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Have a stash of old USB drives lying around? Let’s make them great again!

Hello once again fellow readers and fixers! We hope you’re all keeping safe and well during quite a difficult time. We have shared quite a number of ideas about reusing and repurposing computers and different hardware components, but this time we want to share some reuse ideas about something that has of late become increasingly unloved in an era of a myriad of streaming services; USB drives.

Chances are, we have a stash of USB drives that are left in drawers, in drawers, or otherwise just left on the side, relegated to becoming mere magnets for dust and other kinds of debris. So, why not dust them off and start making use of them again? Here are a few ideas to eke the maximum possible useful life out of old USB drives.

Fancy some entertainment on the go?

Try loading up your USB drive with some games! There are a range of portable versions of games that you can try out on your computer, ranging from racing games to puzzle games – and keep hard drive/SSD space free for essential applications and updates. Just plug in the drive, fire up whichever game you want to play, and then unplug it again when finished.

You can also load your USB drive with your favourite music, videos and movies, and play them while you’re out and about, whether on your phone, your laptop, or even in your car.

For extra security for your computer…

…why not use your old USB drive as a security key? The way this works is that when you unplug your USB drive from your computer, the system automatically locks itself, so other people cannot gain access to your files and other data without your USB drive. This can be useful as a way to protect sensitive personal information from unauthorised access, or otherwise to stop other people from looking at embarrassing videos and photos that you don’t want them to see!

The same principle can also be applied as a form of parental control, where you can set limits on how much time your kids can spend on your computer, and block access to site that contain inappropriate material.

Damaged casing? Why not improvise?

If the casing for your USB drive is looking worse for wear, but the drive itself is still working fine, then it is worth protecting the circuit board by creating new casing for it. The easiest way to do so is to use mouldable adhesives like Sugru’s mouldable glue or Loctite’s Kintsuglue; these can be found relatively cheaply online or at arts and crafts brick-and-mortar retailers. Simply open up a packet of mouldable adhesive of your desired colour, gently mould it around the circuit board, smooth out any rough areas, and leave it to cure for a day.

If you’re looking for extra inspiration, there are numerous ideas for DIY USB drive casings that other people have shared to the world; you can browse their creations and choose one that you like. Or if you are really creative, you can try turning whatever suitable small everyday objects you have lying around into a casing for your bare USB drive. The possibilities are endless!

Dead or defective USB drive? No problem!

If your USB drive doesn’t work anymore, then there are still other ways that you can use it for something else. The casings from dead or defective USB drives can be used for various things, such as labels for plant and herb pots and storage containers, and decorations like wind chimes and ornaments. The flash chips can be turned into different kinds of jewellery, such as pendants, earrings, necklaces and bracelets.

If you prefer to part with the old USB drive instead, then rather than simply throw it into the bin, you can send it in to a local computer IT and recycling facility or programme, which processes old or broken various computers and IT equipment in ways that help reduce the amount of electronic waste to ends up in landfill sites. It’s worth making sure that any data stored on the USB drive is completely erased if possible before doing so, to prevent potentially sensitive data from being retrieved.

Those are just some of the ways you can repurpose and reuse old USB drives. It’s worth maximising the useful life of USB drives, just like with computers and other IT equipment and accessories, since doing so is better for the environment, and better for communities as a whole.

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