Taking Work With Me In A Flash

I work at home on a desktop computer. I’m no corporate jet-setter. I have kids in elementary school, a myriad of pets, and a husband who travels for a living, so I don’t get out much. But these days, every now and then, I’m out and about or on a mini-vacation and I actually take some work with me (safely and quickly)!

Back in 2005 my husband suggested getting a laptop. I never thought I needed one and immediately squelched the idea. But he insisted so we went shopping at a few local stores and finally picked out an HP Pavilion dv1000 with Windows XP Professional. Now, nearly three years later, I admit I’d be hard pressed to live without it. I don’t suppose you can even buy my particular laptop anymore and I wouldn’t recommend it simply because in tech-years, mine is now ancient. But I’m impressed with HP, the thing still works just as well as the day we bought it.

I really didn’t think I needed a laptop because I don’t do a lot of traveling and I am not one of those “easy-money” workers you see in laptop commercials or pictured on some websites. You know the ones: where a woman is lying on her belly out in the middle of a perfectly green lawn supposedly watching her children play while making a fortune with her laptop open in front of her; or where someone’s got a laptop balanced on one knee with a cup of coffee in one hand and other hand free to do all the typing.

So while I find laying my laptop in the middle of my yard a bad idea and while I’m not quite agile enough to balance the thing on my knee and get any productive work done, I do actually find it surprisingly handy. With WiFi Hotspots increasing and my wireless router here at home, I’m able to use my laptop for work from nearly anywhere I go in the house or out and about.

But to be really productive, I needed to figure out how to get the files I was working on to my laptop quickly and painlessly. I could email them to myself – or I could put them on a disc. I didn’t (and still don’t) have a network set up at my house because I don’t see the need and I’m just too lazy to figure it all out. And, for whatever reason, I just feel more secure to not share files between computers via a network here at home. I also worried about taking my laptop with me to get some work accomplished while traveling only to end up losing my laptop. I heard stories where laptops were actually stolen at airports or where people had inadvertently left them somewhere (like in a Taxi or at the mall). What if someone broke into my car while I was out and took the darn thing? I’d be mad enough about the loss of my equipment, but I’d be in serious trouble over the loss of my data and the breach of information in my work files.

So I thought about it. I password protected my laptop of course, but figured any geeky thief would be able to figure out a way around that. The solution for me was a USB flash drive I found at Amazon. Now I own three. My first one didn’t hold very much (256 MB) but it did what I needed. It allowed me to quickly take some files with me without putting them directly onto my laptop. I just plug the flash drive into one of the USB ports on the front of my desktop computer, copy the files I’m working on over to that location, then unplug it and drop it in my purse. Then, when I’m out and about I can fire up the laptop, plug the flash drive into one of the little USB ports on the side and work on the same files. When I’m done, I save the work (still on the flash drive), unplug it and toss it back into my purse. Easy as pie.

I’d upgraded to a bigger flash drive a while back (1 GB), but recently I decided that wasn’t big enough either so I went shopping (online of course). Now I have a new, 4GB Flash Drive that I’m also able to password protect as well. Sweet, huh!

I bought a PNY 4GB Attache USB Flash Drive for $14.99 at Tiger Direct. Now that I have some serious space on my flash drive, I’ll also store pictures on it when we’re on vacation. I’ll just empty my 2GB SD card onto my new flash drive then go fill it up again with more digital camera pictures. That means I can take 3x the amount of pictures now without also having to purchase more SD cards. I like to take a lot of pictures and so do my kids. And I know it’s a bit over-the-top security wise, but I don’t like to keep pictures we take on the laptop for the same reason I don’t like to keep sensitive files there. By putting them on my flash drive, they’re safely with me no matter where I go.

So if you own a laptop, but haven’t yet discovered the world of flash drives for taking work with you… you really should. It’ll save you the worry of lost information should anything ever happen to your laptop while you’re out and about.

UPDATE (April 17, 2008): The TigerDirect sale for that flash drive is off, but it’s still reasonably priced at $24.99 ($29.99 with a $5 rebate).

The link to the Flash Drive offered at Tiger Direct is an affiliate link. That means that if you click on the link, go to their online store, and purchase the USB Flash Drive I’ve mentioned I might actually end up making a penny for recommending it. Including links like this is something I’ve decided to do in order to help make this blog self-sustainable and while that’s important in the real-world, I don’t take the idea lightly and do not offer any affiliate links here that tout the wonders of something I haven’t personally tried from any online store that I haven’t personally shopped. I actually own the HP Desktop I mention. I actually love Amazon and Tiger Direct, have purchased equipment from them before, and can highly recommend them. Otherwise, I just wouldn’t!


  1. I can identify with you on this one. I have a Sony flash drive, too. Flash drives are becoming an indispensable tool for those that work on several machines. It makes it easy to work on the same files at different occasions. They also tend to be very portable unlike other storage medias.

  2. I love my flash drive. At work, not all of our computers have access to share files with one another. IT thinks that this is for safety. Well, we had Kodak come to work on one of our imaging computers and needed to get a file onto it. There was no disk drive (again for safety reasons), it didn’t have access to the network to share files and it didn’t have access to the internet to be able to download the file.

    So the Kodak guy wanted to take the computer with him. This would have put us out of commission for at least a day. I couldn’t get in touch with anyone from our IT department.

    So I quickly reached into my purse and grabbed my flash drive. I dumped the program he needed onto that and was able to upload it in a few moments to the other computer.

    To this day, every time that guy from Kodak walks into our office, he calls me geek girl!

  3. I love my flashdrive! Makes sharing files so much easier :). And it’s so much handier that the floppy disks we used before, not to mention that it also stores a lot, lot more information!

  4. I haven’t thought of floppies for YEARS. Imagine having to put files on one of those these days! I worked in an office right out of college and one of my chores was to back up the computer spreadsheets onto a series of about 15 floppies each week. It took me forever. Today it would be done while in a flash! 🙂

  5. Actually a thumb drive’s even doubly useful with Windows Vista as it can double as memory. Although I don’t carry my thumb drive everywhere, I still do find it quite convenient.

  6. After reading this comment I had to look it up and sure ’nuff, Windows Vista Team Blog’s : Windows ReadyBoost explains:

    ReadyBoost uses the flash drive to store information that is being used by the memory manager. If you are running a lot of applications on a system that has limited memory, Windows ReadyBoost will use the flash drive to create a copy of virtual memory that is not quite as fast as RAM, but a whole lot faster than going to the hard disk. What is very cool here is that there is nothing stored on this flash disk that isn’t also on the hard disk, so if you remove the flash drive, the memory manager sees the change and automatically goes to the hard disk. While the performance gain from ReadyBoost is gone, you don’t lose any data and there is no interruption. And because the Windows Readyboost cache on the flash drive is encrypted using AES-128, you don’t need to worry about exposing sensitive data if the flash drive is stolen or lost. Also, the memory manager compresses the pages before writing them into the cache on the flash disk, which means you’ll get more mileage from each MB.

    Thanks, Herbert. I had NO idea.

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