How to Rate USB Memory Stick Speed

Written by steven colbath
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How to Rate USB Memory Stick Speed
Flash drive benchmark tools are key to finding the fastest drive. (Thinkstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images)

Flash drives, or USB memory sticks, have become a common accessory for computer users. USB memory sticks are sold with a speed rating, and typically the faster the flash drive, the more the drive will cost. If you'd like to gauge whether you are getting your money's worth, check the speed of your drive now and then. This way you can see if it has issues such as dead memory or bad file allocations. Use these tools to check your USB drives.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Computer (laptop or desktop)
  • USB memory stick
  • Benchmark software

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  1. 1

    Check the USB version on the memory stick and computer. The USB version of each will determine the fastest possible transfer. The earliest and slowest version of the USB specification was version 1.1. This established the maximum transfer speed of 12 Mbit/sec for memory devices. This increased to 480 Mbit/sec in the USB 2.0 specification. The latest version, 3.0, has a transmission speed of up to 5 Gbits/sec.

    The slowest specification will determine the maximum transmission rate. USB version 3.0 memory sticks in a version 2.0 computer will typically be faster overall than a version 2.0 flash drive device.

  2. 2

    Install storage drive benchmark software such as Atto Disk Benchmark or Simpli Software HD Tach(see References). Most of these programs are written for use with Windows operating systems. You might need to give permission as administrator to install and operate these programs. Follow the instructions on the software website for installation of the new program. Be sure to look through the user guide for the software before beginning.

  3. 3

    Put the USB memory stick to be tested into a USB port on the testing computer. Prepare the USB memory stick for benchmarking by backing up all data on the stick, then emptying the stick of data. Be sure the data is securely backed up so it is not corrupted during the benchmark trials. Also be sure to note which drive letter was assigned to the memory stick when it was inserted.

  4. 4

    Start the benchmark software and follow the directions to run the test on the memory stick. Run the software, typically using the default settings for file size. Some software will also verify the actual capacity of the flash drive. The software will report the read and write speed for the USB memory stick. This can be compared to other flash drives, or to the tested drive after it has been used for a time to monitor performance. Use the same benchmark software to compare drives because different software will report different results.

Tips and warnings

  • No flash drive performs to the maximum speed of its USB version.
  • A typical USB 2.0 drive will read at 28 MB/s and write at 13 MB/s.
  • Many small files will read and write slower than one large file.
  • Back up data on a USB flash drive before testing the memory speed.

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