USB Flash Drives versus Microdrives

By · Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011

Flash Drive vs Microdrive Before retail USB drives dominated the market, they experienced a little bit of a rivalry with a storage counterpart known as the Microdrive (MD).  While the product had its perks, the USB flash drive won consumer favor for more reasons than one.  Released by IBM in 1999, the Microdrive was a 1-inch hard disk made to fit in a CompactFlash slot while boasting capacities ranging from 170MB to 8GB.  The devices were rebranded as Hitachi Microdrives in 2003 after the company acquired that particular division of IBM.  The devices are not generally sold separately due to their cost, but they can often be found embedded in cell phones and other portable devices.

Flash drives were seamless in their integration with various systems thanks to the widely used USB port.  Microdrives on the other hand, could be used with a USB interface when a PCMCIA adaptor or USB card reader was inserted into a laptop.  Desktop usage is not always possible because of the difference in adaptors.

Microdrives were distinctive in that they could handle more write cycles than the flash memory used in USB drives.  Microdrives excel in the way that the magnetic data is written in one location as opposed to how flash drives store data in separate sectors.  Consequently, when a power loss or disruption occurs during data writing with a flash drive, the wear leveling is irregular and the lifespan of the device suffers.  Users are less likely to experience data loss in such a way with a Microdrive.

Why the USB Flash Drive Got Storage Right

However, the flash drive succeeded in more areas than the Microdrive.  A Microdrive’s durability pales in comparison to a USB flash drive, which can be subjected to a battery of tests (heat, shock, water, etc.) and still function properly.  The sheer mechanics of a Microdrive are credited for its delicate design.  Physical shocks and drops as well as temperature and altitude fluctuations could permanently damage the components and therefore render your data useless.

Flash drives also quickly bypassed the data capacities of Microdrives, which have only reached 8GB.  Today’s consumer flash drives are easily 32GB and 64GB.  While flash drives are non-volatile, Microdrives require power even without data transfers.  They invariably switch off when the device or system becomes idle.  As a result, they also take time to get the disk rotation up to speed, whereas flash drives have no seek time.

What’s more is flash drives work with nearly any operating system.  You don’t need to purchase a separate card reader or adaptor to work between computers.  It can be used and shared by anyone while opening up an exciting market for digital promotion.

Thoughts?  Have you ever used a Microdrive before?  In your opinion, what makes flash drives a digital storage leader in the market?

Comments are closed.