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What is faster? I know windows 7 takes advantage of USB drives for more volatile memory...is this even worth it if USB drives are slower then harddrives.

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I dont understand the question; USB ... Memory vs Harddrive? or a USB Harddrive vs Internal drive? –  GruffTech Jun 23 '10 at 1:06
    
Pretty sure he means flash drives. –  user3463 Jun 23 '10 at 1:12
    
Should define between mechanical hard disks, SSD, usb mechanical drives, usb flash drives... And what mission do you have... throughput, random access, general windows and office work (in that case I think, as Andrew, that this should go to SuperUser) –  Andor Jun 23 '10 at 1:58
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migrated from serverfault.com Jun 23 '10 at 2:32

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3 Answers

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Depends on what you are doing.

  • USB/Flash can be faster when performing small, random reads.
  • Hard drives tend to be faster when loading large amounts of data.

Windows ReadyBoost relies on this to decide if it should read cached data from the USB or hard drive.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ReadyBoost

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In terms of raw throughput, harddrives beat USB drives hands down. USB is capped at around 25MB/s (USB3 is faster, but still rare) where SATA drives can max out at about 285MB/s. This is why you really want to use an eSATA port for an external drive enclosure versus pretty much anything else (except maybe Firewire, but who has that anymore). That said, if all you're doing is massively random I/O, solid-state USB sticks can beat out harddrives in the right circumstances.

Back to Windows... What you're referring to is ReadyBoost, a method of caching hard-drive data in such a way as to make it seem faster. Kind of like L2ARC on ZFS, but not really.

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Hahahaha, I like that 'kind of but not really', but I would change it by a 'kind of, but not even near' –  Andor Jun 23 '10 at 2:08
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You can test the speed of your drives using e.g. CrystalDiskMark. ReadyBoost is generally considered a waste of time unless you have a very small amount of RAM, though. Another possibility is utilising the flash cache of a hybrid drive - known as ReadyDrive, which was introduced with Windows Vista.

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