Hard Drive vs. Flash Drive

A reader has a question about the varying speed of backups on different devices.

“I’m having trouble backing up my files to flash drives. I back up roughly 11 Gigabytes of data to an external hard drive in a matter of roughly 15 minutes or less (I never kept accurate track of the time). When I make a second copy to a 32-Gigabyte flash drive [Formatted NTSF] it takes well over an hour; the copy utility shows the rate dropping to 0 for up to 30 seconds at a time. I’ve looked online a bit for answers as to why, or how to improve, with little success. Any suggestions?”


Good catch! Write speeds for flash drives tend to run between 3 and 10 MB per second in a USB 2.0 port and between 10 and 45 MB per second in USB 3.0.

The write speed for an external hard drive could be up to 520 MB per second for an SSD external drive. HDDs average more around 128 MB per second.

Does your PC happen to have both USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports? Is the flash drive USB 3.0 and are you putting the flash drive into a USB 3.0 port? A USB 3.0 flash drive and port might speed up the process considerably. But, no matter what, the external hard drive will probably always be faster than the flash drive.

One thought on “Hard Drive vs. Flash Drive

  1. If you decide to go with an SSD external drive, be sure it can attach to a USB 3.0 (if that’s what you have). Most of them seem to want a USB 3.1 or variant. I haven’t seen any that work with USB 2.0 (what would be the point?).

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