Although cloud services have made thumb drives a bit less useful for a lot of us, they're still a staple of every geek's toolkit because there are so many things you can do with them. If you've got one or four thumb drives sitting around and want to make sure they're put to good use, here are plenty of awesome things you can do with them.
Install, Recover And Backup Your Operating System
Thumb drives are potentially system lifesavers, as they can house all sorts of helpful utilities and can even act as a boot drive in case of emergency. Windows users should follow our complete guide to system salvaging with a thumb drive. Mac users will want to take the OS X Lion installer they downloaded from the Mac App Store (or that came with their computer) and create a thumb drive installer in case things go south. Linux users have the most options as many Linux distributions will fit on almost any thumb drive.
Give Each Drive Its Own Purposes
Thumbs can store a mess of files, or they can have a single purpose that makes them a lot more useful. This way you never have to figure out what files are on what drives. Assign duties to specific drives, give them a label, and you can just grab the one(s) you need when you're heading out the door. Alternatively, thumb drives with specific purposes or themes can make a great geeky gift.
Make A Modern Mix Tape
Some thumb drives start as mix tapes, so it's not a far stretch to repurpose a drive you already have for the purpose. You can include a selection of MP3s and offer it up as a gift, or create several folder-based playlists for your own use when you want to listen to music easily from any computer.
Keep One Drive Completely Empty
Sometimes the best use of a thumb drive is to have it ready to copy files from one computer to another, and doing that requires empty space. If you've got a few thumb drives, plan to keep one completely clean and in your tech survival kit (or just your go bag) so you'll be prepared for any unexpected file transfers. I have an 8GB drive always ready to go for this purpose. It only cost a few dollars to buy and it hardly takes up any space. Having it around ensures I always have the ability to port files between machines if I need to, and I end up using it often for that purpose. While you can choose to format the drive however you like, I'd recommend choosing a file system format that works cross-platform (like exFAT) so most computers won't have difficulty reading it.
How do you like to use your thumb drives? If you've got a few clever uses, share 'em in the comments!