Computers

Add 128GB of flash storage to any PC for under $30

Thanks to a big drop in storage prices and drive sizes, you can now easily (and inexpensively) expand a desktop, laptop or Chromebook. Here's the secret to choosing the right drive.

The cloud is great and all, but local storage is still important. That's typically where you store your media libraries, to say nothing of the data you'll still need access to when you can't get online. (Hey, it happens.)

So here's the problem: Many a modern PC -- especially if it's of the Chromebook, MacBook, Ultrabook or Windows tablet variety -- comes with a smallish amount of solid-state storage. Maybe a 32GB or 64GB SSD seemed sufficient at the time; now you're wondering where the heck you're going to store all those surprisingly large PowerPoint presentations.

Good news: There's an easy, effective and inexpensive way to add extra space: a low-profile or "leave-in" flash drive. And as of this morning, they've rarely been cheaper.

samsung-fit-128gb.jpg
Samsung

To wit: Amazon is shipping the SanDisk Ultra Fit 128GB USB 3.0 flash drive for $28.79, shipped free for Prime subscribers. The drive is currently out of stock, but you can still order it. The turnaround time is listed as 1-3 weeks. Also, be aware that its price has fluctuated within the last few days -- on Friday it was around $31 -- so it could jump up again.

Don't want to wait? Amazon also has a very similar Samsung Fit 128GB USB 3.0 flash drive for $34.99. Those are amazing prices for drives of this capacity. It wasn't long ago that they cost considerably more.

What the heck is a "leave-in" drive? Simple. It's one that's small enough to stay plugged into a USB port full-time, even as your laptop or tablet goes in and out of a travel bag. Because it only protrudes by a few millimeters, there's very little risk of accidentally snagging it or knocking it loose.

As you can see from the above photo of the ever-so-slightly larger Samsung drive, that's a sharp contrast to its competitors. The standard flash drive tends to stick out like a sore, well, thumb drive.

For many years my primary PC was a Samsung Series 9 with a 128GB SSD, and I was constantly bumping into the local-storage ceiling. A deal like this would have allowed me to literally double the available storage for just $30-35. That's a very low cost for plug-and-play simplicity.

Granted, flash drives aren't quite as fast as SSDs, but at least these ones deliver USB 3.0 speeds. The SanDisk drive also has a nice security perk: it comes with an encryption utility that lets you password-protect any folders. (If you're not interested, you'll be glad to know this shovelware can be deleted.)

There are plenty of other low-profile drives out there, some even smaller than these. The key takeaway here is that you can now add a mountain of extra flash storage to your PC or tablet with a minimum of fuss and expense. That's a wonderful thing.