Flash Drive 101: Copying files, removing viruses

Learn some basic flash-drive survival skills, like how to copy files to a USB drive and protect a drive from viruses

USB thumb drive hints & tips

USB thumb drive hints & tips

The other day, my wife asked me how to copy a PowerPoint presentation to a flash drive so she could take it with her to school. I was a little shocked. My very own wife doesn't know how to do this? I've failed as a husband!

To make sure I don't fail you, dear readers, allow me to explain the process of copying files to flash drives. Most of you probably know how, but I'll wager it's a mystery to at least some users.

There are two basic ways to go about this (both of which start with you plugging the drive into a USB port).

First, you can open the document in whatever program you used to create it -- Word, PowerPoint, etc. -- then save that document to the flash drive by way of the Save As command. Basically, you're rerouting it to the drive.

That's pretty easy, but there's a potential wrinkle: the next time you go to open the document from your Recent Documents list, the program will try to retrieve it from the flash drive (i.e. the last place it was saved) -- and won't find it because it's not plugged in. No big deal -- you just have to use the Open command and go find the original wherever you initially saved it. I'm just saying it's a potential source of confusion.

The better way to go is to open Windows Explorer, find the document on your hard drive, right-click it, and choose Send To, Removable Disk (E:) (or whatever drive letter corresponds to your flash drive). Presto: the file gets copied over.

The only problem here is that not everybody knows where their documents get saved. My advice: learn. Most programs use the Documents (or My Documents) folder by default, so that's a good place to start your search.

Flash Drive 101: Protecting Your Drive from Viruses

Flash drives are virus magnets. This is a generally accepted truth, but today I learned it firsthand. When my wife brought the flash drive home from school, it was infected with a virus.

I found this out when I popped the drive into my PC -- and Microsoft Security Essentials immediately detected (and removed, thankfully) an extremely dangerous worm. No doubt it had landed there when the missus plugged the drive into one of the school machines.

This was a catastrophe barely averted. This particular worm propagates over network connections, so it could have spread very quickly to every system in my house. That's why it's crucial to have reliable antivirus software installed on all your PCs.

Okay, but how do you protect your flash drive when it's "out and about"? How can you keep it from getting infected in the first place -- or at least remove any sneakyware before it comes home with you?

My tool of choice: SUPERAntiSpyware Portable Scanner. The program requires no installation; you just copy it to your flash drive (see the aforementioned post if you don't know how to do that), then run it whenever you want to check for and remove infections.

You should also consider running Panda USB Vaccine, which disables a flash drive's Autorun.inf file--a common carrier for malware (including the one that hit me today). Doing so will prevent the drive's Autorun box from appearing when you plug it into your PC, but that's no biggie -- you just have to open the drive manually.

Tags securityportable hard drivestorageusb storageflash memory

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Rick Broida

PC World (US online)

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