USB Flash disks have very slow write speeds

So I was always under the impression that USB 2.0 Flash sticks were fast. Or at least faster than say a USB 2.0 external 5400rpm hard disk. I just assumed that since Flash was solid state, there would be no latency from moving parts and head positioning, etc.

Based on this assumption I decided to get a 16GB SanDisk Cruzer USB 2.0 stick and put a VirtualBox virtual machine on it for use on any PC. I though this would be an upgrade to keeping my VM on my external drive. I though wrong.

I noticed straight away the VM ran much, much slower on the USB stick. I did some research on this and found mixed suggestions, but it seems common knowledge that USB Flash sticks have slow write speeds. Just how slow though I had no idea, until I tested it out for myself.

I created 10,000 1kb text files on my PC and did some transfer tests between the local internal HDD, my external USB HDD and my new 16GB USB Flash stick. Operating system was Windows 7 Pro. The results are listed below:

TestTransfer rate
USB HDD (USB2.0, 5400rpm) to C:14s
USB Flash (USB2.0, 16GB, NTFS) to C:22s
USB Flash (USB2.0, 16GB, FAT32) to C:20s
USB Flash (USB2.0, 4GB, NTFS) to C:30s
C: to USB HDD (USB2.0, 5400rpm)35s
USB Flash (USB2.0, 16GB, NTFS)11 minutes
CUSB Flash (USB2.0, 16GB, FAT32)8 minutes
USB Flash (USB2.0, 4GB, NTFS)5 minutes

From the above, you can see that copying 10,000 files from the external USB HDD took the least amount of time, around 14 seconds. Copying these 10,000 files from the USB Flash sticks took a little longer, ranging between 20 seconds to 30 seconds. These are the read test results.

The write test results are much more striking. The USB HDD performed the best at 35 seconds, but the USB Flash sticks absolutely stunk! The 16GB SanDisk Cruzer took over 10 minutes with an NTFS format, and 8 minutes with a FAT32 format. I compared this to an older 4GB stick I had lying around, which actually performed much better at 5 minutes, but still terrible in comparison to the USB HDD.

Bottom line is, USB Flash memory is very, very slow for write, and even slow for reads. An external spinning 5400rpm disk looks to be far superior.

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