Help a Lost Flash Drive Find Its Way Home

Last Updated Jun 3, 2009 11:08 AM EDT

A couple years back I lost a flash drive at, all of places, a rest stop. A few days later, a seriously good Samaritan contacted me to say she'd found my drive and would gladly return it (and cover the cost of postage, no less).

Now for the embarrassing part: She obtained my e-mail address by digging through various documents on the drive. Nothing mission-critical, mind you, but I wished she'd had an easier (and less-intrusive) means of finding me. Something like a simple, easy-to-spot text file with my contact info. Here's how to create one.


Taking a cue from smart cell-phone owners who add an "@IF FOUND" entry to their address books, I created an "@IF FOUND" text file that sits in my flash drive's root directory. In theory, it'll be the one of the first things someone sees upon accessing the drive.

Here's what it says inside the file:
You found my flash drive! Thanks a million for being honest and returning it to me. Please call me at 248-[redacted] or e-mail bizhacks@gmail.com. There's a reward waiting!
Obviously a reward is optional, but I think something like a $5 Starbucks card is the perfect gesture for something like this.

Now, if your drive is password-protected (as yours probably should be if you're carrying around even remotely sensitive business documents), this tip won't help. Unless, that is, you password-protect your folders while leaving the drive itself accessible. That way the finder could still open the text file, but nothing else. (Need help with that? Here's how to create a protected partition on your flash drive.)

Certainly there's no guarantee that this will help you recover a lost drive -- but I think it'll improve your odds significantly. Agree? Disagree? I eagerly await your comments.

In the meantime, we've got some other killer tips on flash drives you're sure to enjoy.
  • Rick Broida On Twitter»

    Rick Broida, a technology writer for more than 20 years, is the author of more than a dozen books. In addition to writing CNET's The Cheapskate blog, he contributes to CNET's iPhone Atlas.

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