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Thread: Cold Weather USB Flash

  1. #1

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    Cold Weather USB Flash

    This is a sort of a review, but not a recommendation. Just a suggestion for a product category you might search for and buy one if you need it. Other brands might do as well or better.


    We're back in cold weather times again here. One thing that has been driving me nuts is to get into the car and find that my music won't start playing. The "radio" (infotainment thingy) displays "No media" or somesuch thing.

    The problem is that most flash drives don't operate below 32F.

    I had been pulling out the USB flash drive, warming it in my hand, then plugging it back in. A minor nuisance but I thought there had to be something better.


    Did some digging and found the Verbatim ToughMAX product line:

    Extremely durable the ultimate in data protection
    - Crush resistant up to 5,000 lbs*
    - Water resistant up to 100 ft.*
    - Temperature resistant from -13F to 300F*

    Made from proprietary KyronMAX material revolutionary, high-strength plastic
    Slim, stylish design perfect for on-the-go use
    Password protection software available for download**
    Limited lifetime warranty

    * Based on 3rd party testing. Actual performance may vary.
    ** Works with Windows operating systems only.
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    An ugly spud. The cap can be attached to the butt end while the device is in use, though it could still fall off and get lost I suppose. Hard to see in those images but there is a hole you could thread some sort of lanyard through, etc.


    Results:

    Better than I'd hoped, not as good as I had wished. Seems to work as hoped down to 25F, however below that I have to unplug it and plug it back in for it to be recognized. That seems consistent.

    This is better than pulling it out and warming it first, but not seamless. So far I've only tested it down to 10F.


    I only posted this because I was surprised that nothing turned up when I searched on this automotive tech issue.

  2. #2

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    Re: Cold Weather USB Flash

    Ok, just retested.

    The actual message is "No device connected."

    Weather report says 3F, car itself once started reports 7F. Had to unplug/replug as before but no need to warm the ToughMAX in my hand before plugging it back in.

    Note: At higher temperatures music play from the USB Flash Drive always starts automatically with no manual intervention as long as that source was the last one selected. Just in case that wasn't clear.

    So not perfect, but an improvement. I could hope for better, since the device is plugged into a "hidden" USB socket in the center console storage between the front seats, so I have to slide a cup holder back to reach it.

  3. #3
    Administrator Steve R Jones's Avatar
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    Re: Cold Weather USB Flash

    What happens when you take the flash drive into the house with you after you've completed your last trip

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    Re: Cold Weather USB Flash

    I rarely take it into the house, except to add a new album or maybe some podcasts. If I do that and plug it back in next drive it picks up where it was. The music source is "sticky" if that's what you are asking.

    Tested again at 0F (car's dash reported 6F, maybe I need to see if it requires calibration?). Same, same: unplug/replug and it plays.

    The unplug/replug is a nuisance, but minor. Fairly easy to "hit" the socket again that way compared to unplugging and warming it first where I'd normally pull my hand out of the deep well the socket is in while warming up the device.

    Here's a pic that shows that hole a little better:

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    Last edited by dilettante; Jan 26th, 2019 at 11:50 AM.

  5. #5

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    Re: Cold Weather USB Flash

    Might have to bring it in anyway, as well as start the car a few times. We're going to be getting down below the -13F figure in the next few days.

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    Re: Cold Weather USB Flash

    A SanDisk Cruzer USB drive from 2011, with 4GB of storage capacity.
    A USB flash drive, also known as a thumb drive, pen drive, gig stick, flash stick, jump drive, disk key, disk on key (after the original M-Systems DiskOnKey drive from 2000),[1] flash-drive, memory stick (not to be confused with the Sony Memory Stick), USB key, USB stick or USB memory,[a] is a data storage device that includes flash memory with an integrated USB interface. It is typically removable, rewritable and much smaller than an optical disc. Most weigh less than 1 oz (28 grams)
    Last edited by si_the_geek; Jan 28th, 2019 at 09:17 AM.

  7. #7

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    Re: Cold Weather USB Flash

    I've tried a number of Sandisk Cruzer and Kingston Traveler devices and all of them crap out around 32F (0C) and need to be warmed up in the hand before they will work in cold weather.

    One the other hand this ToughMAX device only needs to be unplugged and plugged back in below ~25F. So far the coldest I've tested is -2F but I'll have more opportunities in the next few days.


    I think I have the car's own thermometer reading figured out too. When sitting with the engine running the sensor must get warmed a little because while driving down the road it seems to reflect the outside air temperature more accurately.

  8. #8
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    Re: Cold Weather USB Flash

    I was actually surprised to see some brands do list the min operating temp at 0*C. It must be an issue with the USB controller electronics since there isn't anything I can think of within the flash memory that should cause that. Photographers regularly use a variety of flash cards in sub-zero (F) temps.

  9. #9

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    Re: Cold Weather USB Flash

    It may be more about the lowest temperatures they want to guarantee operation at. To set a lower standard might mean that testing would produce more "failing" parts, reducing manufacturing yield.

    SanDisk's site says:

    SanDisk has tested its SD, SDHC, microSD and microSDHC memory cards under a variety of tough conditions. Our standard, SanDisk Ultra, SanDisk Extreme, and SanDisk Mobile Ultra lines (up to 32 GB) are capable of withstanding the following conditions:

    ...

    SanDisk SD, SDHC, microSD and microSDHC memory cards are capable of withstanding operating temperatures from -13F to 185F (-25C to 85 C).
    That may lend some support to your suspicions about the rest of the electronics in a USB Flash device.

  10. #10
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    Re: Cold Weather USB Flash

    Quote Originally Posted by dilettante View Post
    ... Seems to work as hoped down to 25F, however below that I have to unplug it and plug it back in for it to be recognized. ...
    As one who likes to point out about reading the manual, I don't know what vehicle you have, but my car's manual would indicate that plugging in the device after starting the engine would be the expected practice anyway.
    Connect the USB device after turning
    on the engine. The USB device
    may become damaged if it is already
    connected when the ignition is
    turned on.The USB device may not
    operate properly if the car ignition
    is turned on or off with the USB
    device connected.

  11. #11
    Super Moderator Shaggy Hiker's Avatar
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    Re: Cold Weather USB Flash

    I'm a bit dubious about the upper end of that temperature range....though, if you ever reach that temperature in your car...whether or not your music is playing is probably not your biggest concern.

    The upper end of 90 C seems about right, because that's about where the silicon is supposed to start breaking down. I had no problem with an SD card that I ran through a dishwasher, but when I boiled it...that killed it. That ToughMax seems to be able to take a substantially higher temperature.
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  12. #12

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    Re: Cold Weather USB Flash

    None of the documentation for my car says anything about connecting USB devices after starting the engine.

    At warmer temperatures above about 25F it begins autoplaying the music from where it left off before, whether I start the engine or just go into accessory mode.

    The coldest I have actually tested was operation at -12F.

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