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20 October 2008

AskMeCha: Have you washed a USB drive? I mean, like, with a washing machine.

Did it work afterwards? Got any tips?
I've never washed mine, but I can see how easily it could happen.

However, my USB drive does spend a lot of time at the bottom of a messenger bag, mingling with Kashi bar crumbs, pencil shavings, dribbles from my Thermos or lunch container, and that mysterious pocket fluff. It still functions, leading me to believe they are relatively tough.

Have you tried just, you know, plugging it in? Or are you still waiting for it to dry?

Data point (perhaps useless): while canoeing last week, my significant other leaned precariously to the right, dumping the canoe and all its contents (me, purse, fresh apple pie) into the creek. The pie survivied (wax paper carton, wow), but my digital camera appeared to be down for the count. It didn't work for a full day and a half. But after letting it air out that long, it revived itself, and no pictures were lost. So the memory card managed to get wet and survive. It wasn't in the water as long as a wash cycle, though.

Good luck! Losing data is miserable, so I hope you didn't lose any.
posted by Miko 20 October | 23:16
yes, no, get a new one
posted by matteo 20 October | 23:46
How dirty was it? One time I wanted toast with jam but all the knives were dirty. Next thing ya know, my ipod nano is in the dishwasher!
posted by spork 20 October | 23:49
I haven't plugged it in yet... just got the call from the SO at home, asking the question. The drive, which I'd thought had got dropped down behind a chest of drawers, has magically appeared in the grass below the washing line. All I really know is that "it's a little rusty".

I'm thinking I'll give it a couple of days on the kitchen windowsill, and then I'll plug it into the cheapest thing I have with a USB port, with my fingers crossed.

There's no important data on it that doesn't exist in several other places, so that's OK.
posted by pompomtom 20 October | 23:57
The only thing I can think of os to dry it out in the microwave.

posted by seanyboy 21 October | 01:33
I have a 4Gb thumb drive that I have accidentally washed twice. It still works fine: I guess it is pretty well-sealed. Both times I just left it a few days after washing before trying it out.
posted by misteraitch 21 October | 02:11
As long as you don't plug it in while it's wet, it should be fine. There's nothing inside one of those things that absorbs water.
posted by dg 21 October | 03:48
I'll go with "works". I've done this several times to a couple of sticks. Like you say, give it a day or three in indirect sun and let it air out.

posted by lysdexic 21 October | 06:55
If there's rust on the usb plug portion it could flake off in whatever device you plug it into. I'd clean it off first, just in case.
posted by kellydamnit 21 October | 07:48
James Fallows has a whole series of posts on his USB drive that he washed. I think the fix involved WD-40.
posted by ibmcginty 21 October | 08:06
...leading me to share trivia I've always enjoyed, that the "WD" in WD-40 stands for "water displacement." I haven't checked that for truth, but it makes sense.
posted by Miko 21 October | 08:35
I've washed one before. It worked fine after it had dried completely.

One thing to keep in mind is that one part of circuit board manufacture involves running them through an industrial dishwasher (or pretty dang close). Let it dry on its own or put it in the oven with only the pilot light on (make sure you hang a note on the oven knob so that someone doesn't pre-heat your drive).
posted by plinth 21 October | 09:01
Yep, a few times. Let it dry a while, it'll be fine.
posted by disclaimer 21 October | 09:48
I'm pretty sure it's "Water disperser."

Wikipedia says Miko's correct (surprise surprise!).
posted by Eideteker 21 October | 10:04
yes, and it was really clean afterwards cuz all the porn was gone.
posted by quonsar 21 October | 10:23
Can't say I didn't warn you || WTF is wrong with this picture?