Tuesday, November 27, 2012

USB Drive Backup Speed Slow

Howto: Speed-up all USB drives in Windows 7 and Windows 8. USB speeds for all Thumb drives, cameras, and other external USB disks will be oodles faster with a minor tweak.  This change is recommended.  Updated for Windows 8. 

When I converted my Dell XPS M1530 laptop to Windows 7 x64 and later, Windows 8, and then ran an Acronis 2010 full system USB backup, the backup speeds were horrible -- 8 hours to backup 50G. The backup should only take about 20 minutes.

At first I thought it was a problem with the 64-bit drivers, then I suspected a problem with the backup program, but the real issue turned out to be how Windows 7 and 8 handles USB drives. This turned out to be interesting and is applicable to all kinds of devices.

Follow these steps - which must be done for each plugged-in USB Device where you want improved speed.  The drawback to this change is you can't unplug the drive at will; you must use a simple menu, described below.


In Device Manager, change the drive's USB Policy to "Better Performance".

1. Plug-in the USB drive and allow it to mount normally.

2. Start, Control Panel, "Device Manager"

3. Open the "Disk Drive" section, locate the USB drive section (illustrated in red box). In the details, locate the USB drive. Make these changes:

a. Other-mouse-click (right mouse) the drive, Properties
b. Click the [Policies] tab
c. Choose "Better Performance"
d. Click OK and close the control panel

4. In the System Tray, click the arrow to expand hidden icons; choose the USB icon ("Safely Remove Hardware and Eject Media); eject the disk and unplug the USB cable. Re-plug-in the disk for the changes to take effect.

If you purchase a new USB drive, you will need to make this same setting. 
Set one time per device, regardless of which USB port it is plugged into.

This holds true with thumb drives, cameras and all other external writable drives. I have not researched, but there is probably a global policy which can set this for all devices.


USB Disk operations will be a zillion times faster. The new backup took exactly 23 minutes, which was a slight improvement over the original 8 hours. Everything, including standard file-copies to this drive, was improved.

Microsoft made a conservative default setting, which allows you to pull drives without fiddling around with software. But if you make these changes, you will have to exercise restraint when pulling a drive; you will have to use the System Tray menu to eject the disk.


If you like to jerk the USB drive when you are done, you may be in trouble.  With this change, you must click the system-tray icon and eject the disk in a controlled manner. Out of habit, you should be doing this anyway -- just to be safe.

Cameras seem to corrupt their memory cards more-often-than-not and it is probably best to leave the USB settings for this device unchanged, mostly because people tend to unplug cameras and run away; everyone is always in a rush.. 

Hard Disk Cache

The local Hard Disk has a similar setting, which I also enable on my own computers.

A.  In Control Panel, Device Manager, "Disk Drives"
      Locate the hard disk (may be labeled as "ATA Device")

B.  Select Properties
[x] Enable Write Caching on the Device
[x] Turn off Windows Write-cache buffer flushing on this device*

*only recommend doing this on battery-powered laptops or on desktops with UPS protection.

Related Articles:Disk Imaging Cleanup Steps - Make your backups faster
Acronis 2010 Step-by-Step
Recovering a single file with Acronis

Windows 7 Explorer Changes

Streamline Windows Start Menus

1 comment:

  1. I wish Microsoft would fix the way it handles USB drives. Even "ejecting a USB drive" which is suppose to disconnect a USB System and make it safe to remove, I am never sure that it has and I always power down before removing so that I know it is really disconnected and any caches are flushed. This is in comparison with Linux which not only flushes the drive system but also fully disconnects from the USB drive as evidenced by the USB drive light going off or at least dim where with Windows, the light stay stays fully lit.


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