CGI coffee

Recharge Your USB Flash Drive Today or Say Goodbye to the Files Tomorrow

I know, I know. The title will inevitably raise some eyebrows. Rest assured, though, by the end of this brief post it will make perfect sense.


A couple months ago I sat down to sort out my USB thumb drive collection. I have 10 of those used either to move large files between distant machines, as OS installation and recovery media, and to actually store some non-critical data. While going through the inventory I eventually plugged in the USB stick I brought back from my Summer 2018 trip to Japan. The last time I used it was around September 2018, when I transfered some video clips from the PlayStation 4 to study while building my Dynamic Sloshing Liquid Rig.

Which means the drive was left unused for 3 years.

Imagine my surprise when I found out that two out of three short in-game video clips were corrupted. The first clip wouldn't even copy over to the PC, while the other one took its sweet time and eventually, after about 30 minutes (for a 100 MB file), succeeded in getting copied to the HDD.

Overwhelmed by avid curiosity I immediately fired up the video player...

What you see here is the result of physical data corruption (a.k.a. "bit rot" or "data degradation" or "data decay"). While such graphic and "movie-like" damage is, funny enough, quite fitting to the overall presentation of Horizon: Zero Dawn — a game about hunting mechanical dinosaurs in a post-apocalyptic world, — this incident begs the question...

What Happened?

To answer it, let's briefly recall how a Flash Drive actually works.