GBM How-To #28 : Speeding up your external USB drive


How many external USB drives do you have installed? I had to use both hands to count the ones attached to my server. But what’s that got to do with mobility you ask? Well, nothing. However, most of us have at least one USB drive attached to your system for backups, storage of media files, etc. This how-to will show you how to milk every bit of performance out of your external USB attached disk drive.


The following How-To is for those that are experienced users and understand the risk of data loss that may result. Please remember to NOT perform this on any system that contains any data you are not willing to lose. I have used this for months on a three systems without issue. An SBS Server (6 drives) , a Vista Ultimate Media Center (3 drives) and on my Lenovo X60 Tablet Docking Station (2 drives). Please note that these systems are adequately protected with power backup AND tape backup systems. Understand that if the power or cabling on any of the attached devices is removed BEFORE the system is shut down or the device stopped, there is a VERY REAL risk of loss of data or drive corruption. Disclaimer stated… here we go.


GBM How-To Series #28 : Speeding up your external USB drive

speedyharddriveWrite caching is what hard drives use to help them be faster than they could otherwise be. Did I hear someone ask “what is write cache”? Glad you asked. Think of cache like this; data that’s normally written to disk by the CPU is first written into a special area of fast memory utilized by the CPU called “cache”. During idle machine cycles, the data are written from the cache onto disk. Write back caches improve performance, because a write to the high-speed cache is faster than to normal RAM or a mechanical disk. This does not always apply to newer SSD technology (Solid State Disk) drives where write caching might actually slow performance.

Write caching on external devices that are removed frequently such USB thumb drives this technology is disabled because you could corrupt the file system if data is not successfully written before it’s removed. However, devices like external USB hard drives that for the most part are kept plugged in, this is not really absolutely necessary. Remember you MUST maintain power and cabling integrity for this to be safe!

Bullet_1 Click on the Start button, then right click on Computer and select Manage.

Bullet_2 Click on Device Manager on the Computer Management (Local) menu. Remember you can get back to the defaults by clicking Restore Defaults

Bullet_3 Expand the Disk drives group and locate your desired external hard drive in the list.

Bullet_4 Right click on the drive and select Properties then on the Policies tab, select Optimize for performance.

Bullet_5 REMEMBER that there is a real danger to losing data if a power failure occurs or if the cable is removed BEFORE the write process is completed!

There you have it. Your new and improved speedy external USB hard drive.