I have just about reached the capacity of my laptops internal Solid State Hard Drive (Sandisk SD8SNAT-256G-1006) and I looking for some additional storage without having to buy a new machine.

You can now buy flash drive's with 256 gb of memory for next to nothing. My thoughts are to store all my data including shapefiles, PostGIS and SpatialLite databases on a flash drive which will also be useful if I want to work with the data on another machine.

Can people please advise on the downsides to this kind of set up? Will QGIS be able to process the data of a cheap external at the same rate/ efficiency as it can on my existing internal?

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    From (bad) experiences, usb sticks are just a mean of transporting data and should not be considered safe (even though they are most of the time, they do break). Issues can range from simply stopping working (bad contact?) to physical damage. It is safer/faster to use an external hard disk as answered by @Shelby – JGH Aug 14 '18 at 14:58
  • be sure to use USB3.0 its faster than 2.0 – NULL.Dude Aug 14 '18 at 15:10
  • cloud storage is cheaper than usb and backed-up with major vendors of data storage. – Mapperz Aug 14 '18 at 16:06

Processing data off of a flash drive usually goes a lot slower than when the data is saved locally. If I'm doing major processing I usually copy my files over to the local drive before I start working. You could also consider using a larger external hard drive, rather than a flash drive. It may cost more but it should allow you to hold more data and work faster.

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