USB Drives: Secure Your Crypto

USB Drives Secure Your CryptoUSB drives are a good option for backing up your digital assets.

We published an article on securing your cryptocurrency and your digital assets. Read it first to get an understanding of why you need several drives and what should be on them.

You need at least three USB drives stored in different secure locations. This will help your next of kin get what you intended.

In the event of fire/theft or another disaster, there are still two other backups. Whether you are dead or alive.

 

USB Encryption

Storing your information in several locations is not enough. You need to encrypt the information in case a drive falls into the wrong hands.

I did some research on encryption software and found several sources including this review website.

I read the reviews and installed some of the recommended software. LaCie Private-Public is the software I decided to go with.

It’s free and it works on Windows and Mac. It was simple to use and didn’t have a lot of options. I liked this because I wanted to make things easy so the right people can get to my digital assets. Some of these people are not computer savvy.

The LaCie software runs straight off the USB drive. No installation needed.

Format

First of all, you need to format the USB drives. The main format types are FAT32, exFAT, NTFS, and HFS+ for Mac.

ExFAT is the only one that’s read and write capable on both systems. It also has no partition size limits. You can read about the different format types here.

When you have formatted the drive, transfer the LaCie software onto it. Start the software and it will ask you to set the size of the encrypted partition and the password. It uses AES 256 encryption.

Once the drive is set up you can boot the software direct from the USB drive. This will mount the encrypted drive space on your computer. You can add any files you want to safeguard and then unmount the drive.

Whatever OS you are using you should download both the Mac and the PC versions. Place them on your backup drives. You do not want any hurdles for the person who receives the drive. They may be in a stressed state if you have died. Keep the two types of software in separate folders and name them something obvious. This way anyone who needs to can unlock the drive on either system.

The LaCie software does not work on Linux. I use Linux in a dual boot system. Anyone I have ever met who also uses Linux knows enough about computers to get into the drive.

Research

I used several review websites including these ones to help me put this article together:

Toughgadget

Amazon 

Storage Review

HDD Mag

PC Mag

We Check Tech

The Gadgeteer

Tweaktown

Digital DJ Tips

No site had a review of all the drives.

I picked drives advertised as being able to withstand more abuse than regular drives. There are more expensive ‘better’ drives but my budget was under $25 each. All three have been around for a while so there are lots of reviews.

These drives are not for everyday use. Once the information is on them, I will only be updating them every now and then. I based my research on the drives sitting in a safe storage location.

Failed Drives

Reliability and durability are important. I looked at both. When I store my drives I will protect them in a waterproof/fireproof metal container. A drive built to withstand extremes should have a better chance of surviving than a regular one. That’s the theory, anyway.

I know people are going to be asking why I didn’t review more expensive drives? They will quote their favorite brand of drive that never fails as an example. Price is a factor for sure. There are similar spec drives that are four to almost ten times the price. The reviews on more expensive drives are not ten times better. Speed is the factor that most reviewers quote. A faster drive will get a better review but that’s not going to be a big factor for me. Whatever drive you have, someone else will hate it and give it a bad review.

If a drive goes down with data on it, I destroy it. It’s cheap to replace it and I would never think of sending it back. Some tech person may fix it and get access to my data.

A large number of hard drives I bought failed over the years. I also had five USB drives, an expensive CF card, and several SD cards fail on me. These were not all budget items either. Many were top of the range. I also still own cheap drives that have lasted years.

In my experience, paying more for a drive does not always guarantee quality.

 

How Can I Review The Drives With Only One Day of Use?

Here’s what I did.

There is a huge amount of consumer data out there about products. I scoured professional review websites and end users. I picked reviews from each level of satisfaction from 1 to 5-stars. These are only someone’s opinion. But most people I know use reviews when buying online. I know I do. Even so, I don’t always let reviews cloud my judgment. I use them to see if there are any recurring faults or problems people are reporting. Especially on electronic devices.

I bought all three drives and did my own physical inspection. My honest opinion is based on what I felt about the build quality. My own money was used to buy the drives and I received nothing free from any third party. There is no reason to favor one drive over another. Other than from my research and use.

There are no affiliate links to any of these drives. I don’t want anyone thinking that I am directing them to buy the most expensive drive so I make some money. There are links to Amazon but I make no money from these links. The links are only there so you can buy the drives if you wish. There are other affiliate links in this article but none for the drives I reviewed.

 

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USB Drives Sizes

The amount of data I need to safeguard is a few megabytes. So the drives don’t need to be large. These fit my budget and were all bought from Amazon on the same day.

I bought three different drives. I didn’t want to buy them from the same manufacturer and then find out they all had the same fault. This should reduce the chances of all three failing.

Amazon and some other sites have clamped down on the fake buyer reviews since last year. I’m sure they still exist but I looked at verified buyers only. Semi-pro ‘vanilla’ reviewers are also not included in my research.

I ignored reviews that concentrated on the speed of the drive.

 

These are the three drives I picked: The Gorilla 8GB.  The Survivor 16GB and the Samsung 32GB.

Samsung Gorilla Survivor USB Drives

 

 

1. Survivor Stealth from Corsair. Made in Taiwan.

 

Survivor Drive

 

This drive comes in a CNC-milled aircraft-grade (so they say) aluminum tube. The anodized tube helps prevent corrosion and wear. There is a shock mounted collar to stop the USB drive moving around in the tube.

It is a USB 3.0 drive and is backward compatible.

The protective tube is sealed with EPDM rubber and boasts that it is waterproof to 200M. If it ever falls somewhere that deep I will not be trying to retrieve it. I don’t know what quoting the benefits a drive being able to survive great depths are? I’m sure there are some. I would prefer a ‘washed 20 times in a pair of jeans and still works’ claim. That is more likely to happen to me.

The manufacturers quote ‘Military-style data transport.’ This means nothing from what I could find out. It looks like a military device because of the design.

It has a 5-year warranty. I will cycle-replace the drives starting at two years. Even with a small amount of use I still want to make sure nothing fails. I want to keep my drives up to date. There will be better options in the future, I’m sure.

I bought the 16GB version. That is far more than I need but it was on sale on Amazon.

The drive is light but feels like it could take a beating. When I unscrewed it and pulled it out it made a pop sound. You could feel and hear that the seal is tight. I had no problems installing the software, formatting the drive, and putting my files on there.

I liked everything about this drive from just handling it and looking at it. It seemed to be well built and would last for a while even with day to day usage. It feels like a piece of army kit.

The Reviews

I may have liked the drive from examining it, but what about people who had used it for a while?

The Pro Review Sites

It survived a ten-floor drop experiment.

A pro DJ recommended it. They travel a lot and work in hot, sweaty conditions.

The End Users

Used for three years with no problems. The rubber O-ring seal had deteriorated but is replaceable at Home Depot.

I found several reviews with pictures showing the drive coming apart. They did not look good. The shell and board separated.

There seems to have been quality issues with this drive. Many complaints. I looked through a few pages of reviews and they were all from 2016/17 and a couple of 2018. I don’t know whether the quality control has dropped but Corsair needs to address these issues.

It did have over 70% 4 and 5-star reviews. It also had 24% of one and two-star reviews. Many with the same issues.

 

Here is a video testing the drive:

Summary

On first looks, this drive was the best. It looked and felt like it could survive a bomb blast. The video shows the drive exposed to extreme heat and cold, as well as a car running over it. I checked, and the drive did still work after the tests.

But…After reading many reviews my opinion changed. There are some quality issues if the many verified buyer reviews are true. Several pictures from reviewers showed the problems.

These are some of the pictures from Amazon.

 

Survivior Board 1

Survivior Board 2

 

 

 

 

 

Survivior Board 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I don’t know what all these people did to their drives and how they treated them. Although, some of them did explain how the drives got damaged.

 

2. Gorilla Drive from EP. Made in China.

 

Gorilla USB Drive

 

This drive also felt like it could take some abuse. The exterior coating is silicon but feels rubbery and the hook is metal. I was expecting plastic.

EP says it can stand pressure up to 250 psi and temperature from 32°F to 225°F.

This drive is water resistant rather than waterproof like the Survivor. It is resistant down to 65M, though.

I bought the 8GB version. Which is still a lot more than I need.

This drive is only USB 2.0 but I didn’t notice. It formatted fine and worked with the LaCie software.

It had a great feel out of the packaging. The protective cap is on tight. It took a bit of-of pulling to get it off. I held the cap by the indentation on the closed end and it didn’t bend. When I squeezed the open end of the cap it did flex.

 

Gorilla Cap

I did wonder whether this might pull on the actual metal part of the drive?

The cap needs to be tight to keep the water out. I for one would lose the cap within ten minutes. You can buy replacement caps if you lose it.

Check out the manufacturer’s spec sheet.

It has a five-year warranty.

The Pro Review Sites

Not many pro sites I looked at had reviews on this drive. The focus was definitely on how rugged, tough and crush-proof it is. One reviewer had used his drive for several months with no problems.

The End Users

The drive survived a car driving over it and it getting stuck in the tire tread.

A police officer who had reviewed several rugged type products reviewed the Gorilla. He said he had used the drive for three years with no problems. This guy was not scared to slam a bad product. He seemed credible.

One user had taken the drive out in extreme winter conditions. He also dropped it on the ground and tested it in five feet of water and gave it a five-star review.

Some people reported the drive failing or slow speeds. One said they had tried to contact the manufacturer without success.

Most of the negative reviews were for the slow speed of the drive.

 

Check out this test video. (I apologize for the audio quality but the testing is good!).

 

Summary

The drive feels and looks tough. It seems like it can take a beating. The speed is slow but I don’t care about that.

This is the lowest priced drive of the three by almost $5.

It would survive a drop in the toilet or me standing on it. This drive has a good chance of withstanding a car running over it from one of the reviews.
 
There were 85% 4 and 5-star reviews and 9% 1 and 2-star reviews for the Gorilla.

 

The video shows that a good hammering will destroy the cap end of the drive. I expressed my concern that the cap is flexible, and that seems to be its weakness. I still think the Gorilla is tough enough for what I need. 85% good reviews for a product that has been around for a few years is decent.

 

3. USB Flash Drive Bar by Samsung. (MUF-32BA/AM). Made in Taiwan.

 

Samsung USB Metal

 

This is a USB 3.0 drive and has speeds up to 150MB/s. Way too fast for my needs but I saw it as a plus as it had other features that I wanted.

Samsung says this drive is waterproof, shockproof, Magnetic-proof, and temperature proof. They also say it’s X-ray proof. Wow! This thing must be indestructible.

Finding data on these claims is tough. I cannot verify most of what they say but that’s the same for most drives I looked at. I presume if your drive fails for any of the things it claims it is resistant to, they will replace it?

IP67

The Samsung site does quote an IP67 rating for the drive. This means the drive is dustproof and water resistant for up to thirty minutes in one meter of water. This is under lab conditions though. If you want a good explanation of the IP ratings read this article about mobile phones. It explains it well.

IP67 is not dustproof though.

The operating temperature quoted on the Samsung website is between 32 to 140°F / 0 to 60°C.

I got the 32GB drive. It comes with a 5-year warranty.

The drive is real metal! It does feel less sturdy than the other two. It appears to be easy to scratch if you put it on a keyring with some keys in your pocket. If it lives up to its billing then it doesn’t need all that extra protection.

I like the drive but it could use some sort of cap to stop dirt or fluff getting into it.

It does have a nice looking design and a loop to hook it onto a keychain or lanyard so you can carry it around.

Make sure you buy the Metal version and not the plastic one.

The Pro review sites

As with the other drives, the pro reviewers seemed to focus on the speed of the drive. Samsung drives have a decent reputation for reliability from what I read. This drive came in the mid-range for speed.

Many of the reviews quoted the manufacturers blurb about being shockproof etc. They did not offer any numbers to back up the claims.

The Samsung is not MIL-SPEC-certified which means it does not reach the standards for military grade equipment.

The End Users

Several people reported the drive going through a wash cycle and surviving.

Some people commented that the drive does get hot to the touch in use.

One user reported no problems after two years of use. Another said it died after a year.

A user who had given many positive reviews to other products said he bought ten drives and five failed. (Samsung to their credit, contacted him via Amazon. They offered to replace the broken drives under the warranty).

Most of the bad reviews mentioned speed, but there were several saying the drive only lasted a few months.

 

This is a great and funny stress-test video from UTECHPIA done after a year of owning a Samsung.

 

Summary

The Samsung drive works for what I need. It should last two years in secure storage and keep my digital data safe.

This was the mid-priced drive but still inexpensive.

This drive had 88% 4 and 5-star reviews. It had only 8% 1 and 2-star reviews.

The stress-test video showed that the drive can take a beating. It goes some way to proving that Samsung’s claims for this drive are true. I did not think it would do well when I looked and felt it. I was wrong.

 

Don’t Judge A Book

The Survivor was the drive I wanted to open. I loved the look and feel of it and wanted it to be the best drive.

I have owned many Samsung products including USB and SD drives. The cheap SD drives did not survive even one wash in my jeans. Everything else I have of theirs, including an old S5 mobile phone that still works fine has been quality. My daughter has a Samsung tablet and it gets thrown around a lot. It still works well after over two years of abuse.

Samsung seems like they have the best customer service of the three.

The Gorilla was the one I was not expecting to be into as much as the other two. It was $5 cheaper and I could not find many pro reviews. It is a tough drive with great consumer reviews. My only concern was the cap they use to protect the end of the drive.

 

Which Of The USB Drives Did I Choose?

 

Third place

The Survivor.

It should have been the winner. It seems to have everything, but the bad reviews and photo evidence put it last for me.

People may treat this drive rougher than a regular one? The manufacturer does say it’s tough. I don’t know.

Second Place

The Gorilla.

It’s the cheapest drive. It is not perfect and if speed is a concern then do not buy one. This drive is slow. The only test it did not survive was a hard hit with a hammer. I do have concerns about damaging the drive when pulling the cap off. Although, I found no reviews that mentioned that happening.

The winner

The Samsung.

A good drive with the best over-all reviews. It is $5 more than the Gorilla drive but had 3% better 4 and 5-star reviews and 1% less 1 and 2-star reviews. If it had a cover for the open end I would like it more. It does scratch though and runs hot. The end can become damaged because it is a tight fit in the computer.

Tough it is, but also reliable. Samsung seems to have better customer service. This drive took extreme heat and cold, as well as hammer taps. I hope it never gets close to that in the real world. It should survive most things in the location I am going to put it.

Weighing up everything. This drive was the mid-priced of the three. Despite it not feeling rugged or looking tough, it did well in all the tests. The Gorilla pushed it close but their customer service does not seem as good. There were not that many credible pro reviews. Having said that, I like the Gorilla a lot.

I will be using the Samsung drives, but I am keeping the Gorilla also. If there’s a fault that comes to light with the Samsung drives, I have a different manufacturer to fall back on. The Survivor is a great idea, and it passed some extreme tests. The only reason I will not be using it is that there were so many bad reviews for reliability issues.

Buy at least one Ledger Nano S and three USB drives. Put everything into cold storage in several locations. Follow the tips in this article so your loved ones can get to your crypto if you die.

Safeguard your digital assets before it’s too late.

 

 

* Trade Bitcoin Safely is not qualified to give USB drive advice. This article is for entertainment purposes only. You should not consider it advice. Please consult an electronics expert before buying a USB drive.

 

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Some of the links in this article are affiliate links. TBS does receive a fee if you buy something from the vendors.