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How long will data last on a flash drive

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March 1, 2011 6:32:38 PM

I am putting together a "Time Capsule" for my daughter to be opened in 2054. I have saved baby pictures and videos to my brand new flash drive for this purpose so she can see them when she opens it in 2054. Will the data last on the flash drive for that long? Thank you.

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March 1, 2011 6:59:10 PM

The real question is whether there will be USB connectors still available or even computers as we now know it; go 40 years back (1971) and think about what computer or other technologies we have from then that we can interface with or works today...
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March 2, 2011 2:35:48 PM

http://www.zdnet.com/blog/storage/long-term-personal-da... <-- a very good read IMHO
http://www.linuxtech.net/tips+tricks/best_safe_long-ter...

It "may", and enderwiggin has an excelent point, will computers then have USB ports? Even if you include a USB card, will they have the interface we use now (PCI, PCIe)? Those may all be gone in 10-20 years, and by 2054 you may not even be able to get old parts to use USB anymore. Try to find a player to play back a 50yr old tape now, you're looking at the same sort of issues. Nd keep in mind that old tape players are "historical" and "antiques" somewhat worth saving and restoring, where old PC stuff is considered junk and scrap metal for the most part, barring some signifigant early models.

I doubt any magnetic media will last over 10 years reliably. Look at archive quality DVDs, but once again, need a play-back device to be available then.

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March 2, 2011 5:30:35 PM

I agree that media format endurance is likely to be a big issue - which means you'll need to move your "Time Capsule" to newer media as it becomes available.

You should also be careful about the format you store the data in. JPG is probably a pretty safe format because it's so widely used, but video formats are all over the place and I'm not sure how likely it is that you'll be able to find codecs for some of the more niche formats over 40 years from now. Remember that 40 years ago the only video tape that was available used industrial formats that consumers have never had access to and VHS was still 10 years in the future.

But ignoring all those issues, flash memory devices have a limit to how long they can retain data because the bits are stored as static charges which dissipate over time. It seems to be very difficult to get any solid information on how long you can expect the data in a flash memory device to last, but from my readings I've come to the conclusion that after 10 years you should start being concerned about retention.
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