Benefits and Pitfalls of Custom Flash Drives

  • Jun 14, 2011

USB Flash Drives are continuing to grow as a popular medium that is, in many cases, actually replacing print. Many a conference handout has moved from paper booklets to CD's and now, to thumb drives or memory sticks. They're a perfect fit for the green movement, as a replacement to paper. As memory capacity increases, prices on the smaller sizes (i.e., yesterday's big sizes) have dropped. Just a couple of years ago, 1GB to 2GB seemed large. Now we're seeing 4 to 8GB as common, with much larger capacities available as needed. Any of these are ample for most pdf catalogs, white papers, Powerpoint presentations, and similar sales materials. The extra capacity is what makes the difference to the recipient, who will likely use the drive for personal files, including music and video files, which tend to be more hungry for space. The more space, the more attractive the drive as a promotional premium.

The lifeblood of a flash drive is the memory chip, so it's important to know something about what goes on in that marketplace. You never see it because it's buried inside the housing. Memory chips are classified into 4 grades.

  • Grade A chips are premium quality and are imprinted with the manufacturer's name and a unique serial number. Nearly all are made by Samsung and Hynix. They come with a lifetime warranty.
  • Grade B chips made by these same manufacturers but branded for another Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM). These may be just a notch lower in quality.
  • Grade C chips are referred to as recycled or reclaimed. They are made from waste from the wafer used to manufacture Grade A and B, and sold by the pound to cut-rate factories. Failure rate can be as high as 30-40%.
  • Grade D chips are made by taking a Grade C chip and imprinting a manufacturer's name on it. Thus, they are actually counterfeit chips.

Jump drives, thumb drives, memory sticks, or USB flash drives - whatever you call them, they are an effective promotional item especially well suited to environmentally friendly promotions 

Another common trick used by unscrupulous suppliers is accomplished with hidden software that make a drive appear to have a much larger capacity than it actually does. A 128MB drive can be made to appear to hold 1GB. Only when one tries to copy files do they learn that they won't really fit. The best protection from all this nonsense is to purchase from a reputable supplier who offers a lifetime warranty.

A few other considerations:

  • Size - width: common configurations of laptops has USB ports side by side. Some wide-body designs will interfere with the other port.
  • Size - height: you never know where these will be plugged in. Don't forget that keyboards sometimes come with a port on the end, and a thick drive could keep the keyboard from lying flat.
  • Mac vs. PC: though Mac users can open nearly all the same files as PC users, auto-run programs will generally not work. If you're pre-loading information, take the extra steps to ensure easy usage on both platforms.
  • The plug: it may be protected by a separate cap, a cap that swivels out of the way, or it may retract into the housing. Each of these styles will have an impact on the size considerations mentioned above.
  • Custom shapes: there's no need to settle on something standard, as long as you have a few weeks to spare. Flash drives can be made in a shape that fits your promotion perfectly.

For much more on promotional flash drives, visit

Did You Know?

APTCO provides a lifetime warranty on flash drive memory chips.

Did you know about aptco capabilities?

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