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FAQs about Flash Memory

by Paul Sanders

Man using a laptop computer with flash memory

Computer memory continues to change and advance, providing cheaper and faster data storage for your electronic devices. Flash memory is one of the more interesting advances in computer memory in recent years. You may have seen flash memory cards advertised for use with various electronics, like digital cameras, cell phones and USB thumb drives. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about flash memory.

Flash Memory Explained:

  1. What is flash memory?
    Flash memory is a type of computer memory that can be erased and rewritten electrically. Traditional memory, such as in hard drives, involves a spinning, magnetic hard disk. Flash memory features no moving mechanical parts at all. You'll often find flash memory in memory cards, USB flash drives and solid-state hard drives.

  2. Is flash memory a substitute for conventional memory?
    There are a number of solid-state flash-memory hard drives available. In fact, flash memory operates at much higher speeds than a hard disc-drive because there are no moving parts in a solid-state drive. Flash memory drives also use much less electricity than hard discs. The cost of flash-memory hard drives is becoming more and more affordable as the technology advances. Flash memory is actually already replacing hard disks in portable electronics where space is scarce, like MP3 players and netbooks.

  3. What is the difference between flash memory X-speed ratings?
    X-speed ratings refer to the speed at which flash memory reads and writes data. An X-speed rating of 1x is equal to 150KB per second. So, a 60x speed flash memory card operates at 9000KB (9MB) per second. Faster memory transfers are important in instances where large amounts of data need to be moved quickly, such as with a high-speed digital camera storing large photo files in rapid succession.

  4. Does flash memory wear out?
    Most flash memory is designed to be erased and written a limited number of times. After being rewritten so many times, flash memory becomes less reliable and the data stored can be more easily corrupted. It is common for flash-memory drives to have a limit of 100,000 erase-write cycles, but newer technologies are emerging that allow for a million or more cycles.

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