Comparisons of Storage Media

If you're confused by all of the "removable media" drive options that are available for your computer, you're not alone. In recent years there's been an explosion in different types of removable media drives, and even different media for the same drive type.

The information in this table has been collected from a variety of sources and is not intended to be used as a purchasing or pricing guide. However, it may help you sort out which options are best for your particular application, so you can make a more informed decision on your next purchase.

* R=read only, W=writeable, RW=re-writeable

Type

Capacity Range

Typical Use

Read/Write
*

Pros

Cons

3.5" floppy disk

720K-2.88MB (1.44 MB most common)

Short Term, small file transfers

RW

convenient

Slow; short shelf life; small capacity; some newer computers don't have floppy drives

CD

680MB-800MB

Software and music distribution

R

Ubiquitous, convenient, inexpensive

Can't be written to

CD-R

680MB-800MB

Data and audio creation, copy, distribution, archiving

W

Can be read in any CDROM drive, convenient, inexpensive

Can only be written once

CD-RW

680MB-800MB

Data and audio creation, copy, distribution

RW

Can be read in any CDROM drive, convenient, re-usable

Slightly more expensive than CD-R media

DVD

4.7GB-17GB

Software and video distribution

R

Becoming more widespread; high capacity

Can't be written to

DVD-R

4.7GB

Data, audio, and video creation, copy, distribution, archiving

W

Becoming more widespread; high capacity; very low cost per MB

Can only be written once

DVD-RW

2.3GB-4.7GB

Data, audio, and video creation, copy, distribution

RW

Becoming more widespread; high capacity, re-usable

Somewhat more expensive than DVD-R media

Memory stick (CompactFlash, SD, etc.)

8MB-256GB

Moderate-size file transfers

RW

Used in wide variety of devices: digital cameras, DVD players, MP3 players, etc.

Requires an accessible slot of the correct type.

USB Flash Drive

16MB-256GB

High-speed data storage and retrieval

RW

Fast, ubiquitous

Requires an accessible USB port

BD (Blu-ray)

25GB-50GB

HD video (1080p), HD audio

R

convenient, high capacity

Requires a Blu-ray drive to read. Somewhat more expensive than CD/DVD.

BD-R

25GB-50GB

HD video (1080p), HD audio, data storage

W

convenient, high capacity, writable

Requires a Blu-ray writer to write. Requires a Blu-ray drive (reader or writer) to read. Somewhat more expensive than CD/DVD.

BD-RW

25GB-50GB

HD video (1080p), HD audio, data storage

RW

convenient, high capacity, re-usable

Requires a Blu-ray writer to write. Requires a Blu-ray drive (reader or writer) to read. Somewhat more expensive than CD/DVD.

Hard drive

20GB-4TB, can be expanded with multi-drive options (RAID)

High-speed data storage and retrieval

RW

Fast, ubiquitous; not good for long-term archiving

Not normally removable/portable however several external USB/eSATA/Firewire models are available