Alexander: Music on a flash drive will play a long time

  • Article by: STEVE ALEXANDER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 1, 2012 - 4:28 PM

QI recently bought a new car with a digital music player. I can plug a 4-gigabyte flash drive with recorded music into the USB port and get good sound quality. Even though I have recorded about 20 hours of music, I'm still using only one-third of the flash drive's capacity.

But are flash drives meant to be used continuously this way? What kind of lifetime can I expect to get from this flash drive?

WARREN NILSSON, RICHFIELD

AFlash drives do wear out, but very slowly. And playing back recorded music is one of the least taxing things a flash drive can do.

So what wears out a flash drive? The culprit is storing data on the flash drive in the first place. That causes a minuscule flow of electricity through individual memory cells on the flash drive chip, and that flow eventually wears out the cells.

But you can store a lot of new songs on your flash drive before this happens; the device should be good to record at least several thousand times before it shows signs of wear and tear. This is partly because the flash drive has management software that automatically spreads the usage evenly over all the memory cells in the chip.

In addition, you should be able to listen to songs that are stored on the flash drive about 100,000 times. Why? Because reading the data doesn't wear out the flash drive's memory cells to the degree that storing data does.

(Constant listening does produce a low level of wear and tear on the flash drive, because its software will occasionally rewrite songs to other parts of the drive to ensure that all memory cells are evenly used. )

But it's fair to say that, by the time your flash drive wears out, you'll either have tired of your song collection or replaced the flash drive with a newer and better memory device.

QI bought a new computer with Windows 7, but my Dell All-In-One 922 printer isn't compatible with this newer version of Windows. What can I do?

DEBBIE MAUCH, Coon Rapids

AWhile your printer isn't compatible with Windows 7, there is a work-around: Download and install the Windows Vista software driver software for your printer at tinyurl.com/6o3u7aa.

Because this software driver was written for Vista, you may need to change some Windows 7 settings to accommodate it. You can find step-by-step instructions in a Microsoft video at tinyurl.com/ydlfy43. What you'll learn is how to adjust settings manually or by using the automatic "program compatibility troubleshooter" in Windows 7.

E-mail tech questions to steve.j.alexander@gmail.com or write to Tech Q&A, 425 Portland Av. S., Minneapolis, MN 55488. Include name, city and telephone number.

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