Fakes and Counterfeits

Don’t get taken with a fake or counterfeit drive.  The majority of USB and SD card flash drives that are unknown brands, no-names and most drives appearing on auction sites are fakes. Price is no indicator, although those too-good to be true are always fakes.

Scammers have taken rejected drives and/or low capacity drives and modified the drive to look like a far larger capacity drive. In reality, only a small part of the drive is useable. Sticking the drive in Windows or a MAC shows the purchased capacity, and you can even write a huge amount of data to the drive without any apparent errors. When you go to read the data from the fake drive, much of the data is missing or corrupted.

The second common trick we’ve seen is labeling a slow USB 2.0 drive as a USB 3.0 or 3.1 drive. They may even use the newer ‘blue’ 3.0 style connector, but inside it’s a crappy slow 2.0 drive. White or black connectors are normally associated with USB 2.0. Even if they use the right hardware, the fake drive could be a fraction of the stated speed.

Blue USB 3.0 Connector

Blue normally indicates USB 3.0/3.1, and some USB 3.1 connectors also use a teal color.

The last issue with fake drives is they often have a limited lifetime. This is not much of an issue for storing music that is updated infrequently but can be critical for storing dashcam video.

Scammers are hoping you do not discover the drive is far smaller or slower than you thought until long after they are gone, and you can’t get a refund. This is a rampant problem and it’s so bad that you should only buy a drive from a reputable company like Amazon, BestBuy, Costco, Newegg, etc. and stay away from a brand you never heard of before.  Even well-known drive companies have seen many counterfeit drives flooding the market through auction sites.

There are a few free tools to detect the true working size of a drive, but they require the drive to be empty, as they need to write data to confirm the true capacity.  I like RMPrepUSB as it’s a bit quicker than others I’ve tried. When installing be sure to select English. To use it, if the drive is greater than 128 GB, go to Settings and click on List Large Drives > 128 GiB. Next, select the USB drive in the window (usually only the one drive), and then select the Quick Size Test button. The test overwrites data, so be sure there is nothing you need to keep on the USB drive.

Opening Screen of RMPrep in Windows

After several prompts, a command box opens where the test runs. There are long periods with no visible activity. This is normal. After every 5% of the test completes, an estimate of the time remaining appears.

RMPrep size test 5 % complete

It may take an hour or more to test a large drive, but when complete, it confirms if the USB drive size is real.

Drive Size Confirmed OK