Two USB sticks died in a week

Two sticks, different brands, one brand new, died on me in the same week. I will look into RMA, but are there any factors that might have made this happen or is it likely a coincidence? They didn’t get wet, but was noticed when plugged into my home computer, and subsequently don’t function on my work computer. Can my home computer be “eating” them?

They don’t show up in Windows Explorer nor on a Mac. They were probably both exFAT format, and don’t show up in disk management either.

Sounds like coincidence to me. New ones will fail occasionally, as they had some kind of manufacturing defect that wasn’t detected before it shipped out, and of course old ones will fail when they get old enough, but for the years in-between they ought to be 100% reliable barring physical damage.

Now if your replacement new one fails as quickly, I might start getting suspicious of the USB ports you’re plugging them into.

I have seen a computer with a bad USB port kill USB drives before my eyes. In this case the symptoms were that the stick became slow and then started to get more and more errors and then total dead. This over a period of say 10 minutes. I suspect the voltage regulator for the USB port was bad, and a slightly too high voltage was killing the USB sticks.

Given the common form of failure I would be a bit suspicious.

Maybe I’ll find a sacrificial USB to make sure.

Where do you think the fault would be? That particular connector on the motherboard, or the individual USB port, or the motherboard as a whole? In other words, if I suspect the USB on the front of the computer, might it be okay if I plug into the back of the computer instead?

I just wish I knew how to repair USB sticks. I have two of the exact same model, one broke, one I just emptied of files. If only I could tell what circuit part died on the broken one, and could swap it out with a good one, just to reclaim some files.

Its a difficult question. Computers have changed over the years in how they manage the power on USB. In principle they all pretty much do lots of intelligent power management on each port, whereas in the past, although the spec called for it, many didn’t do anything other than provide a fixed voltage with some basic current limiting.

So, there is a good chance it is that one port. But I would hesitate to be more specific.

I can’t speak to your specific USB sticks, but in general, they are getting very cheap (they are basically being handed out as SWAG), and this means their quality is pretty bad. It is a lot like 3.5" floppies back in the 90’s.

Everyone remembers 3.5" floppies as unreliable, but in the early 90’s, they were expensive (relatively) and they were stable. You could put data on them and rely on them for years. People purchased expensive software on them. However, over time they got cheaper and cheaper until people could buy them in 50 packs and AOL sent you one in the mail every week. By that time, you couldn’t not rely on them because 10% of them would die after a few uses.

I suspect the same thing is happening with USB Sticks.

They’re decent quality brands (Kingston and Corsair) with around 5 year warranties.

Why not measure the voltage? There is a handy device that plugs into a USB port and displays the voltage and current going through it, or you could use a generic voltmeter.

I won’t buy anything else if I can help it, but I have a multimeter. Just across the outer two pins should measure 5V?

That’s right.

On a non-micro connector you should be able to get the multimeter probes in there. More than 5.25 or below 4.75V would definitely indicate a problem.