Thumbdrive Question:

Is there any truth to this statement?
Fake Drive

“All [Thumb] drives being sold are fake. The flash memory controller has been modified to report an overstated memory capacity. They work fine until you exceed the true memory which is 4 to 8GB. After that all data is lost. Like having a composition tablet with a cover that says 80 pages. If you change the cover to say 180 pages, you still only have 80 pages inside.”

by davezz11Dec 27, 2015


It’s nonsense.

Any truth? Well, the statement itself is clearly false:
All thumbdrives are not fake.
But, a lot are…

There are some cheap no-name drives that have overstated capacities.

But it is far from all drives being that way. The vast majority of name brand drives deliver what they say they deliver.

The person posting that may be confused about another topic. The true internal capacity of the chip is bigger than the advertised capacity of the drive. That allows the drive as a unit to deal with failures within the chip. And to improve the long-term reliability by retiring some sections of the chip after lots of use but before they fail.

The only thing you care about as a consumer is that the drive delivers the capacity on the package; the capacity you wanted.

And unless you’re buying no-name stuff on eBay direct from some Mainland Chinese supplier you’re 99.9% certainly buying what the package says you’re buying.

There are also some issues with SD cards (

During the heyday of leapfrogging capacity there were many devices whose software expected cards to be no larger than X capacity. If you inserted a card with 16X capacity the device might do something stupid like only use X of the capacity then report the card was full. Or they’d use X plus a smidgen, then trash all the saved data and/or crash the device.

But that was a problem with the devices, not with the cards themselves. Cameras were particularly notorious for having these problems.

There was a simlar problem with 4G SD cards. The SD format only addressed up to 2G, but manufactures tried to make 4G cards by screwing around with the parity bit, thus gaining more address space. That left you with a card that was fine up to 2G and the latter half of the card would be unaddressable by the camera or other device. Then SDHC came out, which holds up to 32G, and now SDHX which holds up to 2T so it’s rarely a problem anymore.

Agreed the SD issue is almost entirely moot today with current devices and current SD* cards. I was trying to cover all the possible sources for the OP’s quoted source to be honestly confused as opposed to just flat stupid / dead wrong.

Despite how fast-moving consumer tech is it’s still common to see self-taught “experts” posting truisms from 5, 10, or even 25 years ago as if they were still true today. Screen savers & registry cleaners anyone?

The statement ALL is wrong, however there are some drives being sold, that are doctored - but NOT in the normal retail chain - only some online stores on services like ebay do that sort of thing.

But what do you expect from a product that usually cost €20, being sold for €3 - it might not be the same product, unbranded, faulty or a knock-off.

The quoted statement in the OP reads like an online review and meant to apply to a particular seller, not all flash drives everywhere. It is absolutely possible to program flash media devices to have arbitrary user-visible capacities. Usually it works fine until you hit the real capacity, after which the flash controller tries to address nonexistent memory and silently fails.

This is an even bigger problem nowadays. Counterfeit brand items are quite easy to come by on eBay and Amazon. It’s not a good idea to buy new flash memory off of those sites unless it’s a recognized US-based seller. Another example is laptop power adapters and batteries. That $20 “OEM” “Dell” power adapter on Amazon is counterfeit junk.

Agree Amazon is quickly becoming awash in counterfeit goods. I wonder how many hundred houses they’ll have to burn down with crapola lithium batteries before they decide to enforce provable sourcing on stuff from both their own stock and from their affiliated sellers?

That’s what I suspect, too. Especially since he mentioned specific sizes. That sounds like he’s saying all the flash drives from this one seller are bad.

What I wonder is if you can repair them. Is there any software that can detect their real capacity and reflash them?

Anyways, this is the one electronics product I never buy online. I know there are legit retailers, but I can usually get a cheaper price in real stores–especially when they go on sale. I don’t feel comfortable going with lesser known retailers as I do with many other items.

I’ve been aware of this issue and so for shits and giggles I bought a 32GB “no name” flash drive for $4 (free shipping!) off of eBay and it identifies itself as 29GB (which you would more or less expect) but it will only accept 20GB of data before you get “this file is too large for the destination” errors.

Heck, I paid $6 for a legitimate 8GB at Fry’s, so I’m happy with the deal. I would never put critical data that wasn’t backed up somewhere else on any thumb drive, so if it dies, it dies. No biggie.

My buddy believes this was legitimately manufactured as a 32GB drive, but failed QC and got sold off for pennies. I don’t know enough about how these are manufactured to know if that even makes sense.

It absolutely does happen. Very interesting analysis of SD card counterfeiting (basically the same thing) here:

and then there is this
not exactly a thumbdrive but … naw mean :slight_smile:

FWIW, I bought one of those drives from Amazon. I knew when I ordered it that it was fake/counterfeit, but I wanted the case. I figured I could use it with another drive. Turns out that wasn’t feasible, either.