
Yeah, the best way to use a flash drive for long-term storage is to not. A year or so ago, I got a panicked call from my sister, when a flash drive storing some files of great personal importance broke. Not wore out, broke: It was sticking out of the front of the computer when someone bumped it. Fortunately we were able to hold it together long enough to copy the files off, but it was only luck that we were able to do that. They can also get lost or stolen very easily, and yes, the data can degrade with time.
A related question: When I plug one flash drive into my computer, I get a message say something like that there is a problem with the drive and I should run scan to fix it. How do you run scan? BTW, I have never had any problem with that drive.
Chkdsk - the file system has a “dirty” flag. When a change starts, the dirty flag is set on. When the change is complete and the file system is consistent, the dirty flag is unset.
If the file system is unplugged during an update, the dirty flag stays set, and you get notified next time the file system gets mounted.
Running chkdsk /f checks the filesystem, fixes the errors and clears the dirty flag
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To run chkdsk without using the command line, you can just click on the “There’s a problem with this drive” message while it’s briefly displayed, or right click on the drive in Windows Explorer and select Properties -> Tools -> Check.