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My girlfriend's grampa alternates between two computers and he sometimes travels. He wants his will, a few other other important documents, and maybe a few hundred photos always available, but does not want any cloud solution of any kind. He's not very technical and becomes overwhelmed sometimes, so we need a compromise between reasonable security vs. a process he can work with and remember.

A scenario he's comfortable with is a flash drive on his keychain (with an offsite backup he can update as needed). Important features are ruggedness and reliability, as he's very active for his age. We don't need high capacity, and encryption would be outside the bubble of manageability for him. His security will have to be all physical; he guards his keychain like a hawk and never loses it (nor forgets it), so that seems like a reasonable place to focus.

I'd like to be able to recommend a good drive designed for keychain use, ideally with a metal casing that resists denting and keeps out dirt and dust (a presence in one of the environments he travels to). But I also want high reliability, not something from aliexpress that looks great but will conk out in a few months. In the past I've seen some that come in an aluminum cylinder with an end that unscrews, and that would be fine since he will only access it occasionally (having to spend a minute or so to physically prepare the drive is not a problem). I really don't want one of those gimmicky ones where a supposed "cap" swivels around on a pivot point. I've used those and found them annoying because they swivel around in the pocket.

So I'm looking for recommendations from this community for (a) a physical configuration that would be convenient yet rugged to live in the pocket of his jeans for the rest of his life, and (b) brands that you've found to have high reliability.

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    Please look up the part about the will. It may not be legally binding in your grampa's jurisdiction from a USB stick. Maybe you could just store a reference to a physical will? I suggest asking that bit on law SE (See law.stackexchange.com/questions/24835/… as a starting point. Problem seems to be the signature.
    – Marcel
    Jun 15, 2023 at 6:30

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Almost any USB flash drive, or even µSD card, should serve the purpose. Pick one from a well-known manufacturer. My favorite style USB drive is a tiny stub, such as this PNY.

For extra security:

  • Put a second copy of the data on each device.

  • Use multiple devices -- even the most rugged can get lost. And for that reason, if there is personal identifying information (PII), consider encryption. A zip file can be password protected. Zip archives also have the advantage of using a checksum to validate data.

  • Because a µSD card has bare connectors, wrap it in aluminum foil to protect from electrostatic discharge.

However, realize that flash memory is not eternal. Rewrite all data yearly, or when it changes, for safety.

BTW, I've had both µSD cards and USB drive go through the laundry with a full wash and dry cycle wash. After gently finishing up with a hair dryer, all worked! (What can I say? I forget to empty my pockets.)

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    Additionally, I would recommend getting a rather small capacity. The hope is, that they are more on the safe (not bleeding) edge when it comes to reliability. Also consider what is known as "bit rot".
    – Marcel
    Jun 15, 2023 at 6:26
  • As @Marcel states, data is stored as static charges in flash RAM. Smaller physical size of each cell in higher density IC's leads to less electrical capacity, and a greater chance that one cosmic ray could flip a bit. Jun 15, 2023 at 16:41

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