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Technical Description

Technical Description

USB Flash Drive

Jashandeep Singh

The City College of New York


         USB flash drives go by a plethora of names such as disk key, pen drive, gig stick, thumb drive, flash stick, jump drive, disk on key. USB flash drives are data storage devices which use flash memory and an USB interface. They are small, campact, and can hold large amount of data. Many commercial grade USB flash drives can hold up to 512 gigabytes of data. The first patent for USB flash drives were given to an Israeli company named M-Systems. However, USB flash drives were first sold in the world in Singapore by a company named Trek 2000 international (Buchanan, 2017). IBM was the first company to begin selling USB flash drives in the United States (Buchanan, 2017). USB flash drives overtook floppy disks due to floppy disks not being able to compete with increasing file sizes. The USB flash drives became cheaper and increase in storage capacity at rates the floppy disk could not compete with. The USB flash drives were very important because there was a high demand for large amounts of data to be transferred at fast rates for low prices. Additionally, unlike the floppy disk the USB flash drive has no moving/mechanical parts so it has a much lower chance of corrupting data through damage to the system itself. Figure 1: (Sandisk.co

The USB flash drive consists of five essential parts. The parts include a USB Mass storage controller, Standard-A USB Plug, NAND Flash memory chip(s), Crystal Oscillator, and a cover.

  1. I) USB Mass Storage Controller: a small microcontroller with a small amount of on-chip ROM and RAM.
  1. A microcontroller is a compact integrated circuit designed to govern a specific operation in an embedded

Figure 2: (untegliopi.es.tl)

system. This system require its own memory to operate, which is why is uses ROM and RAM.

    1. ROM: or Read-Only Memory contains hardwired instructions that the system uses when it boots up, before the system software loads.


  1. RAM: or Random Access Memory is a component that allows your system to store data short-term for quicker access.
  1. II) Standard-A USB Plug:  provides a physical interface to the host computer. Some USB flash drives use USB plug that does not protect the 4 contacts, with the possibility of plugging it into the USB port the other way around.
  1. The Standard-A USB Plug communicates with the       Figure 3: (maxpixel.net)

computer as if it was an actual  hard drive in the computer. This allows the computer to easily transport data between the USB flash drive and itself.

III) NAND Flash Memory Chip(s): Stores all data inside the USB flash drive.

    1. NAND Flash: is a type of nonvolatile storage technology that does not require power to retain data (Rouse, 2013).


  1. USB flash drives typically reserve space inside for later possible expansion of memory.

Figure 4: (Alibaba.com)

  1. IV) Crystal Oscillator: is an electronic oscillator circuit that uses the mechanical resonance of a vibrating crystal of piezoelectric material to create an electrical signal with a precise frequency (Rouse, 2014).

Figure 5: (www.elprocus.com)

Oscillator: a device for generating oscillatory electric currents or voltages by nonmechanical   means. This allows the USB flash drive to work even having direct power put into it.

  1. V) Cover: typically made of plastic or metal, protecting the electronics against mechanical stress and even possible short circuits.
  1. Without the cover handling the naked USB flash drive would be very dangerous for the drive. This is due to the fact that touching the parts inside the USB flash drive can short circuit them causing the whole USB flash drive to “die”         Figure 6: (Powerbee-Photo)

thus corrupting all the data inside and making the USB flash drive useless.

In conclusion, the USB flash drive is a very useful and compact form of transporting and storing data. A USB flash drives works with USB ports in pc and other media. Once inserted into a port they communicate with the computer with either a FAT32 or exFAT file system. The computer treats the flash drive as a hard drive which makes file transfers much easier.


Buchanan, Matt. “Object of Interest: The Flash Drive.” The New Yorker, The New Yorker, 6 July 2017, www.newyorker.com/tech/annals-of-technology/object-of-interest-the-flash-drive.

Overview of Crystal Oscillator Circuit Working with applications. (2016, April 06). From


Powerbee-Photo. (n.d.). Black usb flash drive icon with cover, vector isolated on white background. Connectors and sockets for PC and mobile devices. Retrieved from


Rouse, M. (2013, April 19). What is NAND flash memory? – Definition from WhatIs.com.


Rouse, M (2014, June 04) What is oscillator? – Definition from WhatIs.com. (n.d.).



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