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I have 2 Western Digital external hard drives, namely:

I connect them to my laptop (MSI G Series GE70 0ND-033US 17.3-Inch Laptop (Black/Red)), which runs Windows 7 SP1 x64 Ultimate.

The 2 Western Digital external hard drives are slow, and I don't understand why. I tried two different USB cables, and two different USB ports. All USB cables and USB ports are USB 3. All disks use NTFS.


Below are some CrystalDiskMark benchmarks:

WD My Passport Ultra with USB cable 1 USB port 1 (both USB cable and USB port are USB 3):

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WD Elements with USB cable 1 on USB port 1 (both USB cable and USB port are USB 3):

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WD Elements with USB cable 2 USB port 1 (both USB cable and USB port are USB 3):

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WD Elements with USB cable 2 USB port 2 (both USB cable and USB port are USB 3):

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In theory, everything is USB 3: the EHD, the cable, and the computer's USB port. According to HD Tune Pro 5.50, both EHD are healthy.

What could explain the slowness of the external hard drives?


I benchmarked the Seagate Backup Plus 4TB Portable External Hard Drive using the same computer, cable and USB port. It gives much better results:

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As a side note, it gives similar performances when formatted as exFAT:

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The EHD also has more settings regarding the write-caching policy:

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And its performances decrease as more content is added to the hard drive:

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Answer to comments:

I installed Intel's USB 3 drivers from the MSI website:

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BIOS settings:

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Updating the Intel USB 3 drivers improved quite a bit:

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Activating WriteCache from the device manager (then rebooting) doesn't help:

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    Could it be a driver issue - ie is it possible you have 2 different USB chipsets, or bios settings which are forcing port 1 to behave a USB2 rather then USB3?
    – davidgo
    Jun 24, 2016 at 8:34
  • Make sure you installed the XHCI driver from Intel (since you're using Windows 7), otherwise the host controller might fall back to EHCI mode.
    – Tom Yan
    Jun 24, 2016 at 18:24
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    Perhaps you should try to latest version of the driver
    – Tom Yan
    Jun 25, 2016 at 0:16
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    activate the WriteCache for he drives in device manager Jun 25, 2016 at 6:23
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    Also, I just notice that the Seagate drive is basically empty while the two WD drives are close to being full. That's not really a fair test, especially to a spinning drive and if it is highly fragmented.
    – Tom Yan
    Jul 5, 2016 at 7:35

1 Answer 1

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First of all, remember your disks are mechanical disks, which means any time you wanna get data from it, a small part has to move to where the data actually is and wait for the disk to spin enough time for the data to be read.

I have a USB3 2TB Toshiba external HDD, and I don't have more than 30MiB/s read & write speed either.

Oh, and as a word of advice, avoid WD hard drives. I had several of them that stopped working for no real reason, without any way to fix them (and one of them was a My Passport).

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  • Thanks, shouldn't we expect a higher IO given that they are 5400 RPM? On my side, I've had ~8 WD, no failure so far, which is indeed quite surprising. I did have some Seagate and Lacie EHD failed. Everything is backed up in a local RAID 5 NAS + online when non sensitive. Also, I am surprised that one USB 3 port is twice slower than the other USB 3 port. Jun 24, 2016 at 7:59
  • Standard speeds for HDDs are 5400RPM or 7200RPM. So your HDDs have actually the lower speed. Also, speed can slow down even more if you're trying to read or write many files spread everywhere on the disk's pysical surface. And sorry about ranting about disk failures ^^ but it's true only WD disks have failed me so far. Jun 24, 2016 at 8:05
  • I added in the question a benchmark of a Seagate (5400 RPM), as you'll see read and write speed are 130 MB/s. Jun 26, 2016 at 21:50

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