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I would like to pick up some really fast USB flash drives in the 16 - 64 GB range. When looking at drives they just list their size, their form factor (key chain hook, slider, etc.) and the fact that they are all Hi-Speed USB 2.0. It seems like I have heard that different drives have different performance and life expectancy. The sales guy tells me that they are all the same performance any more, but it wouldn't be the first time a sales guy had the wrong technical details.

Our objective is to run Virtual PC images off of them, so good speed and resilience to rewrites it important.

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closed as off topic by Nifle, Mokubai, Dave M, Siim K, Tog Jan 16 '13 at 22:01

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

I have found that the guaranteed mark of speed are drives that claim "readyboost enabled". The readyboost feature of Vista requires high speed, so if the drive has that then if should be fast.

The minimum specs for a readyboost enabled drive are:

(According to the Wikipeda page on readyboost)

For a device to be compatible and useful it must conform to these requirements:

  • The removable media's capacity must be at least 256 MB—250 MB after formatting. Windows Vista x86 is limited to using 3.5GB (Vista x64 can support up to 16GB); this restriction has been removed in Windows 7.

  • The device must have an access time of 1ms or less.

  • The device must be capable of 2.5 MB/s read speeds for 4KB random reads spread uniformly across the entire device, and 1.75MB/s write speeds for 512 KB random writes spread uniformly across the device.

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So if they have "Readyboost Enabled" then they are required to meet some minimal level of performance? – Jim McKeeth Aug 1 '09 at 6:56
@Jim McKeeth yes ... I have added the specs above. – Bruce McLeod Aug 1 '09 at 7:07

The sales guy is correct, the READ speeds are all about the same. There can be big differences in WRITE speeds. Check out the latest review from Ars Technica.

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Though it might exist, I haven't found USB flash drive faster than Corsair Voyager. They basically have 34 MB/s read, and 28 MB/s write. Check this page and click on "resources" tab to see speeds and lifespan FAQ.

I own one and find myself surprised at how long copying large files takes when I periodically use other flash drives. On the downside, they do cost more than your average USB flash drive, but in my opinion it's more than worth it if you need speed and reliability. Also, I'm frequently throwing mine around the room without worrying that it might break, which is pretty nice, especially if the person who is trying to catch it is not so good at catching flying USB drives. :)

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