26 Seriously Epic Flash Drive Hacks
Few will argue that dynamite comes in small packages. But not many of us are fully aware of just how well this concept applies to the standard flash drive. This small, unassuming gadget is capable of far more than we may give it credit for.
Not yet convinced? Take a squizz as these 26 seriously epic flash drive hacks.
1. Power a hotplate
Never deal with cold coffee at your desk again. Convert an old (dead) CPU into a USB powered hot plate for your coffee (we’re not even kidding). See these step-by-step instructions on how to perform this flash drive hack and put an end to cold desk-coffee forever.
2. Shed a little light
Further proof that old school is cool, one of the oldest USB flash drive hacks of all time remains amusingly impressive today. Create a USB reading light using an LED and some wire. See how to create your own here.
3. Build a typewriter with a twist
Paying homage to the steampunk era, modder Jack Zylkin has taken alternative uses for USBs to the next level and has modified an old typewriter, adding a digital twist. The typewriter translates the key punching into digital numbers and letters. Customised PCBA, a USB connection as well as some code are required to make this magic happen. See how it all works here.
4. Use it as a portable web server
Get work done on the run using a flash drive as a portable web server. To perform this flash drive hack use XAMPP Lite and this step-by-step guide.
5. Play (epic) practical jokes on colleagues
A pre-made USB flash drive hack of sorts, the USB Keystroker is a phantom keystroker that can be used to have some fun at the expense of an unsuspecting colleague. The device randomly locks a victims computer CAPS buttons, performs keystrokes or causes random ‘uncontrollable’ movement of the cursor (or all three at the same time). Available for purchase here.
6. Use it as a password reset disc
Never get locked out of Windows again. If you run Windows Vista or a more recent Windows system, your flash drive can be used as a virtual password reset disc. See how to make this happen, here.
7. Store games
PC games can consume large amounts of space on our devices. Rather, install games on your flash drive and run them directly from your flash – saving you space and speeding up your device in the process. (A disc may still be required to play depending on how the game’s title was coded.)
8. Act as a digital time capsule
Take a digital snapshot of your life via flash drive. Create a telling collection of files to illustrate different eras of your life to show your children, grandchildren, or simply for memories sake. Important pictures, work documents, music and even movies can produce a fantastic holistic cross section of your life right now.
9. Protect your sensitive information
If you are storing things like important / sensitive documents (for example, passports or contracts) on your flash drive, you’re able to encrypt this information so that nobody else is able to access it. This flash drive hack can be completed using Windows on board tools or by installing a free app like TrueCrypt.
10. Save a virus ridden computer
If your PC is starting to resemble one large virus hub, and booting has become a mission in itself, install AVG Rescue CD Software on your flash drive. This allows you to scan for viruses and recover files from your flash drive. See exactly how to do this here.
11. Expand mobile phone memory
A USB specification referred to as USB On-the-Go makes it possible to create additional storage space on an ‘un-expandable’ Android mobile by inserting a flash drive. To do this you’ll need a USB OTG cable and this tutorial.
12. Revive the mixed tape
Give the gift of old-school with a modern version of the 90’s ‘mix-tape’. Save a playlist on a flash drive and give it to somebody as a thoughtful gesture. Alternatively, simply save your favourite music of the moment and use these playlists as memorabilia – taking you back to specific time periods or significant events in your life.
13. Lock your computer
Your flash drive can act as a personal virtual key to your computer. Install one of many free programs like Predator on your flash drive, and enable your flash to act as a password would. If anybody tries to use that locked device sans flash drive key, an ‘access denied’ message will be displayed.
14. Run an additional OS
Have your cake and eat it by running an additional operating system of your choice purely on your flash drive. This allows you to keep the current version of your existing OS on your actual computer, while trying out an updated version (or different OS altogether) before you install it on your PC. (Not advisable unless you have a minimum of 16GB of free space on your flash drive.)
15. Set up a portable DropBox
A useful flash drive hack for traveling, flash drives are able to run Dropbox as a portable app. Simply install DropboxPortableAHK – an AutoHotkey script that supports this, and follow the step by step guide here.
16. Act as a boot disk for an OS
Use an old flash drive as an install disk for Windows, Linux or Mac. To do this you will need to create a bootable USB drive, and then copy the contents of an operating installation disc onto the drive. See more on how to do this here.
17. Speed up your computer
Run more programs simultaneously and without sacrificing speed, simply by using a flash drive as extra RAM to help your system function optimally. Any flash drive is capable of this, and details on how to do this can be found in the tutorial here.
18. Recycle it for electronic parts
For those with a passion for DIY of the electronic nature, flash drives (especially if you own a surplus of them) are an excellent source of inexpensive electronic parts. This 5 minute tutorial will show you how to use a USB host shield to hack USB devices – enabling them to be used with MIDI / game controllers as well as other devices.
19. Connect it to a custom length extender cable
Turns out, the composition of USB and Ethernet cables are frighteningly similar. As a result, it’s entirely possible to transform an 8-wire Cat5 (Ethernet) cable into an extension cable for 4-wire USB signals. See how here, and thank us later.
20. Run WordPress on a stick
This particular feature can prove extremely useful for those who need to do work on the go or travel a lot. Install and run WordPress on your flash drive, and enjoy working on your blog, anywhere, any time, while offline. See these detailed instructions on how to perform this flash drive hack yourself, here.
21. Store documents digitally while traveling
This one is fairly self explanatory. Keep a small USB on your key ring or in you purse containing saved copies of all your travel documents (passports, booking confirmations etc.) in digital format. If anything unfortunate happens to your hard copies, life will be made significantly easier with digital versions at your fingertips to refer to.
22. Run an iTunes library on the go
One of the many useful apps flash drives are able to run is Apple’s iTunes. A crafty solution for when traveling or accessing your iTunes music library from many different computers is to download iTunes to a flash drive as an app, and to operate it only from the drive (side-stepping the ‘no more than 5 devices synced to this iTunes account’ policy). In order to do this, you will need to create auto-run files for auto launching iTunes from the flash drive, as well as install iTunes on the flash drive itself, amongst a few other things. For a comprehensive guide on how to do this, see this tutorial.
23. Boost wireless reception
Improve your USB wi-fi reception drastically. Create a make-shift ‘satellite dish’ using a spaghetti strainer, metal colander or a tin can, and your USB wi-fi dongle.
24. Build a ‘plug & play’ Angry Birds slingshot
Bring real obsession to real life by creating a USB peripheral in the form of an Angry Birds slingshot. Take gaming to the next level and opt for the physical use of the sling shot over the mouse. Build your own with using these step-by-step instructions.
25. Run apps
Flash drives are capable of running apps / full programs on their own. Download the app and run the program on your device through flash, or boot it directly from your drive.
26. Do your downloading while your PC is in standby mode
Another pre-made USB flash drive hack ready for purchase is the modified USB flash drive named Somniloquy (which is the name given to the action of talking in your sleep). This USB device enables your computer to continue downloading while in standby mode. It was originally designed to help reduce the carbon footprint left by computers, knowing that many people leave their PCs on overnight so that it can sync, download, backup or update.
If all you need now are flash drives themselves, feel free to browse our extensive (and equally as exciting) range of flash drives here.