Ungodly slow USB Stick Speeds

Discussion in 'Mac Basics and Help' started by AcesHigh87, Jan 25, 2014.

  1. AcesHigh87 macrumors 6502a


    Jan 11, 2009
    New Brunswick, Canada
    I’m wondering if anyone can hep me with this, I’m honestly stumped.

    I recently got a 32GB thumbstick, a Lexar I believe which is a pretty decent brand for it. I’m mostly using it to put movies on for watching through my TV’s USB slot. The problem is that it’s ridiculously slow. Like estimating an hour to transfer 2GB...

    To work with my TV it has to be FAT32, that might be the issue but I don’t believe so because my old 8GB stick was FAT32 and transferred fine. I’ve also narrowed it down to not being the USB slot because I can transfer the same files to a different drive at over 10x the speed (took about 2 minutes for that 2GB) and the speed is no different with different ports.

    I’m wondering if its a formatting thing or if it’s just a really slow thumbstick. I’m not honestly sure. Any suggestions would be appreciated because I don’t want to be waiting two hours to transfer 4 movies.
  2. Dark Dragoon macrumors 6502a

    Dark Dragoon

    Jul 28, 2006
    Which model memory stick did you get?

    If you can't tell from the stick, take a look at http://www.lexar.com/products/usb-flash-drives to try and work out which one you have.
    Some of the Lexar memory sticks are very fast, but the cheaper ones can be very slow like the S10.

    My Lexar S73 16GB memory stick is pretty fast no matter the formatting.
  3. wrldwzrd89 macrumors G5


    Jun 6, 2003
    Solon, OH
    Three factors determine USB drive transfer speed: The flash hardware's internal speed, the interface (USB 1, 2, 3, etc.), and the size of files being transferred. It is thanks to this third factor that it's often WAY faster to put lots of small files together in a ZIP archive then load the archive onto the flash drive, compared to loading the files directly.
  4. barkmonster macrumors 68020


    Dec 3, 2001
    I have the identical Lexar and they're rapid. I think the key (pun intended) is to get a USB 3.0, not USB stick and check the specs of it first. I'm only on a system with USB 2 but I can transfers several GB of files in a few minutes and use it for the same reason. A TV with USB playback.
  5. AcesHigh87, Jan 26, 2014
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2014

    AcesHigh87 thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Jan 11, 2009
    New Brunswick, Canada
    S50 by the look of it. Given that you say the S10 is really slow I'm guessing this isn't much better.

    USB 2.0 since my iMac doesn't have USB 3.0 so I figured there's no point. Flash hardware is impossible to say. As for the third item: it varies but generally doesn't work well. The instance I was talking about was 2GB total but it was 8 files of around 300mb a piece so the files themselves certainly aren't anything insane. Plus my other sticks do the same files with no issue.

    Won't USB 3.0 get bottlenecked to USB 2.0 speeds anyway with my computer? Do you figure the newer ones just have faster flash storage and therefore better speeds anyway? It would make sense but still doesn't explain how all my external hard drives (FW800, USB 3.0 through USB 2.0 and USB 2.0 on its own) work faster as well as my other 3 USB 2.0 flash drives.
  6. Bear macrumors G3

    Jul 23, 2002
    Sol III - Terra
    If I was buying a USB stick today, I'd buy a USB 3.0 one since I know that will be useful in the future and right now if I go to a friends computer and need to use it.

    And yes, the internal flash memory in the stick can be of varying speeds. Just get a decent USB 3.0 stick that advertises a good speed.
  7. barkmonster macrumors 68020


    Dec 3, 2001
    They have faster internal flash. The USB 3.0 stick I have now is so much faster than the Kingston Datatraveller it replaced that I wonder why it took till USB 3.0 came out for them to improve flash speeds to a usable level for larger file transfers. Unless you're putting tiny files on a USB stick that would have lived on floppies back in the early 90s, they've been painfully slow for years.
  8. chown33 macrumors 604

    Aug 9, 2009
    Sailing beyond the sunset

    Some do, some don't. I've bought both kinds (not always intentionally).

    If you want to know which USB 3.0 flash drives are the fastest, you have to read a comparative review. You should also be sure to look at the date when the review was done, because the reviews with the highest search-engine rank might well be older ones, and not cover newer models of flash drives.

    The FW speed has no bearing on USB speeds.

    The simplest explanations for why your 32GB flash drive is slow are:
    1. All units of that particular model are slow.
    2. It's a defective unit.

    If you want to find out whether a particular model is slow, find a review of it, preferably a comparative review from a tech site with a good record. You also said it's "ungodly slow", but I don't recall you posting what that means in terms of MB/sec. Copying a single large file from HD to USB flash drive, and viewing the Disk Activity graph in Activity Monitor.app should give an idea of MB/sec. I honestly have no idea what you consider to be "ungodly slow", so I have no way to estimate how likely it is that the problem can be traced to "all units of that model are slow" or "it's a defective unit".

    Lately, I've decided to stop using USB flash drives and switch to SD cards (SD, SDHC, & SDXC). The SD speed-class ratings give me a better idea of the minimum speed expected for the card, and I can more easily compare speed/price relationships when I shop for cards. I still look for comparative reviews, because why not.

    With a USB 3.0 to SD-card adapter, I have no difficulties moving the cards around. Or even a USB 2.0-to-SD adapter, since I'm not sure that TVs and media players necessarily have USB 3.0, or need it.

    The price/MB of SD cards is at least on par with USB flash drives, and often lower. And the write-protect switch on SD cards is a handy feature that's missing on every USB flash drive I've ever had.
  9. AcesHigh87 thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Jan 11, 2009
    New Brunswick, Canada
    I'm aware FireWire speeds have no effect on USB. I'm also aware that FW 800 is faster than USB 2.0 as a standard. I was simply making note that every drive I had, no matter of kind, was working faster.

    Viewing the activity monitor didn't really help much as it's hard to tell if what I'm seeing is purely the one transfer. If it is I'm seeing a weird pattern. It jumps to around 24mb/sec which is fine but then plummets to 0 and slowly goes back up. I was unaware of this tactic for getting a speed on the storage which is why I didn't have a number listed, using the time estimate instead.

    What I find odd is that the 8 small files (2.5gb total) estimated an hour to transfer while the one larger file (1.5gb) estimated 4 minutes. I might need to run some further testing as the 1 hour estimate came from writing to the stick on my iMac (HDD) versus the 4 minute estimate writing to my MacBook (SSD) which likely messed up my results.

    I do have an extra 32gb SD card from my camera so it might be worth investing in a card reader. My iMac has one built in but I would need something on the TV end.
  10. chown33 macrumors 604

    Aug 9, 2009
    Sailing beyond the sunset
    I recommend a systematic approach.

    Start by identifying exactly which model of Lexar flash drive you have. Post the exact model name or number. It should be listed on the device, or on the sales receipt from the vendor.

    Then post the media name, partition scheme, and capacity. Determine this using Disk Utility.app, with a Get Info after selecting the USB drive. You can copy and paste the lines from the Info window. Examples from some USB flash drives I have:
    	Partition Map Scheme : 	Master Boot Record
    	Media Name : 	LEXAR JD FIREFLY Media
    	Total Capacity : 	519.6 MB (519,569,408 Bytes)
    	Partition Map Scheme : 	GUID Partition Table
    	Media Name : 	ADATA USB Flash Drive Media
    	Total Capacity : 	15.81 GB (15,805,186,048 Bytes)
    Note: these are not on adjacent lines in the Info window. I edited out extraneous lines.

    Next, perform a systematic write test. Use a single computer to run the entire series of tests. Post the model and details of that computer.

    Create an empty folder on the HD. Copy one of the 350 MB files into it. Launch Activity Monitor. View "Disk Activity". Then copy the test folder to the USB drive with Finder.

    How fast are reads? How fast are writes? Are either of them bursty (high, low, high, low), or is it relatively steady? Take an "area screenshot" in mid-copy and post it, including the graph, the data read/sec, write/sec, and Peak numbers.

    If the transfer of a single file is too fast to see, increase the Update Frequency (View menu) of Activity Monitor to its highest rate.

    When the single-file folder completes copying, delete the folder from the USB drive.

    Then duplicate the file in the test folder on the HD, and repeat the folder-copy to the USB drive. Are there any differences in the speed graph? Post a screenshot.

    Again, delete the folder from the USB drive.

    Again, duplicate a file in the test folder on the HD. You should now have 3 files of 350 MB. Repeat the copy-folder-to-flash and the screenshot of the disk speed graph.

    Repeat the test with 4 files, then 5. Post results.

    If the speed goes down drastically at any point, with any number of files, take a screenshot of that and post it, also posting how many files were being copied. You could run the test again, or you can stop at that point and post the results collected so far.

    "area screenshot" = Command-Shift-4, then select an area: Take a screenshot of an area and save it as a file on the desktop

    Making and uploading screen shots:
  11. jansin macrumors newbie

    Nov 2, 2014
    Lexar USB too slow

    I am not sure if the trouble has been resolved with these Lexar USB sticks, but the reason I got to this forum now is that because I was looking for a solution to these awfully slow transfer speeds on Lexar sticks I had. I recently bought 4 Lexar 16GB USB 2.0 sticks as they were on sale for half price. I noticed that transfers like 100 mb was taking almost 7-8 minutes! My other USB 2.0 sticks would transfer 1GB files in about 2 minutes, so this was really unacceptable. I have formatted all 4 to a FAT32 file format. But what I noticed when I was trying them all was, one of them was exceptionally fast, so fast that I was able to transfer a 1.4GB file in 2 minutes. I looked at the USB sticks closely, though they were all the same model and made in China, one of them had a "Micron" logo on the back, and the other 3 did not have it. Micron is a well known memory manufacturer, so I am guessing the other 3 were made by some other manufacturer and not to the same specs as the Micron branded one.
  12. chown33 macrumors 604

    Aug 9, 2009
    Sailing beyond the sunset
    Not only is Micron a well-known memory manufacturer, they own Lexar:
    Lexar was acquired by Micron Technology in 2006, and subsequently merged with Crucial Technology under the name Lexar Media, a subsidiary of Micron.​
  13. PartTech93 macrumors newbie

    May 7, 2018
    === Reply to Ungodly slow USB Stick Speeds ===

    I have a MacBook Pro (early 2011) running High Sierra version 10.13.4

    I rewcently bought a Lexar-Micron JumpDrive TwistTurn 32 GB USB 12.0 flash drive (half-price at Office Depot). It took over an hour to copy about 2,500 files (1.5 GB total) from my MacBook Pro (High Sierra OSX) to the flash drive. I was very unhappy -- this is ungodly slow. I tried again with a smaller set of files and found that 1,400 files (350 MB) took about 20 minuted to copy. That's only 28 kB.sec. It' slso about 1 sec/file.

    Based on a suggestion on an online problem site I made a compressed (ZIP) file of these 1,400 files and copied the ZIP file to the flash drive. The copying took just over one minute. That's 5.8 MB/sec -- 200 times as fast as copying the unzipped files !!!

    When I unzipped the files on the flash drive the process took 20 minutes. That's about 1 sec/file.
    Thus the time for copying the ZIP file and then unzipping it took as much time as copying the original 1,400 files. So the time saved by using a zipped file for the transfer was lost when I unzipped them to separate files on the flash drive.

    Thus the problem with this flash drive is not in the rate of data transfer from the laptop to the flash drive. It is in the rate of file creation on the flash drive. This seems to take one to two seconds per file created.

    My conclusion is that you can benefit from the fast transfer time for a zipped file set only if you do not unzip the set after copying the zipped file to to the flash drive.
  14. chown33 macrumors 604

    Aug 9, 2009
    Sailing beyond the sunset
    What format is the flash drive?

    If it's any form of FAT, then that may be the problem, or a contributing factor. An HFS+ format should be faster, because HFS+ has a more efficient structure (tree) for its directories than FAT does (linear search).
  15. NoBoMac macrumors 68000

    Jul 1, 2014
    This is what I do with the slow thumb drives, only store zip files. Then again, most of these are archival drives, for me, so no big deal that not individual files.

    In my experience, does not matter. Specifically to the Lexar drives, I've had FAT, ExFAT, and HFS+, and the Lexars are slow. They are ok for copying a couple of files, but other than that...

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