examples of flash memories USB drive, memory stick SD card

Flash memory: Uses, advantages and disadvantages

Flash memory is a non-volatile type of storage device that is used to store and move data permanently. They are called flash memory since they are Electrical Erasable Programmable Read Only Memory (EEPROM) technology to read and write data. They use electricity to read and write many times on the device

Flash memories are used in MP3 players, USB drives, robots, vehicle radios, smartphones, and smart TV among many application areas. They are portable, non-volatile, and have no moving parts which are their many advantages. However, their main disadvantage is they can get misplaced due to their size and can also be used to spread computer viruses.

Flash memory disk

Characteristics of flash memories

  1. Small and compact
  2. They are non-volatile
  3. Faster data access speed
  4. No moving parts
  5. Plug and play

Types of flash memory 

There are 2 main types of flash memory architecture designed: NAND and NOR. Flash storage consists of arrays of flash memory cells made up of transistors. The types of transistor gates used are the ones used to define the types of flash storage. You can watch a video here on how SSD works on a smartphone which is an example of flash storage.

memory card

To use any flash storage device for the first time it is recommended it be formatted to make it ready for use. 

  1. NAND memory: in this type of flash memory cells are arranged in series. They are mostly designed for high storage capacity but not random access.
  2. NOR memory: memory cells are connected in parallel. They are designed for high-speed and random access. Because of this, they are more expensive to manufacture and use where high data speed access is required.

Examples of flash memory

  1. Solid state storage (SSD)
  2. Secure Digital card (SD card)
  3. Flash disk
  4. Micro SD
  5. Memory card
  6. embedded MultiMediaCard (eMMC)
  7. Compact Flash

Advantages of flash and memory cards

  1. They are small in size hence portable
  2. They require little power to operate. It is provided by a computer through a connector mostly USB.
  3. Since they don’t have movable parts they are not affected by shock compared with the hard disk, hence more durable.
  4. Over time the capacity has increased and the prices reduced.
  5. They are reliable because they can be carried anywhere and used in any device that has a USB port for the connection e.g. digital TV, DVD players, etc.
  6. They are plug and play i.e. no need for software installation for them to function.

Disadvantages of flash memories

  1. They can get misplaced due to their small size.
  2. They can be used to transmit viruses if they are used in an infected computer.
  3. The capacity is not as big as the hard disk.
  4. Some have a maximum number of write operations before they start to degrade.

Uses for flash memories 

These kinds of memories are used in many different areas since they are small and convenient among other benefits that make the preferable. Some of the areas or devices that use flash storage include

  1. They are used as secondary storage in portable devices such as laptops. 
  2. Flash memory is used in smartphones since they are small enough to fit.
  3. Digital cameras
  4. Used in robot memories
  5. Gaming console.
  6. Computer BIOS chip
  7. MP3 players
  8. Smart TV
  9. USB drives
  10. They can be configured as a bootable drive
  11. Vehicle radios and MP3 players

Flash memory connectors

The main connector of flash drives is a USB which act as a data cable and power the drive. For internal flash storage, they have different interfaces which connect to the device motherboard. Some external flash storage can also use a FireWire connector which provides a higher data rate transfer than a USB. 

Manufacturers of memory and flash drive

  1. Kingston Technology Company: It is an American company with global headquarter in Fountain Valley California,
  2. Intel Corporation: it is an American corporation with deals with most computing electronic components,
  3. Samsung Electronics: It is a South Korean company based in Suwon. It deals with many computing devices including flash and memory card manufacturing.
  4. Phison Electronics Corp.: It was established in 2000 in Hsinchu Taiwan.
  5. sTec Inc.: It is a Western Digital subsidiary.

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