Amazon Is Full of Flash Drives That Will Eat Your Data

Amazon may be great for many things, but it can be a nightmare for inexpensive electronics.

One particular product type that has recently come under fire for having a counterfeit problem are portable storage devices. Especially flash drives.

The Problem

The main issue with these counterfeit flash storage devices is that they seem offer a huge amount of storage for (often) a too-good-to-be-true price. While this may seem like a minor problem (you only got 100 gigabytes instead of 1 terabyte), the real problem is much more insidious than just getting a 1% of the promised storage.

Many of these fraudulent drives actually contain enough flash memory which holds a file directory for the full 1 terabyte of storage – only there is no physical memory to store data beyond this initial 32 or 64 gigabytes.

When an operating system writes data to a drive, it doesn’t verify that is was written correctly – it relies on an “honest” storage device to write the data. So once you’ve written past the first 32 (or 64) gigabytes of existing storage on these fraudulent drives, no data is written but the file system on the flash drive gives an “everything okay” signal to the operating system.

This means that if you examine the file system by plugging it into a computer, everything will look fine – until you try to read back the data. Only then will you find that nothing has been stored.

This can be especially troubling for media creators (photographers, musicians, producers of any media content) – trying to use these flash drives as “long term” storage can stick huge files on these drives, delete the originals and only when they try to open the original will they find that the file doesn’t actually exist at all. Or imagine a photographer copying pictures from a memory card onto a flash drive to transfer to their computer – once those photos are moved onto the flash drive they are effectively deleted.

The Solution: Validrive

Steve Gibson – a security researcher and the creator a wonderful hard drive utility called SpinRite has created a small, free (Windows-only) program to verify that a storage device is the size that it claims – enter Validrive.

It does this by both writing and reading data at random points across the drive – if the data doesn’t match, Validrive will show you exactly how much space is missing.

Validrive is completely free, and a must-use utility if you buy any Amazon flash drives. Even those that look like “major-label” drives can be fraudulent, so make sure you test every drive before you trust data to it!

You can read about Validrive here: and download it directly from Steve Gibson’s freeware software page.