Monday, November 17, 2014

USB Flash Drive Getting Sluggish? Here's a Quick Method to Speed it Up (Torrent Fix)

I have a plethora of USB flash drives at my disposable. I have three Toshiba's that include one 16GB and two 32GB versions. I then have two generic USB flash drives, one is 64GB and the other is 128GB. They all serve various purposes and I usually only have one that is "resting". Until recently, I never really saw an unbearable lag on any of these USB flash drives. And when I did, only one thing actually fixed it...

A Download Story
As I have written before, I find it good practice to actually use a USB flash drive as the location for all my downloads. They are inexpensive to replace, and will help deter against running down your hard drive or SSD.

To give a better perspective of how tough I can be on these USB flash drives, I could be running anywhere between 1-5 downloads from a download manager, while using a torrent client from 1-10 different torrents, and still using my browser to download files like a PDF, ZIP, or EXE.

As such, I started with one of my 32GB USB flash drives. It did well and I cannot recall ever watching it show lag more than a few seconds (when applicable). I soon realized that I would often run out of room, and instead of just slowing down my download agenda, I decided to upgrade to a 64GB USB flash drive. After rearranging all the locations for my browsers and download manager to point to the 64GB, I started up my downloading frenzies again. It too did a phenomenal job and I saw no real performance hit compared to the 32GB. The thing was that I yet again noticed my storage space was insufficient for my needs.

So, I decided to try a 128GB USB flash drive. I purchased a generic one for about $10 that included shipping from China. I should mention that the 32GB was a brand name USB flash drive (Toshiba) purchased for around $30-$40 when it was brand new a few years ago. The 64GB USB flash drive was also a generic brand, very likely Chinese considering where I got it from, and was bought for less than $20.

128GB Too Much?
Before I designated the 128GB as my main drive for downloads, I tested it out to make sure it worked. It seemed to, so I made the necessary arrangements and began my downloading.

At first, everything was fine. I wasn't downloading nearly as much as normal, but downloads were completing in good time with little to no lag. I started off with one torrent at a time, which seemingly did well. However, when I started adding multiple torrents (e.g. two or three), I started to notice how sluggish the 128GB would get...

It was so bad that downloads on my download manager would complete and then take anywhere between 15-45 minutes to actually finish. My torrent client would suddenly freeze for similar amounts of time. And when I would try to transfer files off of the drive, it could take up to 30 minutes. Sometimes all three of these things would be occurring increasing the already lengthy times to double those amounts!

I had even used the Task Manager to end the torrent client process on numerous occasions, and while it would be speedy on startup, it would soon revert back to a sluggish state. After reformatting the 128GB USB flash drive a few times, it would always start the same, speedy. But it would always end up the same with lag coming back into play.

The Speed (Performance) Trick
Then I recalled a trick that I had seen while looking up some other information. If you are using a lot of generic USB flash drives, or have a lot of the same name brand drives, you will either want to take them all out save the one in question, or already know the generic name given to that USB drive, in preparation of this method:
  1. Open up "My Computer".
  2. Right-click on the USB flash drive (any drive will actually do).
  3. Click "Properties".
  4. Click the "Hardware" tab.
  5. Choose the generic name of the USB flash drive.
  6. Click on "Properties".
  7. Click the "Policies" tab.
  8. Click the "Better performance" radio button. (If this is already selected, you are out of luck.)
  9. Click "OK".
  10. Click "OK".
Note: Changing to "Better performance" only has one downside. It will force you to eject the USB flash drive every time you want to remove it (something you should be doing regardless). If you don't, you could compromise data integrity and cause a loss of data.

This technique should work on Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8/8.1, and 10; and can be done from the Device Manager if preferred. It is not a speed increase in the normal sense, but if your USB flash drive is sluggish, it will help speed it back up to what it should already be able to do.

This technique does not require or perform a format to your USB flash drive, so your data should remain intact. However, as a safety precaution, you may want to copy all the data on the USB flash drive to another safe location.

Test Results
I immediately noticed a difference in the lag, as it had dwindled itself to that of the 32GB or 64GB USB flash drives (if not a tad better). To test this I started two downloads with my download manager and one torrent with my respective client.

When the first download from the manager completed, it took very little time to finish and transfer it. Transferring took a minimal amount of time despite being a large file and using the move command (which I've noticed takes more time than copying). The second download from the manager then completed, which took a bit more time to actually finish. To transfer I decided to use the copy command, which still took more time than the first, but it was on par with the 32GB or 64GB.

Throughout this time the torrent never hung once, which indicated to me that this trick was indeed working, and could also be accounted for the lag on the second download (given the increase in speed the torrent client got after each download completed).

The torrent never stopped. Not even while opening another torrent. I did notice that trying to download initial torrent files (to start a torrent), and magnetic links clicked while waiting for the initial torrent files to download, did take an abnormal amount of time. Possibly about as much as when it was sluggish. Regardless, the torrent chugged along only freezing when I had clicked a good amount of magnetic links that were failing to open quickly. Eventually, the magnet links worked.

At one point the torrent froze completely, likely due to me trying to add another additional torrent while I had other magnet links popping up. This shouldn't have been a problem for a "normal" USB flash drive, but given this 128GB's history, it certainly could be a remaining issue.

I started the torrent client again, which did take some time before it was functioning properly. By this time I had two torrents running, one nearly finished, another one just starting. The first finished and started flushing to disk. I had to go before it would be transferable, and the second finished before I got back, so I can't say if it took an extremely long time before I could actually do anything with the files.

To retest the torrents and see them through, I started up a single download with my download manager, and three torrents with my client. When the download from the manager completed, it did end up freezing the torrent client as it finished. But once it finished, the torrents started back up. I used the move command to transfer the file and I would say it wasn't as fast as the first download with the manager, but quicker than the second.

Note: It seemed to put a little less stress (and lag) on the USB flash drive to already have its folder opened before moving or copying anything from it.

The first of the three torrents to complete was about half the size of the very first torrent I had downloaded. It took about 4 minutes to flush to disk. I at first had an issue with trying to move another file I had downloaded with the manager while waiting. I had to restart Windows Explorer. After doing so, and when I could get back to the directory of my torrents, I used the copy command which was by far the fastest transfer yet. I then redid my transfer (with the copy command) of the file that had caused Windows Explorer to crash. It too was extremely quick.

At this time, I had closed my torrent client as I needed the extra bandwidth for something else. I came back and restarted the client. Another torrent file completed soon after, that was about 3/4 of a gigabyte. About 2 minutes later it was fully flushed to disk. I made the mistake of opening another folder with the torrent client (which took another two minutes). I then copied the file over, which took another minute or two to start, but the actual copying took a few seconds. The second download finished in about 2-3 minutes. I used my pre-opened folder of the USB flash drive and copied the download. It took around a minute or so to finish transferring.

One additional note, while the last two torrents were finishing the third had stopped downloading from lack of seeders. This may have helped somewhat in moving things along. 

The Lesson Here
While this simple method can help a sluggish USB flash drive, it should be noted that my problem seemed to really stem from torrents. I open several initial torrent files and magnet links in an attempt to add more trackers. Sometimes this is beneficial for torrents with few seeds or peers. Other times it is not. While this helps perpetuate the lag I experienced, the torrent and client itself were still the main culprits.

That being said, whether using the method or not, I still noticed quite a lag to navigate or perform actions on items in my USB flash drive while using the torrent client.

Moreorless, don't use torrents. If you do, try to keep to a maximum of 2 for best results. Three is when things start adding lag for me. And try to download via magnetic links. If you must use initial torrent files, download and open them one at a time and be patient.

Everything Comes to an End
So, there you have it. A way to speed up your USB flash drive. Some people may try it and notice no difference, but they should really perform tests on it first to see if there was truly a significant difference. Others may be using torrent clients and realize that this is a method to aid them in their downloading endeavors.

Part of my thoughts as to why this happened is because it is a larger USB flash drive making it more susceptible to slower write speeds (as evident with SSD's, which are essentially what USB flash drives are). But this could happen to USB flash drives of any size, and performing the above steps should help.

If you feel jilted, then I apologize. There is only one real technique I know of to get USB flash drives to increase their read/write speeds. Come back to my blog later to find out...

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