Whenever you buy a new piece of computer hardware, whether it’s a CPU, memory, hard drive etc, one of the factors that will help to determine your purchasing decision would be the performance of the component. With hard drives and SSD drives, you will be looking at capacity and read/write speeds, and it’s a similar story when you purchase a removable memory card or USB flash drive. Apart from having to worry about USB drives being the full capacity and not being fake if you buy from somewhere like eBay, the performance of a flash drive can vary by massive amounts depending on manufacturer and the type of memory used.
With devices now reaching 64GB and beyond, if you buy a slow USB flash drive with a high capacity, it could literally take hours to fill it up completely. This is not only frustrating but could be a waste of money if you have to go and buy something a bit faster for your needs. Many people buy solely on the storage size of the device for the price and do not take into account how fast or slow the drive is. But if you already have some USB flash drives in hand, do you know how fast they actually are at reading and writing? If a 16GB drive only writes at 3-4MB/s it could take a while to fill, whereas if you have a fast USB3 flash drive, it could do the same copying tasks in only a few minutes. Here’s a selection of 6 free tools to benchmark your USB flash drives or media cards so you know just how fast they are.
USBDeview is a portable utility by Nirsoft that lists or allows you to uninstall current and any previous USB devices attached to your computer. Another feature is the option to benchmark a flash drive and optionally publish the results to the Nirsoft Speed Tests webpage for viewing and comparison. Simply find your USB device which should be highlighted in green with a device type of “Mass Storage”, right click on it and select Speed Test (Ctrl+T). Click Start Test and it will sequentially read and write a 100MB file to get the scores. Then you can choose to publish the test results if you wish by clicking the button and ticking the box to agree to publish the results.
SpeedOut is a small, simple and portable tool that can quickly measure the sequential read and write speed of your flash drive. The program runs the tests at a low level (needs to be run as admin) which means the scores aren’t affected by the drive file system. Simply choose your USB drive from the drop down if you have more than one, and SpeedOut will run 4 passes for both reading and writing tests, then display the average for each. The scores can be saved or copied by right clicking on the title bar. SpeedOut is non destructive meaning no files are overwritten and the flash drive doesn’t need formatting to run the test.
3. USB Flash Benchmark
This is a plain and simple speed testing program for USB flash drives which will run a full set of benchmark tests for speeds from 1K chunks up to 16MB, and show the results in a graph. USB Flash Benchmark also has a companion website called USBFlashSpeed.com where your results can be uploaded from the program to go into the database. You can browse all the submitted flash drive results on the website to see which drives are the best performing. Just run the portable program, select your flash drive, tick the “Send report” box if you wish to submit your results, and press the button. Be patient as the test does take several minutes to complete.
4. Check Flash
The main function of Check Flash is to scan a USB flash drive for possible errors, but it also runs a read and write speed test while doing so. In addition, using the more advanced logical or physical Access types allows flash drive erasing, backup and restore and also partition editing. The “Use temporary file” method is non destructive and will fill all the remaining space on the drive with a temporary file and then perform an error check on it while recording the read and write speeds. Because all the available space is utilized, this test could take a while on empty larger flash drives. Check Flash is portable and also has some command line options in Switches.txt.
CrystalDiskMark is a good all round tool for testing the performance of hard drives, SSD drives and also USB flash drives. It’s also the tool we used to test RAM disks for their read and write speeds. For testing USB flash drives we recommend dropping the default test size to 50MB or 100MB and maybe the number of passes to 1 or maybe 2, then it won’t take so long to complete the test. After selecting the USB drive from the drop down list, you can run all 4 tests by clicking All or select a Sequential, 512K, 4K or 4K QD32 (which isn’t really needed for USB) test to run individually. Portable and installer multilingual versions are available.
6. Flash Drive/Card Tester
Flash Drive/Card Tester is more of a tool to check your removable USB flash drives, Compact Flash cards or SD cards etc for read and write errors, but also shows the speed of the drive while it’s being tested. It’s the only tool here that specifically needs installation and is able to perform a read test, a destructive write test, or a combined read, write and compare test. The result will show any recoverable or fatal read and write errors along with the final average speed.
Note: Although these tools are either designed specifically for testing USB flash drives, or good at at it, there are many other programs around to test the performance of hard disk drives and SSD drives that can also measure USB flash drive speeds. These include HD Tune, ATTO Disk Benchmark, Disk Throughput Tester, AS SSD and etc.