Super User is a question and answer site for computer enthusiasts and power users. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I've got a USB 2 5400 RPM external HD. I'm thinking of getting a new computer with USB 3 ports.

If I'm currently getting read/write speeds from the external HD on USB 2 of roughly 30 mb/s (both read and write), then would upgrading to USB 3 make a difference? Since USB 2 is roughly 480 mbps (60 mb/s), which is more than the 30 mb/s I'm getting now, then won't it technically make no difference at all?

Specifically, the drive I have is this very popular one.

share|improve this question
It might speed up it but not much. for sure if you also get a USB 3 device you will be getting much much more speed – poqdavid Jun 13 '13 at 5:35
up vote 7 down vote accepted

The reason USB 2.0 is practically limited to roughly 50% if it's rated speed (20-30MB/s vs. 60MB/s) is that is not full-duplex, thus every data packet which comes to the host (PC) will need another packet to the device (HDD), effectively limiting the speed to ½ of the theoretical 480MBit/s.

Since USB 3.0 has not only much higher rated transfer speeds, but also allows full-duplex operations, you can expect to see almost maximum device speed (usually around 90-130MB/s).

share|improve this answer

You're already using that drive at its maximum performance.

USB 2.0 maximum throughput is 480 Mbps (lowercase 'b' - megabits per second) and you're getting 30 MBps out of it (uppercase 'B' - megabytes per second).

1 MB = 8 Mb, so USB 2.0's theoretical throughput is 60 MBps. But USB can't work with full duplex, and that means it's 60 MBps in both directions added together. That's where your 30 MBps comes from.

USB 3.0 is faster, but as you stated your drive only supports USB 2.0 (which is already used at 100% of it's performance). You won't get any performance improvement until you move the drive to a USB 3.0 case.

share|improve this answer

If I'm currently getting read/write speeds from the external HD on USB 2 of roughly 30 MB/s (both read and write)

30 MB/sec is a normal speed for USB 2.

It is not 60 MB/sec. Mostly because there is a lot of overhead in the USB protocol. And partially because and 10% of the bandwidth is reserved for USB 1 transactions.

would upgrading to USB 3 make a difference?

Yes, moving to a faster interface would increase the speed. It does not matter if this is USB 3 (much faster, but not present on all computers), eSATA (native link speed to the disk and no overhead), or something else.

share|improve this answer

I have personally tried this and although I did not benchmark the drives on the different interfaces. It was clear that the bottleneck was the drive speed and not the interface. the USB2 drive will work perfectly on the USB3 port of new computer. No need to upgrade the case of the drive though.

share|improve this answer
Yes but as i said USB 3 Device will work much faster on USB 3 Port – poqdavid Jun 13 '13 at 5:46

As long as you have the drive you listed (Which is USB 3.0) and a compatible cable (On mine, the port on the HDD is the wider 3.0 micro, in which a cord with the narrower 2.0 micro end could still be plugged into) you will get better speeds.

Now if you get a 3.0 micro cord that has two USB type A at the other end (1 for power, and 1 for data), You would get even better performance. This is because you're not drawing power from the same port you're transferring the data.

With a separate USB head for power, I've been able to get fluctuating 55MB/s - 75MB/s speeds.. with the average sitting at around 67MB/s

I never tried transferring any files not using a separate head for power, but it should be a little lower than what I've listed off.

share|improve this answer

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .