Thumb drive not recognized

I'm using 2 computers with Windows 7 Home Premium, and I have a 4GB Ativa thumb drive that simply stopped working. I use this particular thumb drive for ReadyBoost on my laptop because it only has 1GB of RAM and ends up burning the hard drive up constantly over swap file use. One day, I had my laptop running, had it hooked to dad's bigscreen TV to show him a couple of movies I had stored on another (identical) thumb drive and all was working well. When I packed up, I closed both thumb drives up and put them in the laptop case. The next time I tried to boot up, I insert the Readyboost thumb drive, Win7 plays the sound it normally does to say it's detected a USB device, but does nothing further. The light on the drive never lights up, Windows Explorer doesn't pop up, my desktop drive monitor gadget shows no changes. I notice "USB Mass Media Device" under USB Controllers in Device Manager, and after a bit it refreshes and puts a "!" on it. I look into the driver properties and it says "Devices failed to start." I take it to another computer running WinXP and same reaction, as well as my home desktop, also running Win7. The identical thumb drive containing media works fine. So, it appears to me that the thumb drive has died. Okay, so its a cheap offbrand, I guess that's to be expected. My question here, is what could have caused it? It worked perfectly up until I shut the laptop down, and simply did nothing the next time it was inserted. I'm kinda curious about this, in case there's maybe some environmental factor of being in a padded laptop case while retracted, or maybe something my laptop did to it. I don't know, just wondering the possibilities, thumb drives are a bit expensive to me, so I can't just keep going out and buying new flash, and would hate to lose another one. Just curious.
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More about thumb drive recognized
  1. Since when are 4GB thumb drives expensive? I just bought a 16GB Corsair on Newegg for $13. I have one currently and use it for Ready Boost myself as well as x-ferring files.
  2. 4GB drives are expensive since winter's trying to wrap up and my seasonal work hasn't started yet :P $10 isn't much, but when I got a thousand more important things to do with my money that don't leave me the option of throwing a $10 bill out the window, makes it expensive to me :P
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