You have recently approached the world of information technology and are "studying" to gain more skills. Today, for example, you have decided to spend your time discovering USB flash drives These extremely popular handy devices capable of storing data of any kind that offer maximum portability and hardware compatibility with PCs and other devices.

So if it's your intention to find out how to use a usb stick In the most common scenarios, know that this is the right place for you. In fact, in the following chapters of this tutorial, I'll show you how to use these small but very useful drives in a number of common situations: On Windows equipped PCs, Mac, Android, iPad and PS4. In addition, I will show you some unusual (but no less useful) uses such devices can lend themselves to: as an "extension" of the PC's RAM, replacing the password, and finally as an alternative to a HDD classic disco.

So, without hesitating a moment longer, sit back and read this guide - I guarantee that, in the end, you will have acquired the necessary skills to be able to easily handle this category of device. That being said, there is nothing else to do but wish you a good read and… good study!

How to use a USB stick in Windows

If you intend to make the best use of your USB drive in windows, read the following paragraphs in which, in which I will provide you with clear indications on the file systems supported by the operating system Microsoft (which determines how the data is organized in the key), on the procedure to format the keys and the steps to follow to access the data it contains.

Supported file systems

The operating system windows offers native support for the most common and used File System. At the time of write In this guide, it is possible to read and format USB memory sticks equipped with one of the file systems listed below.

  • FAT: (or FAT16): This is an outdated and no longer used file system, with numerous problems related to file management and preservation.
  • FAT32 - the most widespread file system of all time, offering the highest degree of compatibility with other devices and operating systems. It cannot handle files larger than 4GB and it does not support partitions larger than 32GB. Furthermore, it is significantly subject to fragmentation.
  • exFAT (or Extended FAT) - Successor to FAT32, removes 4GB per file and 32GB per single partition limit. It is compatible with many devices, although less in number than FAT32, and is less subject to fragmentation.
  • NTFS - is the default Windows file system. It removes all the limitations of FAT and offers a host of advantages in organizing and managing files, but relative support is not guaranteed on all operating systems. It is subject to fragmentation, but to a lesser extent than FAT.

Format the stick

Format a USB memory in the windows, it is literally obvious. First, insert the unit into the PC, connecting it to one of its free ports. Then open the File Browser by clicking on the icon yellow folder placed on the taskbar and click on the icon This PC / Pc, located in the left area of ​​the window that opens.

At this point, find the icon of USB in the section Devices and units (you may need to click the arrow corresponding to the section title, if it is closed), right click on the stick name and choose the item Format … from the context menu.

Now, use the following window to configure the format parameters: File System, allocation unit size (if you don't know what it is, leave this field unchanged) ed volume label (the name to be assigned to the stick).

Finally, it acts on the box Quick format to define how to overwrite data: if you enable it, formatting will take a few seconds, but previously saved data may be restored using special programs.

However, by disabling quick formatting, the data will be overwritten with a string of 0 and recovery will become much more complex; however, slow formatting can be time consuming.

Anyway, once you have defined the most suitable options for you, click on the button starts and, aware that this operation will erase all data on the stick press the button good, to continue. Then wait for the message to finish formatting.

For more information on the procedure just illustrated, you can refer to my guide on how to format a USB stick, in which I covered the subject in great detail.

Manage files on the stick

If formatting a key was easy, managing the files on it is even more! Just insert the disk into the PC, wait for the screen to appear Automatic playback and choose the most suitable operation for your case: view photos, play videos or music, start the installation files or open the folder to explore the files.

If the AutoPlay window does not appear, you can easily access the data on the USB drive by starting the File Browser Windows, going to the section This PC / Pc (left) and double-clicking the icon of the USB memory you just inserted.

Otherwise, there's not much more to say: you can easily move files / folders from one point on the device to the hard drive (and vice versa) by dragging them to the folder of your choice, or access the operations available in each by right-clicking on your icon

How to use a USB stick on Mac

On the use of USB drives in Mac, things are not very different from what has already been seen for Windows: macOS, in fact, integrates the necessary functions to format and manage the files saved in a storage device of this type.

Below, I'll give you an overview of the file systems supported by Mac, then illustrate the steps you need to take to format a key and explore the data it contains.

Please note that some Macs may not have a standard USB (USB-A) port, but only a Thunderbolt (USB-C) port - in this case, you will need a special adapter, like the ones shown below.

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Supported file systems

At the time of writing this guide, macOS offers full support for the following file systems.

  • APFS - this is the system Mac files default, with technical characteristics aimed at obtaining the best possible performance when reading / writing data. Despite its many advantages, APFS is not supported outside of the Apple world - so be sure to only use it if the USB stick is designed for Mac only.
  • MacOS expanded daily (HFS +): This is the "predecessor" file system of APFS, currently supported by even older Macs. Again, Apple's out-of-world compatibility is very poor.
  • MS-DOS grease (FAT32) - as already seen in the Windows section, it is the most widespread file system, which has limits on the size of a single file (4 GB) and a single partition (32 GB). Use it if you intend to use the device on multiple devices with different operating systems.
  • exFAT - is the successor to MS-DOS FAT, which bypasses the size and file size limit, but finds slightly less support than its predecessor.

The file system NTFS instead, it is natively compatible with macOS in read only ; To add the ability to write data to USB drives of this type, or to format it using this file system, it is necessary to resort to some specific drivers, as I explained in my guide on how to format NTFS with Mac.

Format the stick

If you need to format the USB memory, you can use the Disk utility macOS - The tool for managing keys, disks, SSDs and other storage media, installed "standard" on Mac.

To use it, call it from the folder more la Launchpad (the icon in the form of rocket placed in spring ) and after connecting the USB flash drive to the Mac, select its name in the left sidebar, then click the button initialize, placed at the top.

At this point, indicate the file system you plan to use, choose it from the menu format ; tax GUID partition map how scheme, if you have chosen to use an Apple file system (APFS / HFS +), or Master boot record for all others, indicates the name to be assigned to the key in the appropriate field and when done click the buttons good y initialize, to start formatting the drive.

For further clarification on the steps just illustrated, you can refer to my guide on how to format a USB stick on Mac.

note : If desired, you can adjust the number of overwrite to be performed during the format phase, to make any data recovery more difficult (however, slowing down the whole process). To do this, click on the button Security options … and use the displayed cursor to define the most suitable option for you.

Manage files on the stick

Open a USB stick on macOS It is very simple: in general, all you have to do is connect the peripheral to the appropriate port on the PC and wait for the operating system to recognize it and mount it on the desk. When this happens, just double click on the drive icon to open the discoverer and access its contents.

Alternatively, you can access the key files by opening the discoverer directly from the Dock (by clicking the icon in the form of smiley face located in it) and clicking USB drive namelocated under the box devices (in the left sidebar).

File management is almost identical to that provided for all other Mac folders: you can move, copy and paste files to and from the device, create new folders, create archives, etc., using the context menu provided by macOS ( it can be called by right-clicking on the icon of the file or folder of interest).

How to use a USB stick as RAM

Would you like to know if it is possible? use a USB stick as RAM ? The answer is yes.

All operating systems windows currently supports built-in functionality ReadyBoost : In practice, it allows using a USB memory as if it were part of the RAM memory, to speed up the exchange of data between the hard drives and the processor.

This system can partially improve performance on quite old-fashioned machines (equipped with less than 2 GB of RAM and animated by mechanical disks), however, on more modern PCs, ReadyBoost and, in general, the use of USB sticks as RAM: no it brings many improvements, especially if you are using an SSD type main memory (in this case ReadyBoost cannot be activated).

In addition, in order for this system to be as useful as possible, the USB memory must have a good access speed that's why I advise you to use a stick USB 3.0 (the one with the internal blue connector), connected to a port of the same type. Ideally, the size of the stick that will be dedicated to RAM should be double physical memory installed in the system.

As they say It is perfectly clear on the concept, but would you like to try using your USB stick as RAM and trying to speed up the PC a bit? Ok, no problem. To begin, insert the USB device into your PC and format in exFAT (to allow allocation of files larger than 4GB), using the instructions I have provided above.

Then open the File Explorer / Windows Explorer Windows (the icon of the yellow folder located on the taskbar), click the icon This PC / Pc Located on the left side of the window, right-click the icon of the USB memory you want to use and click the button property.

At this point, go to the card ReadyBoost, put the check mark next to the article Dedicate the device to ReadyBoost / Use the device and use the cursor below to choose the amount of virtual RAM you want to add. When you're done, click the buttons. apply y good and wait for the configuration to complete.

How to use a USB memory as a hard drive

The need to use a USB memory as a hard drive It could arise, for example, from the need to use the key exactly as if it were a hard disk, with the possibility of creating and modifying partitions, deleting them, managing them, etc. These operations, as far as USB drives are concerned, are not immediately accessible from the operating system menus, which, on the other hand, occurs with disks.

However, today, the use of software that can "fool" the operating system into managing a USB memory like a hard disk is a » risky operation which, for my part, I advise against carrying out: programs of this type could not only damage the usb stick, making it unusable, but it could cause it operating system problems, even seriously.

For this reason, instead of resorting to such dangerous and outdated solutions today, you could use special programs that can operate on USB memory partitions and also install complete operating systems on them.

If you want to learn more about it, I recommend reading some of my guides related to creating USB sticks of various types.

In addition, I point out that edition Windows 8 Enterprise and the Pro and Enterprise editions of Windows 10 include Windows To Go, a feature that allows you to copy Windows to a USB stick and boot a "light" version of the operating system directly from the removable drive.

How to use a USB memory as a password

It may seem strange to you, but there really is software, especially dedicated to Windows, that allows you use a USB stick as a password to lock your Pc!

One of these, for example, is predator : it is a commercial program (with prices from $ 10 per license), which can be used in a free trial version for 10 days, allowing you to lock your PC with a USB stick, making it idle where it is removed.

In order to obtain it, connected to the download page of the program, click on the item Download Predator Home Edition and select the most appropriate link for the version of Windows you are using (64 bit or 32 bit). When the download is complete, extract the package.zip obtained in a folder on your PC, start the file InstallPredator.exe content inside and click on the button siguiente to start the installation phase.

Next, place the check mark next to the item. I agree, to accept the conditions of use of the program, click on the button siguiente three times in a row, then up yes y search to finish the installation procedure and start the software.

Once in the main screen of the program, connect the USB memory that you want to use as password to the PC, click on the button good attached to the warning window that appears, and then choose the key you just inserted from the drop-down menu Selected unit.

Finally, write the password you want to use to lock or unlock your PC (and program settings) and click good, to complete it all. Done! From now on, you can lock your PC simply by removing the USB stick.

If necessary, you can access the Predator configuration panel by right-clicking its icon located in the Windows notification area (the one next to the clock) and choosing the item Preferences … From the menu that appears: From there, you can make Predator start with Windows, change the password of the USB memory or set the alarm to sound when someone tries to access the PC without permission.

If you want to know more about Predator and other systems to be able to lock the PC with a USB memory, I invite you to read the tutorial I did about it, full of interesting information on this specific topic.

How to use a USB stick on Android

Most devices Android in the market, whether mobile phones or tablets, they don't have the classic USB ports (those USB-A available on Pcs), but they only have one input microUSB o USB-C.

This, however, does not mean that it is not possible. use a USB stick on Android on the contrary: it is possible to connect the latter devices to mobile phones and tablets with a special adapter, provided that the Android device in question is compatible with USB OTG technology.

To check it, you can use an application like USB OTG Checker, available at Play Store- After downloading the application, launch it and wait a few seconds for the application to indicate whether the device supports this technology. If so, you can proceed with purchasing a USB OTG adapter, which can allow the key to connect to the phone or tablet using the USB-C or microUSB port.

These devices can be purchased for a few euros, even online: pay close attention to the model that best suits your mobile phone or tablet, taking into account the input available on it (microUSB or USB-C).

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If you want you can also buy some Appropriate USB flash drives equipped with USB-C or microUSB connector. Also in this case, the previous recommendation applies: make your choice depending on the port you have available on the Android device.

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Once you have obtained the necessary, using the USB stick on Android is very simple: insert it into the USB OTG adapter, connect the latter to the device via the appropriate connector (or, alternatively, connect the microUSB or USB-C dongle to the Android device) and voila!

At this point, you just have to open a file manager app, like Google Files, to view the contents of the drive: After starting Files, tap the card Surf located at the bottom, touch the name USB memory, located in the area dedicated to Storage devices, Press the button allow to grant access to the USB memory and navigate inside it, exactly as you normally would.

To operate the files (copy, move, etc.), long press on the preview of the content of your interest, touch the button (⋮) located at the top right and choose, using the menu that is proposed, the operation you want to complete. To delete a file, touch it and touch the icon. trash, located at the top.

If you need additional help regarding the use of USB OTG technology, or to learn the steps to take to force the use of this technology on unsupported devices (an operation that, as you will discover, still involves risks), you can take a look at my guide on how to enable Android OTG.

How to use a USB memory on iPad

As you will surely notice, the Protectors They don't have the standard USB ports that you can find, just to give you an example, on your Pc. In fact, Apple-branded tablets are equipped with only one input. flash of lightning or, in the case of iPad Pro models launched from 2018, entry USB-C.

It goes without saying that, in both cases, it is not possible to directly connect the common USB sticks that are generally used for PCs, tabletop readers or others. compatible devices. If you have an iPad Pro with a USB-C input, you can easily fix the problem by getting a special adapter USB-C / USB-A, specially designed for this purpose. Such adapters can be purchased for a few euros, even online.

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However, if you own an iPad with a Lightning input, you can use one special key equipped with connector flash of lightning (Therefore, specially designed for Apple devices).

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After you have purchased the most suitable device for you, you must install the appropriate one dedicated app On iPad (usually available from the App Store), launch it and follow the instructions provided to move files to and from the USB memory.

Unfortunately, I cannot provide you with more precise indications on the exact procedure to be performed: in general, what you should do is start the file manager of the specific application previously obtained, indicate whether to move the files from the iPad to paste or vice versa and follow the procedure proposed to complete everything.

Finally, I want to clarify that iPadOS ( iOS 13 ), the Apple dedicated iPad operating system slated for launch in fall 2019, will feature native support for USB technology (thus allowing direct management of USB sticks from the application. office hour ).

To further deepen the discussion on connecting memories USB to iPad, you can consult the tutorial that I have dedicated, specifically, for this purpose.

The indications just given, with the exception of the USB-C ports, are obviously also valid for iPhone.

How to use a USB stick on PS4

You noticed, on your console, the presence of "standard" USB ports, so now you wonder if it is possible use a USB stick on PS4 ? Well, the answer is absolutely yes. The operating system on board the Sony console, in fact, allows the use of USB memory drives in at least three different scenarios: the vision of multimedia content el save game data and finally the save screenshots and movies in game.

In this regard, it is essential that the USB flash drive has been formatted with a PS4 compatible file system: FAT32 o exFAT. To do this, you can use Windows PC or Mac by following the instructions I gave you earlier.

Once the USB memory is ready (and after copying, if necessary, the media files to be displayed), connect it to one of the free USB ports of the PS4 and act in the most appropriate way, according to the operation you want perform.

  • View photos, videos, and music. - went to PS4 home screen, moved to item Media player and press the button X of the pad. Then select the stick name from the list of available devices and, after choosing the content to be displayed, press the button X To start playback.
  • Copy saved files and games - access the screen adjustments PS4 (the icon of the Toolbox ), choose the item Management of data saved by the application., go to the section dedicated to Data stored in system storage memory and locate the file you want to copy on the device. After that, press the button OPTIONS pad (the small one, placed immediately next to the touchpad), choose the option Copy to USB storage device From the menu that appears, select the files to copy (with the help of the X of the pad) and finally move in the voice copy and press the button again X.
  • Copy screenshots and in-game movies - start the application Capture gallery retrieving it from the PS4 content area, press the button OPTIONS pad and choose the voice Copy to USB storage device, select the files to copy with the help of the button X the pad and when you're done select the item copy.