"Branded" flash drive. Cat in the "brand" bag

Recently, a friend of mine had an unpleasant incident. His son did his homework in computer science, but the result of his work disappeared. The child used as a storage device a USB flash drive, on which the logo of the company of my friend was inscribed, and it was precisely this flash drive that turned out to be the problem. If this incident were a single case, then it could have been missed by, but among data recovery specialists such flash drives (“branded”; they are also called “gift”) are a problem that has long been a mouthwash.

How did my friend flash drives made by my friend? I ordered on the Internet devices that satisfy the parameters with a more or less responsive to its corporate design (this is important), and ordered the printing company to apply the necessary design to the flash drives that came to this order. It seems to be simple, but ... the desire to save has played a cruel joke with him.

Where to buy something from electronics cheaper? That's right - on Aliexpress. Go there and go. At the request of "USB flash drive" on this platform - more than half a million results. We put the filter “the cheapest first” and begin to get acquainted with the products. Oh, that seems to be a good design, and the price for running 16 gigabytes with fast USB 3.0 interface is slightly less than 189 rubles; This is a little less than 3 dollars. What does one of the cheapest Russian retail chains, Citylink, offer us in the same weight category? Flash drives cost from 290 rubles (4.3 dollars). It is logical to conclude that if you need to purchase 100 to 200 devices, the choice will be made in favor of aliexpress - especially since the delivery will be free (albeit a long one).

A natural question arises: why are such flash drives dangerous? But we will receive the answer to this question only after we answer another question: why are these flash drives so cheap?

Tempting 16GB flash drive offer on Aliexpress

Cheapest 16GB flash drive in Citylink electronic discounter

Why so cheap?

The cost of any electronic product consists of four parts: the electronic components themselves, the work of assembling them into a device (assembly), the cost of output testing, and the mark-up (profit). It is clear that to reduce the price you can “beat” on one of these parts or on all at once; again, it is clear that profits must be. Therefore, simple logic suggests: the cheaper an electronic device, the lower the quality of electronic components, their assembly and testing, we end up with.

How much can you save on assembling a flash drive? In principle, a few cents: the amount of solder is minimal there, a piece of PCB is also small, the tracks are etched only from two sides, intermediate layers are not made. Therefore, this “savings” makes sense only when mass production of tens of thousands of devices, so that the ratio “price / quality” does not let down the ratio “refusals / reputation”. True, I had to see flash drives, divorced on polystyrene slightly thicker than office paper, but this is a rare exception: they usually do not save on this.

Let's go further. What is a flash drive testing? Thrust - decided. Formatted - formatted. Recorded data - recorded, erased - erased. For a change, we recorded some pattern in all sectors, controlled it (verification) - everything was recorded. Measured the speed of operations - in the normal range. That's probably all. How can we save money if, in theory, all operations can be performed using a small tester program that an average programmer can write for a couple of bottles of beer? You can, of course, test nothing at all - time will be saved - but, as practice shows, it is better to catch an assembly marriage before it was sold, than to butt with a disgruntled customer, catch negative reviews about your product and all that jazz.

In general, whatever one may say, it turns out that the maximum savings can be made only on the use of very inexpensive electronic components. And what is the main component of a flash drive? Of course, the NAND chip.

Well, now let's think together. The Chinese mini-factory, which produces mega-cheap flash drives with the tricky names "Kingstom" or "Tranescend", has to buy NAND chips and other components somewhere. On the websites of manufacturers or their resellers you can see the prices of good chips. What chips are good? Those that produce well-known brands that come from their factories have certificates and other guarantees of a quality product. Here, for example, the price from the site Mouser: the most cheap version of the 16 GB chip - from $ 9 for purchases from 100 pieces. If you buy from 1000, it will be a little more than 8 dollars.

Three bucks for the finished device does not work in any way. And even 4, as in the system (I will tell about these devices another time - there is also quite interesting). It turns out a minimum of 10 - 12.

NAND-chip offer “with pedigree” on the Mouser website

Details on the offer of the cheapest 16 GB chip on the Mouser website

So where are these prices from? Naturally, there is no cheating here. And this deception is in the use of substandard electronic components.

And what's the hoax?

Let's go. The main methods to cheat with two flash drives.

1) Non-conforming NAND-memory . Manufacturers of these flash drives are buying from the factories or near-landfill rejecting chips. These are not necessarily chips with a capacity of 16 GB - any capacity will fit. There may be two by 8, or one by 64, but with a bunch of defective pages, etc. Such chips are sold not by piece, but by weight, and the price is low (about half a dollar per chip after rejecting absolutely frank trash, which you simply cannot use). Everything goes in the business - trimming large chips, combining several small chips inside a single device, combining large chip chips (I personally observed two NAND chips of 64 GB each, which at output gave out 8 GB of total capacity), etc. Uncover fantasy and invent options.

2)Air-conditioned NAND-memory , but significantly less than the declared capacity. Such NAND chips (say, 1 GB) even from “good” manufacturers can be bought at a price already lower than a dollar per piece; and if you take a substandard, then the input of one such chip will be in the region of a few cents. It is clear that the installation of such a chip in the device, if the buyer finds that he was deceived, will not lead to anything good for the brand, so the "manufacturer" is tricky. The capacity of the device is increased to the desired (in our case, it is 16 GB) through a passport, that is, the command “get ID” will give the device as many gigabytes as it is drawn on its case. In order for deception to be revealed not immediately, the recording on such a device or looped (gigabyte ran out - drove to write again), or emulated (gigabyte run out - we pretend to write, but do not write anything). In my practice, there were enough such

Of course, there are other methods to cheat. For example, you can never put a NAND chip inside the case of a flash drive — the flash drive will “work” thanks to the wired firmware, but you cannot format or write data to such a flash drive.

For the sake of justice, it should be said that I have met such a brazen deception only a couple of times during the whole period of my more than 25 years of practice, but as a potential opportunity it should not be excluded.

What to do, what to do if you give for free a "branded" flash drive?

Well, of course, to refuse a gift is not good. But you must clearly and unequivocally understand that this gift is not an act of generosity, but a banal advertisement, comparable to the “giving” of a business card to you. The attitude towards the gift should also be appropriate: this is advertising material, and not a full-fledged device for storing information. Trusting such a device is dangerous enough.

No, of course, there are large companies that do not stint on the production of promotional materials, including flash drives. They can well afford to buy a good batch of good flash drives from a good manufacturer, put their logo on them, and for many years you will not know the problems with such flash drives. I myself am the owner of such a device, on which the “Megaphone” logo is drawn. But this is the exception rather than the rule. Self-promotion by such methods of small firms (in the course also: pens, mugs, T-shirts and other everyday trifles), which are only now entering the market (those who have occupied a certain niche in the market no longer need such advertising and often fold it). Naturally, they do it in the cheapest way possible.

Therefore - branded USB flash drive should not be a trusted storage device. I recommend using it for everyday needs: as a carrier of music in a car, as a device for watching a movie on TV, as a drive for transferring files between two computers (but not “cut-paste”, and “copy-paste”), etc. I highly do not recommend placing files on a single USB flash drive in such a copy: it’s better to perebdet than to get it.

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