How to get the most from your USB Drives

I’d like to discuss the kinds of storage drives for PCs that are often called “USB Drives”. They have many different names. At present, these drives usually contain anywhere from 2GB to 256GB. I believe the first one I ever bought could store a maximum of 512MB and at the time I bought it, I thought that was an amazingly huge amount of storage.

They are often called USB drives because you plug them into a USB port and they read or write data. These drives tend to be very small and lightweight. They are very convenient for transferring data from one machine to another. They easily fit into a pocket and can easily be disguised as a key or key chain or whistle or compass or any one of many other devices.

There are a huge number of different companies that manufacture these drives. Among them are:
AData, Corsair, Kingston, Lexar, SanDisk, Seagate, Verbatim, Western Digital,

It’s amazing just how many different names these things have. I’ve seen them called any of the following names:
Click Drives, DataStick, Flash Drives, Jump Drives, Kingston Drives, Pen Drives, USB Drives,

Over the years, I’ve bought a great number of these things. At present, I have four or five and they range in size from 16GB to 128GB.

The following is an extract from a Wikipedia article titled “USB Drives”.

A USB flash drive, also known under a variety of other names, is a data storage device that includes flash memory with an integrated USB interface. USB flash drives are typically removable and rewritable, and physically much smaller than an optical disk. Most weigh less than 30 grams (1.1 oz).
<snip>
USB flash drives are often used for the same purposes for which floppy disks or CDs were once used, for storage, data back-up and transfer of computer files. They are smaller, faster, have thousands of times more capacity, and are more durable and reliable because they have no moving parts.


These drives have gone through several upgrades. They started out as Version 1.0 and were then upgraded to Version 2.0 and then Version 3.0. Each successive version was faster than the previous version. But, in my experience, they were not much faster.

My biggest problem with these things is the topic I would most like to discuss in this thread. That is the speed at which data can be written to these devices or read from these devices. I’ve seen them advertised with many different stats as to how fast they can read and write. But, in my experience, I have never seen speeds that are anywhere close to the advertised speeds.

In my experience, most all these devices read data from a PC hard drive and writes to the USB drive at speeds around 10 to 15 MB/sec. They can also read data from the device and writes to a PC hard drive at speeds around 5 to 10 MB/sec. I know those numbers are very different from the advertised numbers. So, I’d like to ask you all if those speeds are in line with the kinds of speeds you get?

Several years ago, I bought one USB drive with a capacity of 32 GB and to this day, it reads and writes data much faster than any other drive I’ve ever owned. I don’t know why. I have no idea why it is so much faster than all the other USB drives I’ve ever owned. But I sure do wish that I knew why and that I could find drives that transferred data at comparable speeds. This one drive was manufactured by Verbatim. But every other Verbatim drive I have ever owned seems to read and write at the same speed as all other drives. I would say the average “read time” and “write time” for most all drives ranges from about 10 MB/sec to 15 MB/sec. Version 2.0 of these drives seems to be significantly faster than Version 1.0 - but not much faster. Version 3.0 likewise seems faster than Version 2.0 - but again, not much faster. If Version 1.0 transfers data at an average speed of 10 MB/sec, then Version 2.0 would do that at an average speed of about 12.5 MB/sec and Version 3.0 would do it at an average speed of about 15 MB/sec.

This one particular drive (that I think of as my “super drive”) reads data from the PC hard drive and writes it to the USB device at speeds around 15 to 20 MB per sec. It reads data from the USB device and writes it to a PC hard drive at speeds around 25 to 30 MB/sec.

One very important thing to know however, is that in order to get the full speeds of a Version 2.0 USB drive, it must be plugged into a PC Port that supports Version 2.0. I think many people never realize that all the USB ports on their PC may be a lower version than their USB Drive. So, they go and spend some good money on a Version 3.0 drive but they never realize that if they plug that drive into a Version 2.0 port, their transfer speeds will be limited to Version 2.0.

In other words, the transfer speed is limited to the slowest link in the chain. You must be certain that you know for each of your ports, just what version of USB that port supports. Otherwise you are just wasting your money on advanced USB drives.

If you do not take any other advice away from this thread, I sure do hope you take that advice.

In the above post, I meant to say that if you only take one piece of information away from this thread, I hope it is the info I stated above.

That is that you are wasting your money if you buy a Version 3.0 drive but don’t use a Version 3.0 port on your PC. You won’t get the speeds that you would expect from a Version 3.0 drive plugged into a Version 3.0 port. Your drive will be limited to the Version 2.0 speeds because it is plugged into a Version 2.0 port. I hope that I have explained that satisfactory. If you have any doubts, please make a post and ask for some clarification.

So, you should be sure you know just what speeds all your ports are. Specifically if you have some ports that are supposedly faster than others, it’s important for you to know exactly which of your ports are the fastest and it’s important that you can identify exactly which of your ports are the fastest ports and use them with the USB drive of comparable speed. Otherwise you are just wasting your money.

Cool story, bro.

Also some USB ports are chained together, so plug a USB 1 device into one then the rest in that USB chain drops to USB 1 speed. I don’t know if this is common any more, but if you use a USB hub you can expect everything to drop to the speed of the slowest device plugged into it.

YIKES!!!

I have been experiencing something similar to that. I’ll have to pay more attention to it from now on.

Thank you so much for posting that. I really appreciate knowing about that.

Unless I’m moving massive amounts of data, I don’t worry about throughput. I have several external hard drives connected via USB. None are used in a time-critical manner so USB speed is irrelevant to me. When it does become relevant is when I need to move big ISO files and/or defrag the external drive. In that case, for the former I find others things to do during the file transfer. For the latter, I defrag overnight.