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I'm looking for a generic word to describe (removable) computer storage such as CDs, USB sticks, floppies etc which is as clear as possible to non-technical people. It doesn't have to clearly distinguish removable from fixed. "Media" and "storage" are both candidates, but I am not sure how natural they sound to the average person. "Disks" is my current choice, but using it for USB sticks seems to me to be stretching it slightly.

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Media is the correct word for that. You could add an adjective or two and call it storage media if you thought that would help- or persistent storage media. Those are all non-technical English words that ought to be recognizable, especially in context, by any average computer user.

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    I've seen the term "removable media" used. I'd avoid using the adjective persistent, as that might get people thinking about the difference between, say, read-only and rewritable CDs. – J.R. May 11 '12 at 9:57
  • @J.R. I suppose that's a valid point. When I use the term persistent it is to differentiate between storage that requires power to maintain the information vs storage that persists data even when power is removed. – Jim May 11 '12 at 15:58
  • Jim, no argument from me. I just think the term has potential to confuse, particularly if one assumes it will be universally interpreted in a certain way. – J.R. May 11 '12 at 16:07
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My two suggestions would be:

  • Peripheral storage
  • Removable media

No matter what term you use, though, I'd recommend providing a either formal definition, or a parenthetical for example list. Don't assume everyone will automatically interpret the term in the same way. As technology evolves, it becomes more and more difficult to coin a brief term and have it universally recognized, with no potential for ambiguity or misinterpretation. The terms above could be used to describe an antiquated floppy disk, a CD, a DVD-RW, a USB memory stick, a flash card, a SIM card, or a 250 GB portable hard drive. For that matter, a digital camera, an .mp3 player, or even a cell phone could be used for portable digital storage.

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Maybe storage device would also give the same meaning.

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