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Speed up External USB Hard Drives in Windows 7 or Vista

If you have an external hard drive that is always plugged into your computer, you can enable write caching to speed up performance significantly when writing to the disk.

Write caching isn’t enabled by default for external drives because removable devices could lose data if you unplug them too quickly, so take care when using this setting.

To change this setting, just type Device Manager into the start menu search box, and hit enter.  

 

Browse down to the external hard drive that you wish to enable write caching on, and double click it to open up the properties screen.

Just change the setting to “Optimize for performance” and hit OK to continue. You’ll have to reboot for the setting to take effect.

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 04/26/07

Comments (18)

  1. Mike

    Very cool tip..And like almost every article on here, it has been submitted to tweako.

    ( http://www.tweako.com )

  2. The Geek

    I’ve been noticing a small trickle of traffic coming in from tweako, so I assume I have you to thank =)

  3. Mike

    Haha no problem – thank you. Your content and your site is very impressive. I am very happy to link to your articles. Hopefully soon that trickle will have a little more kick to it. If you ever feel like beating my members to it, feel free to come submit your stories yourself.

  4. vickie cloud

    no website…my sons laptop hp has windows vista on it…only has 120gb’s and is already used it up..he puts little videos on it..well, he needs an external hard drive…we are looking and according to consumer reports..Iomega is the best .and then seagate and then and then simple tech, and then maxtor and then western digital and then LaCie……now..with all that info…there is a differenc in windows xp then vista…what external…hard drives will work best with vista….and prices vary depending on where one buys it..I dont want to pay an arm and a leg…but…I dont want it to break down easily either and want it to be easy to use..my son isnt a computer geek..he wishes he was…but..if you have any advice on it..let me know…or to which degree of external hard drive does a vista need..like say we decided on a seagate…is there a particular seagate that works with vista and one that doesnt…let me know thanks..vickie

  5. Paul Stockwell

    Hi. I don’t know if this actually relates to the above post. I have recently bought a new laptop with Vista Premium home edition installed. The external hard drive which I have had for a while, worked fine with with it up until last night. I hot swapped the external hard drive with my mates laptop (XP) and when I plugged it back in, it picks it up, but is now asking for drivers which it has never done before. Any simple solution to the problem as drivers from the manufacturers(Iomega) website don’t seem to solve the problem.

  6. Joe Cosmo

    I had an odd problem with my external Western Digital 250 gb harddrive, and my solution, though a bit time consuming, may help you above poster. When I first plugged it in, it had previously been on my Windows XP Pro machine, and when I turned it on, it was also picked up, but it didn’t ask for drivers, rather it hung during some sort of reading process and the disk was spewing odd crackling noises. Well, I hooked it up to another xp machine I had and it worked fine, I transfered my data from taht disk onto my vista machine, and formatted it in the xp machine. After all that was said and done, I reconnected it to my vista machine and it picked up the disk when I turned it on, and no more hang ups. Just to be on the safe side, I reformatted it in Vista assuming Vista might have some funky new formatting techniques up its sleeve. Well, either way, my data is all safe and back on that disk and it works fine. So, long story short, I’d format it and try again.

  7. Daniel

    Note also you can do this with a removable device as long as you “safely eject” it each time.

    I love the fact that “display adapters” is expanded as well… lol did I mention what a nice gfx card you have? :P

  8. wingchun

    i have an iomega 500gb external hot plug it with the 3 computers at home 2 with vista remium and one with xp emachines, compaq and toshiba are the computer makes had no probs with it hope this helps had it 1 1/2 years format once

  9. dummyspitta

    Amazing… just click “optimise”…. true genius. Maybe u should write a book.
    Yes I am being sarcastic.

  10. Ervin Walker

    I followed the instructions about but how do I know if it actually works?

  11. Jim C

    I enabled write caching on my USB Drive and understand that I must eject it with the Eject Media sequence. But would you lose data and damage the drive if the computer is turned off and you remove the drive w/o having ejected it?

  12. AngelLaHash

    so how much of a improvment do you all see from doing this .. i was thinhk of getting a cheap little USB memory stick for it just for this perpose., just brought one for back up of the windows software and getting another for all my software.. but i was woundering if i should get another one as they are so cheap at the moment to boost up the speed of this laptop.. every little helps and as its new i cant go inside in to to boost up the ram with the warrenty…

  13. DJM

    I would like to know the answers to questions by Jim C and AngelLaHash. If you can’t safely eject the removable drive (“cannot stop mass storage…”) does it work to just shutdown and pull the usb cord when the power is off? How much of a performance boost does one get after optimizing? 50% 10%? 90%

  14. CyberHmoob

    Improvements on External drives are about 20%-50% faster performance. Some seagate drives have been seen over 75% improvements. For example a drive copying at about 23 mb/sec can be seen doing 30-75 mb/sec more. Be warned though that if there is a sudden outage, usb unplugged or drive disconnection you might lose valuable data or corrupt the file that was being accessed.

  15. Bob

    I just did this and tested speeds before & after using PassMark’s latest version. 1st run showed negligible improvement in overall performance. Sequential reads only 0.2 MB/s increase; Sequential writes actually shows decreased performance. 2nd run showed about 5% overall slowdown. Under WinXP, I always got improvements. What’s going on with Win7?

  16. Amin

    I have a 1T A-DATA, and do it in win 7, before and after solution.

    but no change I see.

  17. srinath

    my systems copy speed is very slow specially when copied from hard disk to usb?
    can any one tell me why?
    am using windows 7

  18. Lilly

    My pc vista I used drivers guiness professional 10 and now my pc will not come up only loading drivers then stops at a certain line and then nothing help????????????

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