Computers adapt to multiple types of temporary storage, from plug-and-play hard drives to optical discs such as CDs and DVDs. Given their rising capacities and plummeting prices, USB flash memory devices have joined the list of affordable, spacious removable media. Whereas earlier systems might lack enough ports to accept multiple devices simultaneously or might not recognize them, today's desktop or mobile computer bristles with plugin storage, to which you can download photos from online storage sites or picture-taking media.

External Storage

Your computer treats any properly functioning external storage medium that you plug in to it as a potential destination to which to save files from your applications, whether those files consist of documents you create or documents you download. If the files come from a camera or camcorder, you can copy them straight to a flash drive connected to your computer instead of to your system's hard drive, all without removing the storage card from your camera. To make the necessary connection to your system, hook up your camera with a USB cable or use its wireless capabilities, if it offers them. Your Web browser doesn't distinguish among the drives and media it sees attached to your computer, either. The sole complication you face in using flash drives as download destinations may consist of the need to override your browser's default storage locations.

Place Files Here

Depending on how you use and set up your Web browser, it may recognize multiple standard locations to which to save downloaded files. Some browsers accept overall defaults as part of their preferences, with the ability to override those defaults on a case-by-case basis. Some automatically use a downloads folder established by your operating system. Others defer to the last location to which you downloaded. Provided that you plug in your flash drive before you start acquiring your files, it can serve as a destination just like any internal or external storage medium.

Best Uses

The act of writing data to a flash drive contributes to the process of wearing it out. If you're using someone else's computer to download files and want to simplify the process, a flash drive makes a convenient medium to which to save the your items. Given other alternatives -- a regular portable hard drive, for example -- you may not want to use a flash drive as your first-choice storage, especially if you constantly use it in this fashion. Reading from flash drives doesn't shorten their working lives, so if you need a medium from which to upload files, one of these portable solid-state media may be ideal.

Other Considerations

Measure the download-destination suitability of a flash drive by the size of the items you are downloading. Even a short list of operating system or application updates, installers and customizers can equal the storage capacity of smaller flash drives. If you know in advance that your downloads will include big files or a large number of equally large image documents, verify that you have access to a suitable-sized storage medium with enough free space to accommodate your target files without filling it dangerously full. To round out your strategic planning, avoid using flash drives of unknown origin. The drive someone offers you as a convenience may carry a piece of malware that infects your computer.