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. If you buy a slow USB flash drive with a high capacity, it could literally take hours to fill it up completely.But if you already have some USB flash drives in hand, do you know how fast they actually are at reading and writing? A drive that only writes at 5-6MB/s could take a while to copy large files like movies, whereas a fast USB3 flash drive could do the same copying tasks much faster. Here’s a selection of 8 free tools to benchmark your USB flash drives or media cards to give you an idea of 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. One of the good things about USBDeview is it’s still actively supported and updated.
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 used to have a companion website to upload results to a database, but that website is no longer available.
Just run the portable program, select your flash drive and press the button. The test will begin with the 16MB test first and continue down to the 1KB test. Be patient as the test does take several minutes to complete. You may as well uncheck the report button as it doesn’t do anything anymore.
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. Portable, installer, and themed versions are available.
For testing slower USB flash drives we recommend dropping the default test size to 50MB/100MB and maybe the number of passes to 1 or maybe 2, then it won’t take so long to complete the test. For faster drives that can be increased to 500MB/1GB. After selecting the USB drive from the drop down list, you can run all 4 tests by clicking All or select a Sequential/4K test to run individually. For USB drives storing media like music, video or photos, the 4K scores are probably not going to be needed.
5. 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. The file will be limited to 4GB for FAT/FAT32. 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.
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.
The program is able to perform a read test, a destructive write test, or a combined read, write and compare test. As Flash Drive/Card Tester is a testing tool it will keep going until the entire drive has been tested. Therefore, we’d probably recommend stopping after five minutes or so to get a score. The result will show any recoverable or fatal read and write errors along with the final average speed.
RMPrepUSB is a tool we have mentioned several times before. It’s like a Swiss army knife for USB drives because it can do so many different things. One of those functions is performing a read and write speed test. Make sure to download the portable version of RMPrepUSB from the long list of downloads.
Run RMPrepUSB and select the USB drive from the top, then click the Test Speed button in the lower right. The included RMPartUSB.exe is called and runs the test by reading from and writing to a file of around 63MB in size. Because the test file is not that large it might give a slightly higher score than normal on faster USB drives. The results will be saved to a .CSV file where you can keep a record of drives and scores.
8. File Read Test
This last tool is a little different from the rest because it only tests read speeds. It also needs data to be on the drive already because that’s what gets read back and where the result comes from. File Read Test is a Java based tool which means it’s cross platform but you also need to have Java installed.
To get a consistent sequential read score, copy a large file of at least a few hundred Megabytes to an empty drive. Run the program (right click and select Open with > Java(TM) Platform Binary) and either select a drive or manually select a file on the drive. One issue is the program seems to cache the results so to run the exact same test again you have to eject and reinsert the drive or the read speed will show up as being astronomically high.
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.