Boost External Hard Drive Speed


by Mitz Pantic from

Boost External Hard Drive Speed

Your external hard drive speed depends almost entirely upon two things: your cables and your drive itself. There’s nothing you can do to increase your external hard drive’s hardware speed, but there’s plenty you can do to improve your cables.

Shorter Cables, Faster External Hard Drive

It’s nice having a long cable for your external hard drive because it lets you put your drive in convenient spots far away from your computer. But that long cable is almost certainly costing you speed.

The maximum length of cable you can use for your external hard drive depends on what type of cord you use. It’s different for USB 2.0, USB 3.0, eSATA, and Firewire—but in most cases it’s only a two or three yards or meters.

Data transmitted over copper cables travels at roughly 60% of the speed of light in a vacuum (300,000 kilometers per second), so if you cut the length of a cord in half, you double the speed. That means a typical short 4-foot cord is twice as fast as a typical long 8-foot cord—and a 2-foot cord will be four times as fast.

As an added bonus, shorter cords for your external hard drive are usually cheaper than the longer cords, so you get the rare combination of speed and savings.

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11 thoughts on “Boost External Hard Drive Speed

  1. Your error is that you assumed that the time it takes for a signal to travel the length of the cable is relevant to the data transfer rate.
    USB ports are clocked a fixed rate – and the data transfer is controlled by that clock rate, not by the path length. With increasing cable lenth, data transfer rate should be unaffected, until at some point the connection fails completely.

    From the Wikipedia article on the USB standard: “USB 2.0 provides for a maximum cable length of 5 meters for devices running at Hi Speed (480 Mbit/s). The primary reason for this limit is the maximum allowed round-trip delay of about 1.5 μs. If USB host commands are unanswered by the USB device within the allowed time, the host considers the command lost. When adding USB device response time, delays from the maximum number of hubs added to the delays from connecting cables, the maximum acceptable delay per cable amounts to 26 ns.[44] The USB 2.0 specification requires cable delay to be less than 5.2 ns per meter (192,000 km/s, which is close to the maximum achievable transmission speed for standard copper wire).
    The USB 3.0 standard does not directly specify a maximum cable length, requiring only that all cables meet an electrical specification: for copper cabling with AWG 26 wires the maximum practical length is 3 meters (9.8 ft)”

  2. This is a stunning concept that will no doubt revolutionise data transfer and storage methodologies worldwide! Another great way to raise standards is to perform your office duties on stilts.

  3. “…so if you cut the length of a cord in half, you double the speed.” ??? NOT even if we were talking strictly electrons and not data packets!!!(Speed does not change, only time AND distance {S=d/t}) The drives read/wright limit or the USB’s bus speed is almost always the limiting factor. You also only need the RF filters if you have “braided” your usb and your power cables together and run large electric tools!! PC pitstop SHAME ON YOU!!!

  4. I had to check the date to see if this was published on April 1st. I thought this would be a good April Fools joke article. This article is all wrong.

  5. That would be a reasonable analysis – IF the cable was in any way the parameter limiting speed, which it is not.
    USB transfer rates simply are the limiting factor & these days most people are unhappy with the actual speeds achieved in practice.
    For example loading a 32 GB SSD with movies can take many hours, not ideal by any means!

    • @Peter O:
      Peter, can you run a test for me? Plug in your fastest USB device and copy a large file to it or from it with a stopwatch running. Then divide the number of seconds by the number of megabytes in the file and then multiply that number by 8 to convert to bits. See if you get the maximum throughput specified by the USB Working Group for your level of USB. For reference, USB 1.0 max equals 12 Mbit, 2.0 equals 35 Mbit, and 3.0 equals 400 Mbit.

      I highly doubt you’ll get above 80% of the maximum throughput. Why? Because the maximum theoretical throughput for USB protocols assumes the cord length will be zero. Any USB cord longer than zero slows down the transfer speed. Here’s the proof:

      All three USB protocols limit cord length to a maximum of five meters. (See the USB Wikipedia article.) Any cord longer than that reduces speed too much so devices start to think they’ve been disconnected from the computer. You can test this too–buy a couple USB extension cables, daisy chain them together, and then connect a USB device. If the total cable length significantly exceeds 5 meters, your computer won’t connect to the device.

  6. This article is completely, absolutely wrong – utter nonsense. I HOPE it is a joke, a troll. I fear it is not, which is just sad….,

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