Jumpin' Jack Flash drive

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

Q. Is it possible to wear out a flash drive?

A. It's possible, but not likely. Any drive that uses flash memory, such as a memory stick or “thumb” drive, will retain data for many years. The biggest factor in determining the longevity of a flash drive is the number of data cycles, meaning the number of times data is written to a drive. Industry estimates generally begin at 1 million and range upward to 90 million write cycles.

Even using a conservative estimate of 1 million cycles, if you saved data to the drive once each minute, for eight hours a day, five days a week, the drive would last for eight years. But if you save data twice a day, five days a week, which is much more reasonable, that's ten data cycles a week. That means your million-cycle drive would last 100,000 weeks or a little less than 2,000 years. All things considered, I wouldn't worry about wearing out the drive. Due to continually improving technology, however, I would replace it every couple of years.

Q. I'm going to donate my Windows XP computer, but I want to remove all the data from it first. Can you tell me how to reformat my hard drive?

A. Go to My Computer, right-click the C: drive icon, then select Format and follow the on-screen prompts. Keep in mind that formatting a hard drive will erase all your programs, data, and Windows itself. There are also third-party applications such as Eraser, which is free, and overwrites existing data with selected patterns of unreadable data.

Q. I know I can access a file's properties by right-clicking the file and selecting Properties, but isn't there a faster way?

A. Indeed, there is. Simply hold down the ALT key and double-click the file. Presto, Properties!

Q. On my old computer I had a program in Microsoft Excel that had a place to type in names, addresses, phone numbers, etc. On my new computer, which is also running Excel, there is no place to do this. Am I missing something?

A. It sounds like you had an Excel spreadsheet set up to use as an address book on your old system. That being the case, all you need to do is create another Excel spreadsheet. In the first row of a new spreadsheet, designate columns for the information you want to save. Your column headings might include the fields: Last Name, First Name, Telephone, Address, City, State, ZIP Code.

Each cell in each row, horizontally, will contain an individual’s information. If you find it difficult to create the spreadsheet yourself, Microsoft makes oodles (sorry for the technical terminology) of tempaltes available at http://tinyurl.com/4oraj, so go to the site and search for “Address Book” templates.

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