Boost USB Drive Performance in Windows


Caching to the Rescue!

Another one of our articles shows you how to speed up SATA hard drive performance in Windows Vista by enabling advanced write caching.  A similar performance tweak can increase USB drive performance, by using more system memory as a write cache, which significantly increases performance when writing to the disk.

Flash-based USB devices can benefit greatly from this tweak, as many of these drives peak at a 6 or 7-megabyte per second write speed.  The storage capacities of today’s flash drives are measured by the gigabyte, so filling up an 8GB or 16GB drive can be a long process.  This tweak won’t magically make the silicon in the drive work faster, so copying 8GB of MP3s will take just as long from start to finish with or without this tweak.  Relative drive performance improves by making the device available sooner for other processes, like when you’re using portable applications on the device or transferring small batches of files.

Like in our SATA hard drive performance tweak, you must not unplug your drives permaturely, or else you may lose the data you’re transporting.  Always look to see the drive’s activity light has stopped.  It is also recommended to click the “safely remove hardware” icon in your taskbar before removing your drives, which verifies that all cached data is written.

To enable advanced caching for USB drives, you use your friendly Device Manager (you can just type “device manager” into the Start Menu search box if you can’t find it).

Open up the Disk Drives branch.  You will see all of your attached disk drives.

Click on the USB drive you want to enhance.  Right-click on it and select Properties.

Open the Policies tab.  You will see two radio buttons: Optimize for quick removal and Optimize for performance.  Click on Optimize for performance.

Click OK.

Windows will require a reboot for this to take effect.

Take note that this tweak does not travel with the drive.  If you plug the same device into another computer, you will have to enable write caching for the USB drive on the new PC.

Alan is a web architect, stand-up comedian, and your friendly neighborhood Grammar Nazi. You can stalk him on the Interwebs via Google+, Facebook and follow his ass on Twitter @ocmodshop.