Three cool things you can do with your flash drive
Flash drives are all kinds of awesome, little storage warehouses
you can attach to your keychain or slip into your pocket.
And cheap, too. I've routinely seen 16-gigabyte drives for as
little as $10 and 32-gigabyte drives for around $20. That's enough
room for a smattering of movies, a giant photo or music collection,
or all the Word documents you care to carry.
Ah, but did you know you can use a flash drive for more than
just transporting data? Those little marvels can actually perform a
variety of handy tasks; below I've rounded up three of my
1. Install an operating system
When the time came to install Windows 8 on one of my PCs, I
didn't go the usual route and pop in a DVD. In fact, I couldn't:
the machine lacks an optical drive.
Thankfully, I'd purchased my Windows 8 upgrade as a download,
then used Microsoft's incorrectly named Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool
to copy the installation files to my flash drive. Then I simply
booted the laptop from that drive and proceeded to install Windows
(and much faster than usual, might I add).
You can also do this with most versions of Linux, and in fact
you can actually run Linux right from your flash drive--a great way
to see if you like a particular distribution before installing it.
I recommend checking out Zorin OS
, which looks and
operates a lot like Windows.
2. Lock down a PC
Whether you're working in an office, a coffee shop, or even
your own house, there may be times when you want to lock your PC,
to keep others from using it without having to actually power it
Freeware utility Predator turns your flash drive into a lock and
. When the drive is inserted, your computer operates
normally. Remove it and it's locked up tighter than Fort Knox.
(Just don't lose the drive, okay?) It can even send alert messages
(with pictures!) via e-mail when someone attempts to access your
3. Rescue a virus-infected PC
Is your computer acting crazy all of sudden? Hijacked browser?
Slow performance? Scary pop-ups? Yep, you've probably got a virus,
spyware, or some other kind of infection.
Your flash drive to the rescue! Just load the free AVG Rescue CD (for USB sticks)
onto your drive
and keep it at the ready. The only downside is that it kind of
takes over your drive, or at least reformats it in order to make it
bootable. You can add other kinds of files and data after the fact,
but initially you'll need to sacrifice the drive for rescue
Have you found any other cool uses for flash drives? Tell me
about them in the comments!Veteran technology writer Rick Broida
is the author of numerous books, blogs, and features. He lends his
money-saving expertise to CNET and Savings.com, and also writes for PC
World and Wired.