Last week, one of my coworkers got her hands on a new 8GB Sony VAIO USB 2.0 thumb drive. She got it for a VERY good price (about $62). So naturally when she told us, we are all interested in getting one ourselves. So we all asked her to order us one. She ended up with a good five more of these things being requested. She was due to get them in from her friend this Friday. This morning one of my coworkers mentioned that he had read that some of those 8GB drives are scams and aren't really 8GB. Upon hearing this, I suggested we borrow her 8GB thumb drive and do some tests to make sure it really is 8GB. She agreed and it was brought to me for some testing. Here's what I found:
No Files over 4GB will copy
Apparently, the USB thumb drives are formatted with FAT32 which has a limit of 4GB for each file. I was trying to copy a DVD image that was 4.5GB and I kept getting an error message saying the drive was full. This was odd since it was empty! Apparently this was a bit of a deceptive error message. The drive wasn't full, it was just that you can't copy a file that big to a FAT32 formatted drive. It also appears that you can't format a thumb drive to NTFS, so that idea won't work either. I'm not sure if an external HD based 'thumb drive' will format as NTFS. It really sucks that I can't copy DVD image files to the thumb drive. That is one of the main reasons I wanted one.
One copy window at a time!
I was trying to copy a bunch of files onto the thumb drive, in an attempt to fill up all 8GB of it. I wanted to make sure it could really hold all the 8GB it said it would. I copied a bunch of files over to the thumb drive. Windows brings up the 'copying files' dialog box. I then did this twice more. So now I had three 'copying files' dialogs all copying files at the same time. This is something I've done with hard drives for a long time with no problem. Do NOT do this with thumb drives! This multiple 'copy files' dialog box trick appears to have completely corrupted the file system on the thumb drive! The odd thing was, all the files copied, but the data was corrupted. I couldn't even create an empty folder on the drive. When I did this, I ended up with a brand new empty folder containing garbage files.
Hidden file corruption
While files got corrupted using the multiple 'copying files' dialog trick I mentioned above, this seemed to happen at times even when I only copied files one at a time. After the file corruption problem above, I reformatted the drive and started over. This time I copied files, one by one over and it said it copied them properly. But then once I did a file compare between the files, pretty much EVERY byte was different! This means that even single file copies are getting corrupted. I even tried copying a file from my HD to the thumb drive and then the same file from the thunb drive to a different place on my HD. I then compared the two copies of the files on my HD and they didn't match, as they should.
I'm not sure whether all these problems were a result of a defective thumb drive, or just some kind of problem with 8GB thumb drives in general. Before this drive, the biggest thumb drive I'd used was a 2GB thumb drive. That 2GB space is much smaller than that 4GB FAT32 limitation, so maybe the OS just can't handle drives this big. I don't know.
Needless to say, though, we all cancelled our 'orders' for those 8GB thumb drives after this failed experiment.