Store Your Mac Backups on USB Flash Drives

By Joe Hutsko, Barbara Boyd

Because of their low cost, fast copying speed, and ease of moving and plugging into any Mac, flash drives are a popular alternative for backing up files.

Many USB flash drives have built-in key rings. Carrying one in your pocket or purse not only is convenient, but also ensures that your data is always safe and on your person should something happen to your Mac’s hard drive at home or in the office, where your backup drive’s original files are stored.

The biggest drawback of USB flash drives is their somewhat limited storage capacities, which typically range from 8GB to 128GB or sometimes more. USB flash drives in those capacity ranges can usually cost between $10 and $100, but a whopping 512GB model sold by Amazon costs around $600 as of this writing.

Whatever the capacity, USB flash drives are especially convenient for carrying your most critical files but not necessarily for backing up all your important files. In contrast to the hassles of writing (or burning) data to a CD or DVD, saving files to a USB flash drive is speedier and as simple as saving a file to a backup folder on your hard drive.

You can find high-capacity flash drives for really cheap (for example, a 256GB flash drive for $3.50!), but they use USB 2.0, which is the older transfer protocol. This gives you a fair amount of storage, but the transfer speed is s-l-o-w.

Make sure the flash drive you choose uses USB 3.0, like the newest Macs. Of course, if you have an older Mac, you may have to use a USB 2.0 flash drive to match the USB port on your Mac.