USB Flash Drive Comparison part 2 – FAT32 vs NTFS vs ExFAT

galaxy s3 covers

DSCF3513

Ok, a little while back I ran a somewhat large USB Flash Drive Comparison with 21 drives compared, today I got part two of that comparison. I’ve taken the 8gig and 4 gig drives, nine in total, and formatted them FAT32, NTFS and ExFAT and ran all of the tests over again for a comparison of how the file systems work on the drives.

And yes I truly ran all of the tests over again, I recently upgraded to SiSoft Sandra 2009 SP2, so I needed to re-do all of those tests as well. I’ve been at this for quite some time now, and I’ve got a whole lot of information for you inside.

The reason for this is out of my curiosity and other people mentioned as well why not compare the file systems, so to satiate my curiosity and to give everyone as much information as possible I took a very large chunk of my time and dedicated it to this rather large article.

So sit back, relax and continue on, I’ve got tons of graphs for you all broken down and separated by file systems and tests.

DSCF3513

The drives are:

Corsair Flash Voyager Mini 4gb

Corsair Flash Voyager Mini 8gb

OCZ ATV Turbo 4gb

OCZ Rally2 Turbo 4gb

ATP Toughdrive Camo 8gb

ATP EarthDrive 8gb

Super Talent Pico-C Gold 8gb

Super Talent Pico-D 8gb

Super Talent 200x 4gb

 

A little information first for you:

I’m using Windows Vista Ultimate X64

Intel Q6600 CPU

8gigs of DDR2 ram

All of the drives were formatted to each file system for testing, FAT32, NTFS and ExFAT, all testing was done separately of course.

If you don’t know what ExFat is, well you can look HERE at the WiKi for a detailed explanation, but it’s basically FAT64, and proprietary to Microsoft and introduced with Windows Vista Sp1

Nothing else was running during testing except basic system processes and anti-virus, I also ran Process Idle Tasks command as well to make sure system was freed up for testing.

(ALL graphs found below can be clicked to open in a larger window)

First up we’ve got SiSoft Sandra 2009 SP2 Edition, using the Removable Storage Benchmark.

This time around I only focused on the Combined index score and not the Endurance factor as that should have remained relatively the same.

As a refresher, here’s info from SiSoft about the benchmark and what it does:

The typical usage model for these devices is file operations, such as writing a file to the device, reading a file from it, and deleting a file, this benchmark exercises the devices in terms of these operations.

The following characteristics are measured for each of the four representative files sizes of 512 Bytes (representing a minimal single data cluster file), 32kB, 256kB, 2MB and 64MB. The weighting of the results is not equal it represents the distribution of different files sizes as used on these devices (obtained through field research):

For each of the four file sizes a Combined Index is then calculated, stating the combined performance in terms of Combined Operations Per Second, with respect to a mix of write, read and delete operations.

Combined Device Index: is a composite figure representing an overall performance rating based on the average of the Combined Index figures over the four file sizes. (Higher is better, i.e. better performance)

First graph I have for you is a combined graph with all three file systems present, I used FAT32 for the baseline as that’s the default of most USB drives:

sandra graph all

 

Now here’s the individual Graph for FAT32:

sandra graph fat32

 

If you read the last comparison then you’ll know that OCZ and Super Talent were the top scoring drives there, not much has changed really, at least with FAT32 File System.

Next is NTFS:

sandra graph ntfs

Here we see a bit of a different story when we change file systems to NTFS, Super Talent and OCZ drop down a few notches from the top spots.

and next we have ExFAT file system:

sandra graph exfat

With the ExFat file system we see OCZ and Super Talent retaking the tops spots once again…

 

Now, I’ve got a lot more graphs coming up, these are the results using Diskbench from NodeSoft.

What you will see here is the Time to Copy to, Time to Copy From and the Time to Read From the USB drives, and you’ll also see the actual Transfer Rates in MB/s for those same tests. I used a 350MB .AVI Video file for all testing.

The first graph is all of the file systems shown for the ‘Time to Copy To’ the USB drives, again FAT32 was used as the baseline for the charting of the graphs.  Of course here the lowest time or score is the better one.

diskbench copy to all

here’s FAT32 by itself:

diskbench copy to FAT32

No surprises here, Super Talent and OCZ take the top spots.

next up is NTFS:

diskbench copy to NTFS

Same thing here basically, just the other drives rearranging a bit.

and finally ExFAT:

diskbench copy to EXFAT

Again same thing going on here really..

and here are the Transfer Rates for those Times to Copy To the drives, rather self-explanatory, no comments needed really, same layout as the above graphs, but just showing the raw data rates. Here of course higher scores or rates is better.

diskbench transfer copy to ALL

diskbench transfer copy to FAT32

diskbench transfer copy to NTFS

diskbench transfer copy to EXFAT

Now we’ve got the ‘Time to Copy From’ the USB drives to my main hard drive, or C drive. Same file used here again, same setup with FAT32 used as baseline for first graph:

diskbench copy from ALL

Here’s FAT32 by itself:

diskbench copy from FAT32

We see the Pico-C Gold comes in at the top spot with the lowest time, with OCZ coming in later

Next is NTFS:

diskbench copy from NTFS

A little change up here with NTFS, we’ve got three Super Talent drives taking the top three spots and pushing the OCZ down a bit

and finally ExFat:

diskbench copy from EXFAT

Super Talent and OCZ Drives do the best here as we can see taking all the top spots.

Again, the following graphs are the Transfer Rates for the above transfer times:

diskbench transfer copy from ALL

diskbench transfer copy from FAT32

diskbench transfer copy from NTFS

diskbench transfer copy from EXFAT

and finally here is the ‘Time to Read From’ the USB drives, again lowest times are better, FAT32 was used for baseline of first graph:

diskbench read from ALL

here’s FAT32 by itself:

diskbench read from FAT32

Pico-C Gold takes the lead here again, with another Super Talent drive and the OCZ drives coming in behind

Next up is NTFS:

diskbench read from NTFS

here we see a slight switching, but not much different with NTFS

and finally here’s ExFAT:

diskbench read from EXFAT

Similar results here again with ExFat, just a few switch places

and here’s the last few graphs of the Transfer Rates for the Read From Times, same thing again, higher is better:

diskbench transfer read from ALL

diskbench transfer read from FAT32

diskbench transfer read from NTFS

diskbench transfer read from EXFAT

So what have we learned from all of this, besides the fact that I need to get a life and out from in front of this computer?

We’ve pretty much learned the same thing we did from the original article really, that OCZ and Super Talent are the drives to own in terms of speed.

In terms of file systems, I would have to call FAT32 the winner only because it’s the most compatible with everything or every other operating system basically.

NTFS of course really isn’t compatible with everything, and ExFat is only compatible with Vista, but I’ve read that it can be easily made compatible with XP, but I haven’t tried it myself.

If we go back and look at the SiSoft Sandra test, the best scores were achieved using ExFat, then FAT32 came in second and NTFS in last.

Sandra 2009 and Diskbench are totally different tests with different results, if we go back and look at the Diskbench tests we can see:

For Copying to the USB drive FAT32 took the least amount of time, with NTFS coming in second and ExFat taking on average the longest time to Copy to the drive.

Copying From and Reading From the drives were very similar in their results though, most of the time the File Systems were close, with at points NTFS taking a bit longer while FAT32 and ExFAT were nearly identical.

So in my opinion the all around best choice is FAT32, or the default for most all USB drives out there today, it seems to give us the best average performance overall.

I hope you learned something from this, questions, comments, go for it….

For more USB Memory Reviews and information check out the main site.

  • Miles Raymond

    Nicely done! Very informative and unbiased.

  • Chris

    This is great information to have. Great work!

  • Dragos

    Nice.

    I know I tested some 2GB pen drives years ago with FAT16/FAT32 and FAT16 was faster.

    The only reason to have NTFS now is for files >4GB until ExFAT becames ubiquitous.

  • Rubix

    Great review but i would like to see also top o the line Corsair sticks.

  • kristofer

    Thanks… but I only have what I have on hand… everyone seems to want to see some other drive in the test, I’ve got 21 that are over 1gig, and those were the only ones that were 4gb and 8gb that I have on hand…

  • albatorsk

    White bars on white background? Come on. At least use different colors for different filesystems. Thanks.

  • kristofer

    I did use different colors, were you not paying attention? Look again please, the first graph is all of them colored for comparison, then the following graphs are just a single file system compared and they are arranged in order as well…. it’s not that hard to figure out really…

  • jent

    Great review, this is all awesome info. I personally use NTFS on my 32gig flash drive because of the need to store files >4GB…But I think some information this article lacks is just a couple points about the NTFS file system in respects to a flash drive.

    First NTFS is a journaled filesystem, so that means the sectors that are storing the journal will be written to a lot more often than any other part of the drive. Thus meaning that a flash drive with limited write cycles could be effected more readily due to the journals frequent writes.

    Second similarly in discussing the writing of the journal, NTFS also stores the last accessed time. Meaning that each time you read a file, or view a file, you are writing to the device to update this time. Again, just wasting write cycles. This can be disabled, but it is not done at the file system level, but instead requires modifications to the registry. Meaning that you would have to make the modification on every computer you wish to prevent the update of last accessed time to get the benefit.

    NTFS is not a good file system for flash drives, but if your like me and need to store files >4GB your kinda stuck with it sadly. Why wont windows adopt things like ext2? I mean it has been out forever, drives me crazy how the company refuses to adopt things, and instead tries to FORCE its users to using there technologies even when they are clearly inferior.

  • taulbeelxngtn

    Excellent job there! Very helpful, but like some of the others, I too would have liked to see some other brands included (SanDisk 8Gbs maybe…..)! I suppose if everyone sent you a flash drive, you could be doing this until spring!!!!

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  • Acitta

    I would like to see ext2 & 3 included in the test.

  • James

    Interesting… but does anyone really care? USB Drives are picked based on price, size, and features (IE; Encryption). How really cares what USB drive is faster or what file system is faster? An interesting, yet completely pointless exercise.

  • JohnnyE

    The NTFS interoperability is not so bad. For instance NTFS-3G supports Linux, OS X, FreeBSD, NetBSD, Solaris, and some others: http://www.ntfs-3g.org

    The Linux driver is pretty mature and much faster than FAT. They have an even speedier NTFS driver for consumer electronics device manufacturers. The OS X driver also has a performance version at http://macntfs-3g.blogspot.com

  • Big drive

    Good round up.

    How about a follow up piece on the larger 16GB/32GB/64GB flash drives.

  • mee too

    not a real review until you include all file systems
    including Novell NSS
    ZFS
    XFS
    ext4
    btr
    hammer
    hpfs
    and others

    keep trying

  • kristofer

    I would love to do a follow up, but at the present time I only have one 64gb drive, and no 16gb or 32gb ones… so it wouldn’t be much of a comparison at this point…

    and I’d like some others included as well, I’m trying to get more….

  • taelisyn

    Comments like the one above about this article being useless is what I hate about the internet. Obviously that person was interested enough to read the article. And to answer his question, I CARE! After owning several different USB drives, I’ve noticed the MASSIVE difference in performance, and I buy drives (internal/external) based on speed and reliability. Thank you for your work and effort on this exhaustive bit of research. And to the person above, and to all the other ignoramuses like him on the ‘net, go home and shut up! Your comment was a completely pointless exercise and served no purpose other than to denigrate the hard work of the researcher.

  • slash_dog

    Where are the other brands? The top selling USB drives are not even reprsented. SanDisk, PNY & Kingston.

  • eanderson

    Great article and I appreciate the fact it was all on a single page as opposed to those other reviews where you have to keep clicking “next page”. Thanks!

  • vissa

    Yeah, but with 16GB flash drives cheap, FAT32 has a huge limitation — a maximum 2gb filesize.

  • kristofer

    well, other brands eh?? Everyone says this… let’s see… I’ve got a new SanDisk here but it’s only 2gigs, PNY was supposed to send me some but never did, so I gave up waiting for them, and I don’t have any Kingston ones at all… Everyone seems to have something to say, I had one guy tell me that no one even used anything below 8gigs anymore which I can’t believe in the least, but if that’s what he thinks then fine I guess, more power to his delusions… as for the other File Systems, this would be Windows testing and not other operating systems, sorry…

  • Marcos

    Dont forget WinFS :)

  • Garrett W.

    @mee too: you are a delusional linux fanboy. it is most certainly a ‘real review’ no matter what you think of it.
    the author doesn’t have to test every possible environment if he doesn’t want to; chances are it would be a huge waste of his time. besides, the filesystems he did cover are available to the VAST majority of people that would read this; thus, it makes sense to use those.
    (don’t get me wrong, i don’t hate linux; it certainly has its place. but some people take it too far.)

  • Andreas T

    Windows performs some optimizations when it detects a FLASH-based drive, for example, it disables the write-cache as well as NTFS file-access stamping for that device.

  • Steve Shockley

    It might be interesting if you did a comparison of different NTFS cluster sizes, even if only on one or two of the drives.

  • kristofer

    Hi Steve… I thought about other variations for this, but in the end I decided simple would be the best route, I guess this is simple, or about as simple as I could make it anyway, but I thought the defaults for everything would make the best comparisons and more of something that everyone could understand from the newest user to the IT pro etc

  • shaun

    All in all you did a great job nevertheless.

  • Psycho Joe

    Great review! I use OS X and I am forced to use FAT32 and I’ve noticed differences in the flash drives I’ve used, great to actually see a comparison. And for the guys who are asking about larger sizes/different brands, you could send him yours for testing ;) otherwise he’s using what’s at hand. Also most people use 4-8gb flash drives nowadays anyways.

  • Angelic Ogre

    NTFS is likely to suffer in these comparisons – for MLC based devices, there are performance hits based on partition alignment.
    A more fair comparison would be a tuned NTFS install, with cluster size = write block (2K or 4K), access times disabled, and start of partition at a erase block boundary.

    FAT32 seems nasty for flash in terms of the number of writes it makes to the same sectors repeatedly (worse if dual FAT’s are enabled). With no seek penalty, there’s no benefit to contiguous FAT tables.

  • h310ise

    TY. I’d love to see this done again after some kind of endurance period as I’m hearing from colleagues that, to paraphrase Morrissey, some flash drives age better than others.

  • mai9

    I was testing my SanDisk SDHC+USB (that is a foldable SD card with USB connection) and that one copies at 3,3MB/s when it’s formated with FAT32 and at 4,3MB/s when it’s NTFS (4k cluster).

    How come it’s much speedier in my case?

    PS: those speed numbers were given by TeraCopy when copying 1GB (2292 files)

  • Asking

    But.. nowhere is it mentioned, what the fragmentation of the existing file system was. I believe the timing depends a lot on that too ? In real life use, it will never be a brand new blank file system that you copy files to.

  • mehmet

    Keep in mind that if you want to use ReadyBoost on Windows7, exFAT is the best way to go because it supports files > 4GB unlike FAT32. exFAT is essentially developed for flash-based removable media, so its file allocation scheme considers the wear-leveling issues found on flash drives.

    NTFS clearly supports files > 4GB as well, but exFAT is the better choice for ReadyBoost because:
    (1) It has lower overhead
    (2) It’s meant for removable drives whereas NTFS is not
    (3) It has better semantics for disk verification across power transitions such that you are more likely to maintain the ReadyBoost cache contents across standby/hibernate.

  • Alex

    This was a very nice review and quite informative. There was one other issue I was hoping to see addressed though that would be very difficult to evaluate, That would be the reliability of the data when the drives are removed without un-mounting them. Being someone who once lost 4GB of very important data when I didn’t stop the drive before removing it, needless to say, I am now religious about that practice. I wonder if a particular File system would be more resiliant to this. Also, What I have found to be the most demanding of a USB drive is extracting a compressed file in the drive to the drive. That might be an interesting benchmark too. Currently I use a 8GB Micro-Center (aka generic) drive for work and am not too happy with it’s speed but sure can’t complain about the price.

  • Neo

    Some of you idiots are really brazen. The least you could do is say “Thanks” before you spread off into “Why aren’t you using so and so brand?”, “Why aren’t you testing so and so filesystems?” I mean, I don’t see YOU doing any reviews?

    Anyway, I just wanted to personally say thanks. It’s an interesting roundup and I’d been wondering recently if I’d be better off with Fat32 or NTFS on my 16GB Transcend Jetflash drive. If you DO do another review, I’ll def. find it.

    Thanks again.

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  • Kumaiti

    Great review!!

  • Barry

    The on big hole in this review is the anti-virus software.
    You state early on that you left this running. Depending upon which brand it was, it could skew the results drastically. Most anti-virus software gets into the file system and reads all the data from files as it comes through. Some can slow the file system down by over 50% (Norton).
    It’d be worth running a few of the tests again without the anti-virus to see the effect.

  • Phil

    Interesting article. Would be nice to see performance of Ext2 / 3 / 4, et al, but I guess that would be quite an undertaking. However, what would *really* be helpful is to know how various file systems affect the long term life of the device itself. As flash drives have a limited write-to lifetime, does the choice of file-system affect this in any way?

  • sapman78

    Really good article.

    Maybe it could be a good point to also remember that FAT32 can’t deal with files bigger than 4Gb (for copying isos for ex ;-). It doesn’t matter for small keys but for 16 or 32 Gb flash drive …

    I don’t know efat32 so if one of you know if it can deal with big files i would be pleased to know it !

    THX

  • jolus

    Excellent and Informative. Thank you! forget the haters out there.

  • thomas

    thanks for writing it up! I found it helpful and easy to understand. I always say, if it isn’t consrtuctive criticism, then why don’t others host a website, run the test they wanted one to run, analyse it, post it, and be happy….it’s easier to be spiteful, lazy and comment, rather than do these kinds of tests. I own a 1GB Sony from years ago, and a Patriot 4Gb Xporter; i purchased the Sony b/c it was all I could afford back then, the Patriot I picked based on transfer speeds. I am in the market to get a larger drive, and you just helped 1 person from the internet wittle the choices down in terms of what to look brand, and also FS…thanks

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  • Mike

    Why dont all you people complaining about this or that drive wasn’t included, take your own drive and do the exact tests that the author did and post your results. Whats that, it takes too much of your time? You don’t know how to do it? Then STFU!!!!!!

  • kristofer

    Thanks for all the comments and input… and yes I am planning on doing something with larger USB drives, just give me some time to do them… was planning on doing 16gb and 32 gb separately… and as for Anti-Virus, I’m running Symantec NIS 2009, not sure it effects things, it’s a very lightweight program actually and doesn’t seem to interfere with things

  • CISCO

    Dude – Love these reviews, but I have a question for you. Why do you always review these obscure brands, like OCZ and such? The reason for my question … I would think that SanDisk, PNY, Lexar, Memorex, Sony, and the rest of the top retail drives would make the cut. Or did you basically weed all of those out because they have data and such on their websites or other reviews already available. Based on what you have here … I’d buy the OCZ in a heartbeat, but would really like to know how that would stack up against a SanDisk Titanium or SanDisk enterprise, which retail available. Either way though, thanks for the work you put into this review … that stuff takes lots of time!

  • kristofer

    Hey Cisco… the main reason I used these drives is these are the ones I got for review from those companies, I didn’t buy any of these drives, I’ve amassed a rather large collection over the years from doing reviews, and I’ve given a lot away, but I’ve got about 30 here now, ranging from 256mb to 64gb actually..the first part of this article actually did have many more drives, 21 in total, including lexar, sandisk and sony as well… it’s here if you want to check it out: http://www.technogog.com/review/usb-flash-memory/usb-flash-drive-comparison-21-tested-and-compared/

  • Who Cares

    I found the article very intriguing until I started to look at the graphs.
    Mind you only 3 format options but the graph bars and their similarity with color between two of the format types and on top of that making the background the same color, just plain simply pissed me off.
    All that work and so blind to make sure your efforts stand out, You don’t take it seriously than why should I.

    Get serious, clean up the graphs and Ill read it.

    Good Luck

  • kristofer

    ‘Who Cares’… Nice name, and if this wasn’t a PG-13 rated site I’d tell you exactly how I feel… but anyway, if you can’t understand the graphs, and I already explained it, then you’ve got the problem not me.. it’s not hard… and I pissed you off eh? It’s people like you that piss me off, all you have is complaints and nothing I do or say will make you happy… so there’s no winning, if I made it exactly to your specifications you’d still find something to complain about…

  • phil

    “Who Cares”: you are a female and an idiot.
    (no offence to women, cept him)
    Kris; nice work man. i noticed you didnt include sandisk in the round up, is it because they just arent in the same ball park or what?.. what are your feelings about sendisk on a whole, because i have grown close to them over the years and i fear it may be step in the wrong direction..

  • kristofer

    Hey Phil, There’s nothing wrong with Sandisk, I have a new Sandisk Cruzer Enterprise actually, but it’s only 2gb so I didn’t include it in here… it’s in the other roundup though, a couple comments up is a link to it

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  • Marty

    http://support.microsoft.com/?kbid=955704
    Yesterday Microsoft released an exFAT driver for Windows XP SP2 and SP3

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  • basic

    Anti-Virus was running? are you kidding!?

  • kristofer

    basic- So you’re saying that every time you use a USB drive you turn your Anti-Virus off? I truly find that hard to believe…

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  • lk

    hey Kris, don’t pay attention to aggresive people. I found your research interesting, although it would been great if you included ext2/3 in the tests. One question: do you think it would be faster to have the swap partition (in Windows Vista/2008) in a FAT-32 flash drive rather than in the HD?

    thank you for this really good article.

  • kristofer

    LK – I think the hard drives are faster overall, writing is slower on the flash usually than the HDD, unless of course you got an SSD, but that’s for another article…

  • Damian

    ExFat is also NOT compatible with Windows Ready to Boost, a feature I use A LOT!!!
    Great work!!!

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  • Jason

    Nice review! I feel that this type of analysis and comparison is NOT a waste of time. If noone cared or did these types of comparisons then the manufacturers could sell inferior products and noone would ever know. Someone said this is not a real review until all filesystems are tested. I challenge that person to take their own time to compare them. Then share the information as they believe that should be done for them.

  • Tony

    Very nice article, forget about the bad comments above.

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  • Dan

    Thanks Kris for taking such a big chunk of time to test these sort of things – it really does make a difference to a few of us out there!
    Speeds are really REALLY important for certain applications, such as running all your e-mail in Portable Thunderbird on a USB stick. An e-mail client really hammers the file system, and the difference in usability between your average white-label stick and an expensive fast version is night and day – just try it yourself to see what I mean!

    Personally I’d far rather a ninja quick 2GB drive at £40 than a Hello Kitty 16GB at £10…

    What’s worrying me at the moment is how scarce the fast USB sticks are becoming. Corsair Voyager GT? Where are you? I guess they’re a bit niche – the price of a portable 2.5″ drive with only a tiny capacity in comparison is probably a bit difficult to market to average joe… :-/

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  • Magic Man

    Kristofer,
    I’m having a problem w/ my 64 GB, Kingston flash. when i DL movie (.wmv) files to my hard drive, they will work fine (WM player 9). but, when i copy/paste them to the Flash drive for storage and try to replay them, i get the “0xC00D1199: Cannot play the file” error msg. The file type is supported by the player obviously, cuz they all work fine from my PC hard drive. Why will they then not work when trying to play from the flash? Flash is currently in FAT32 format. What should I do? Any help/recomendation would be appreciated greatly.

    mike

  • No one

    Your graphs font show…. it gives me an error when I try to see them, a server sided error

  • kristofer

    I see they aren’t working… don’t know why.. I can’t fix right now

  • kristofer

    I emailed tech, but they’re 6 hours ahead of me… it’s almost 1am there…

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  • trelony

    NTFS has one benefit – transparent file system compression. It would be interesting to know, how the compression would affect performance (more CPU load with less IO).

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  • Rick

    Kristofer,

    I am evaluating USB drives for performance and reliability to determine the best choice to store the PortableApps Suite (www.portableapps.com) and all my working files including 3-4gb of email archives. This will allow me to use netbooks such as the Acer Aspire One with SSD as a simple appliance into which I can plug my Portable Apps USB drive to bring together my data and a simple, lightweight computing platform. The key to success is USB drive performance and reliability. I first tested the concept using a relatively high speed SDHC card (SanDisk 8gb Extreme II) and overall performance experience was very good. Then, I loaded the PortableApps Suite on my generic 2gb USB drive to observe the difference in performance – it was awful, as I expected.

    Now, I am looking for any information, such as what you have posted, to help me find the best candidate USB drives (primary and backups) to hold my personal information archive so that the computing hardware itself is a function of my location or my need for mobility. I can choose to take a laptop with me, or use one in a hotel lobby.

    I appreciate you work and I will be looking at your site and others for stats related to reliability, expected storage life, and device ruggedness.

    Thank you for doing the work.

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  • Jeffrey Nonken

    I too have a laundry list of complaints and “how about this”es and so on. But I also realize that a) no review is EVER going to be complete, and b) even if it were, next week XYZ Corp will come out with a new model and suddenly the review will be obsolete.

    I’m sure somebody has done a *nix review somewhere. I can probably find it the same way I found this one. If not, maybe I can spend my own time and effort writing one?

    In any case, I know you spent a lot of time on this. Thanks.

    First time I’ve heard of ExFat. No surprise, I guess, I’ve been avoiding Vista like the plague. I have to say I’m disappointed, though not surprised, that Microsoft chose to keep it proprietary. *shrug* Whatever.

    I use my flash drives across multiple system types, including OS X, Windows, Linux, and BSD. I could set up all my systems to handle a single format like HFS+ but I also need to share files with other people. I’d like something more robust, but Fat32 seems to be the way to go for now. Pity.

    I note parenthetically that there exist drivers for Windows for Mac’s system (MacDrive — commercial) and EXT 2/3 (Ext2FS — freeware). So if any of you guys want to do a comparison, you don’t even have to leave Windows. :) (If anything, it might be interesting to see how Windows does with those strap-on disk formats.)

    Thanks again for the review. And always remember: Illegitimi non carborundum.

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  • JPaul

    What a great piece of work. Thanks very much. I’ve bought most of the drives you’ve reviewed, and now I’m sticking with SLC memory, dual channel. It broke my heart when the Voyager went to MLC memory. Getting hard to find SLC dual channel but I think my last 32Gb Luxio does it.

    I’d also be very interested in the effect of different block sizes. It looks like most of my files are less than 24Kb (Excel) and there’s a big difference between the space these files consume on my MacBook and on my Luxio, which worried me for a bit. I seems to recall an older study that compared small vs large files, but I don’t know if anyone played with block sizes. Or if you still can. Something (else) to think about. Thanks again.

  • WillB

    Following up on this for people who are in my situation.

    I want to store my virtualbox hard drive on my USB drive. Unfortunately, that cauesd me to hit the 4GB file size limitation, so I had to choose between NTFS and exFAT. I initially went with NTFS for more support across machines, but as of 1/29, Microsoft has released a Hotfix to allow full exFAT support in Windows XP. This means that any host running XP SP2 or SP3 can easily be upgraded for support, and any host running Vista SP1 already has it. I’d gather this is about 80% of the computer market, making exFAT the choice for me.

    Linux does have a read only driver for exFAT now, but it’s not targetted for the 2.6.29 kernel as far as I know. Not sure about OSX’s intentions, but I will imagine they will come aboard. Microsoft will drive the market for this one, and exFAT will win it.

  • Unnecessary graphs

    I appreciate the information, but what exactly was the point of those all-but-duplicate graphs? One graph per benchmark, please. There aren’t enough drives for the different sort orders to be worth the ridiculous amount of vertical space the extras took up.

  • TomY

    Great piece of work – thanks

  • thumbs up

    Great job man, and don’t mind the haters, i would rather have seen some more mainstream retail brands too; but i know how hard it is to get companies to send you tons of (cause it could still mean their product will look really bad). Nevertheless your findings gave me something to think about before buying a new 16 gb stick this week. Cheers! :)

  • Speakerman

    Thank you for taking the time to investigate a question a lot of us had.

  • VJ

    Very nice review. Really appreciate the time you spent on it. THANKS.

  • Chris

    Great article. I didn’t realize OCZ wasn’t a meanstream brand… I haven’t heard of Pico or Super Talent… but OCZ is widely sold online at most computer retailers (Newegg.com and/or Tigerdirect.com)

    I’ve collected a ton of USB flash drives over the years for my home and work; from my experience, many of the mainstream drives you can get at BestBuy, Circuit City, Wal-Mart, etc… are mediocre at best. To comment on something someone else said about why the big companies aren’t really getting competitive; a large majority of the uneducated consumer will select a drive solely based on it’s price & size, so the mainstream companies really don’t NEED to compete in performance to stay competitive in that market. Notice the big names don’t publish the performance specs on the packaging? (with the occasional exception of their performance series models)

    The truth is, reviews like this help to educate the consumer and create a demand for drives that can actually perform; the big brands won’t really start pushing performance until Joe Sixpack knows the difference ;)

    Kristofer, thank you for the time and effort. hopefully this review will be bookmarked quite a bit and more consumers will begin to see that there’s more to a drive than Cost/Size.

  • Me

    Very useful information Kristofer; thank you! I would be curious to see data with anti-virus on and off for your next report. Even with anti-virus on, I find your report to be extremely useful and helpful. I am surprised by the large differences. Thank you for your time and effort.

  • RS

    Thank you for the research. It is very useful research indeed. I got a new 64GB Patriot Xporter yesterday. I wanted to use ntfs format on it mainly because that would allow faster file search. But I noticed extremely slow file transfer as it took the whole night just to copy about 10G data. After viewing the graphs here, it convinced me how bad ntfs could perform. Just yesterday I converted a 32GB Patriot Xporter to ntfs and was planning to convert other couple of USB drives but now all of them will go back to fat32. Bye bye ntfs.

    As I own patriot, corsair and transcend flash drives, I am interested to see them participating in such a comparative tests, however, as the main focus is to compare the different file systems, it should not matter whether you use product A or B or C. After experience the horrible performance of ntfs on USB flash, I have no doubt that the conclusion of this research is rightly drawn. For usb hard drives, I am still using ntfs though.

  • myself

    STOP! COMPLAINING!! WHY DON’T YOU PEOPLE MAIL HIM THE DRIVES THAT YOU WANT TESTED!!!

  • jb

    Can’t believe you wasted all your effort because you left the antivirus enabled.

  • Kristofer

    JB – So you’re honestly telling me that every time you transfer things to and from a USB drive you TURN OFF your anti-virus? I find that truly hard to believe….

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  • EN

    Excellent work and very good information on questions that don’t have outright ‘answers’. Biggest thing for me – possibly bigger than speed – is reliability and I think the large 32GB/64Gb drives offer superior compatibility to optical media for data backup. A few questions – 1. Any views on long-term data life considering the oldest drives in your collection. 2. How did micro-sd cards get so small (16GB commonly available)? Wide use in mobile phones may explain volume related price drops but what trade-offs are there in long term reliability? 3. When solid state media ‘dies’ what are your data recovery options?
    By the way, I agree that any test of computer performance that excludes antivirus software is not ‘real world’. Keep up the good work.

  • Jonathan Potts

    this is a great place to come and find information that u dnt even no of

  • Aidan

    Thanks very much for publishing this information Kristofer. Interesting to see the results that you have published. May I also suggest to you a great site for all matters USB drive related which is by Uwe Sieber – http://www.uwe-sieber.de/usbtrouble_e.html. Thanks again!

  • RP6A

    Thanks for the info. I wouldn’t care about speed normally as i like to transfer a lot of 4gb files but right now everytime I plug in my flash drive windows says you must format this in order to use it. Any ways to format in ntfs and avoid this popup?

  • Finly

    Great review, Kristofer. Tnx

    Finaly i found a USB Flash with hardware write protect switch – PQI U339s 8GB – and soon i observed interesting problem – when im brousing a folder with “.exe” files in it, it takes ages to load the icons stored in the exe’s basicly freezing that folder untill all icons are showed. If i turn write protection off everything start running normal. This happens only on XP. On Vista/Seven everything works fine. Current file system is Fat32.

    So my question is: Is there any diference in that case if i use diferent file systems (fat32, ntfs, exfat). I would test it myself some day if i have the time and patience. ;)
    PS: forgive my awful english.

  • Gina

    I commend you for all that hard work you put into this project. I appreciate this report.

  • Shawn

    How do you convert your USB drive from exfat back to fat32?

  • Dave

    Copy files to HDD, reformat as whichever files system, and recopy files.

  • James

    Learn to use the PNG format. Otherwise thank you for the insight.

  • Kristofer

    James… What does PNG have to do with it?

  • polocanada

    The Corsair mini drives are actually not very fast. If you would take the 8GB standard or turbo version of flash voyager then you come to higher results than the mini editions.

  • Ron

    After the initial benchmarking on any factory new flash device, the devices partition should be entirely filled to capacity with user files. Then, delete all the files on the partition and rerun the benchmark test. Because most flash device do not support either “Garbage Collection” or the ATA Trim command their write performance is significantly worse when writing to previously written NAND pages/blocks. If there is not a method to (reset the flash blocks to all ones) erase (via Garbage Collection, Trim or a utility provided by the flash product vendor) the NAND blocks, this slow writing condition is permanent.

  • Namrata U. Thakur

    Nice,
    But With Each Fig or charts have more description.

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  • Greg

    This is exactly what I’ve been looking for! I am going to start using exFat but I really do not like how XP doesn’t have it already supported. I doubt companies and schools, let alone average users, will manually update to support exFAT.

  • Greg

    Oh and the PNG question above was never addressed, so I’ll do it. JPEG is really for photographs… it introduces loss of saturation and noise and/or artifacts to images. In photographs these negative qualities are usually blended away by fine detail, but in images of not much complexity, it is more noticeable. The images you posted are not complex, so PNG should be used. PNG is lossless so there is no degredation in quality as well.

  • John Bäckstrand

    Random write/read? This is very important for booting stuff from USB, which is extremely handy.

  • Gerry

    Thankyou for this!

    I recently got a 64Gb USB Flash Drive that came, by default, formatted to FAT32. I was wondering if I should RE-format it using e.g. NTFS or FAT …but now I know to leave it alone!

    Thankyou, again, for all the effort and unbiased (and rather thorough) reporting/testing.

    Cordially,
    Gerry

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  • Shomit

    Very nice post

  • AwesomeWork

    Kris,

    This was an excellent review. Sure, like some other people, I wasn’t crazy about the duplicate colours on the graphs, but I understood the information. This is one of the most wide-ranging, useful benchmarking reviews of its kind on the Internet…. I think this is an outstanding attempt at a broad comparison (Like your previous Part-1 article). It has given me information that is extremely useful in making performance selections across brands. Granted, grandma will not really care if Super Talent X200 smokes her Sandisk or whatever. I, for one, was extremely pleased with the depth and breadth of your work. Please continue to update this as you acquire un-benched drives: I __will__ be reading it. Don’t listen to the idiot whiners, nor to the snobs! (Guys, this isn’t a “file system comparison”, this is a USB drive comparison with a few common file systems; sure, if it has ext2/3 or Reiser it would be stupendous – but it doesn’t. So why don’t YOU do that review instead of being a Monday morning quarterback.

  • philip

    Hey, Very Nice Job Kris. I expect to visit here more often. Whatever people may say, we all know that it is very difficult to find time to sit and do something worthy, while it is so easy and takes only a few secs to write whatever comments that come to your mind about it. Please remember this all you people. If you can appreciate it, say it. Otherwise DO NOT waste the space here with your comments.

  • MrAllenU

    That was an excellent article!

    Thank you for taking the time to do this–I’ve been looking for something like this all over the internet and here you set it out beautifully!

  • John

    Thank you for your time! I needed a comparison like this! Excellent job :)!

  • Ash

    Kristofer Brozio thanks heaps for taking the time to test all you did, most of us appreciate it, ignore people like James, you think you got no life Kristofer ?? What about the people who post a comment just to mock you like James and Who Cares the retarded rude shitfaces.

    Again, thanx for all the time and effort!

  • Tcx

    hi there Kris question have you noticed any difference on win7 and ExFat?

    and for Readyboost for a 4 GB drive what format would you recomend
    another one for a 32GB drive what format would you recommend NTfs or Exfat

    Fat 32 is a no no bcuz u cant transfer files bigger then 2GB. any body ?

    thanks!

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  • http://www.chopnotslop.com baalpeteor

    I remember when processors used to costs an arm and leg… Back in 2002-ish I paid over $1000 for a 3.06 ghz P4 which wasn’t in computers on the shelf then (custom made HP). I wonder what $1000 looks like now (as dual and quad cores are so old news now). Maybe $1000 will buy 8 cores on one die? lol

    Also it would’ve been nice to have tested the Corsair Flash Voyager (GT and GTR). The GTR is the fastest drive on earth (and many tests by reputable sources). I’ve had my GT for over a few years (way before this posting) and it has not let me down. It has even mixed up my alcoholic drinks (and sugary tea!), and still kicks, but what can you expect from a water proof stick lol. I’ve replaced the water proof cap (they give you them free) and they sent this lil rubber accessory that holds the cap when its off.

    You can find out about the GTR here (which comes in the sizes of 32, 64, and 128GB) : http://news.techworld.com/storage/3214098/corsair-flash-voyager-gtr-is-its-fastest-usb-flash-drives-yet/?olo=rss

  • Oddball

    Kris,
    I commend your efforts, and abhore the moaners.

    I got here from Google – large USB drives, but they aren’t mentioned.

    I am having great difficulties with my 512Gb stick, I got it for saving video on a GIGO digibox.

    Not found a way to format, always fails, tho one time Vista looked as though it might – in 3.5 days.

  • http://myindigolives.wordpress.com Ellie K

    Kris you are awesome! I am a statistician and have worked for a storage device manufacturer called IBM and as a reliability engineer for a cell phone-type product called Nextel at Motorola, so you should listen to me. The charts are not optimal, but this isn’t an ACM journal article either. If they added value to the article overall, and I think they did, then it was time well-spent.

    Even the title is well-worded, as FAT64 is actually a misnomer, and you sensibly chose not to use it in the title (the SEO and metadata collective say “Thanks!”) though you covered it in the content of your article . Very nice photo image layouts too, in that octopus-like formation.

    I will recommend you to my favorite tech blog, the east Indian guys over at Beyond Tecknology, and certainly cite this article if I ever get around to writing a consumer-targeted storage product primer for portable device files system.

    @mee too is a delusional Linux fanboy.
    @Alex with the dismount issue: check into TexFAT as it is designed to prevent data loss in the situation you described.
    @Greg: thank you for explanation re PNG vs JPEG, is nice and succinct. When article was written in Jan 2009, I don’t think there was much level of awareness of suitability for each.

  • Anton

    Good work.

  • Bradley

    James… I disagree. I actually do care about the speed of a flash drive specifically in terms of the file system. We do a lot of backing up, restoring, snapshotting (not a real word) and deploying of VM’s. The faster and more efficient the FS the better.

    Thanks for you work Kris

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  • Lin

    I have an 32gb OcZ Rally but am hesitant to convert to NTFS althou i would like to save ISO’s over 4gb’s to it. I see no-one has talked about the Patriot Flash drives. I have a 32gb one and i love it. I hope someone reviews those. Would NTFS on a flash drive be totally usable within the Xp, Vista, and Win7 operating systems?….or is it a no-go if you try to use it with what then? What is the drawback with NTFS then?(just a little time?).

    • SVDP

      You can go with the NTFS format of your drive, We personally use it for all internal and client transfer to Digital devices, except when we are working on older systems at which point we need to use Fat32 for compatibility. NTFS does offer some security that FAT32 does not within the file system structure.

      Enjoy
      SVDP-TECH

  • Henshaw

    Thanks a lot, Kris, for this article.
    I am building up a No-Mobile-Parts public multimedia kiosk system. I chosed a 256GB Kingston flash disk to go as system disk, WinXP Tablet Edition as OS. So I was doubting which filesystem will go best. I believe I would better update my XP Tablet Edition and go with ExFAT.

  • Jurgen Cook

    Unbelievable extensive testing Kris, congratulations for your Excellent work which I hope you will pursue, with all the crap sometimes on the net it is relieving to know there are still good people out there !

  • PhiliB

    Great Review…well done, maybe a little overkill with the graphs but it looks like you did a lot of work to document what you did.
    Anyone complaining about what you didn’t do, well, they can always test the scenarios they present themselves! :-)
    Question, I’m looking for an article comparing USB to SD/SDHC chips. Listed transfer speeds are approx. 480mbs for usb 2.0 and depending on the SD chip, anywhere from 10-30 mbs.
    I understand that that it’s a no brainer with numbers, but what actually happens? So, on average, which is faster for ReadyBoost; using a USB Flash drive or an SD Memory Chip. (example Sandisk Extreme III/ PNY Professional (Class 6/Class10) type chips?
    Thanks!!!

    • SVDPTECH

      Your best bet is to go with a USB drive, it will set you back a little more than the SD card but, the higher end units do come with a special setup that allows dual memory access like your mobo ram, Corsair am0ong others makes some very fast dual channel usb drives.

      Enjoy.
      SVDP-TECH

  • Dave

    Outstanding article, Kris. I am in need of an 8 Gb flash drive and had no idea which to buy. You have just made my decision a heck of a lot easier. I appreciate the time and effort you have put into this.

  • Spooky216

    This all looks pretty impressive but what about if you have a large file, say 12 or 14gb that you wish to copy to the usb drive and transfer to a separate computer? I am using a mac. For some reason I thought the FAT32 had a limit of 4gb whereas the NTFS didnt have a limit.
    Have I got the wrong end of the stick (pardon the pun)
    Nina

  • Qigongdoctor

    OK Great, BUT, I’m using XP Pro, with Core Duo. When I try to reformat my flash drive (any) from FAT32 to NTFS, I get messages saying that Windows can’t complete the format, or unable to complete the format. From the command prompt, I get the message that there is a partition problem having to do with the basic file system. I just cant find a way to get my flash drives to reformat at all! (very frustrated in Martinez)

    • Io23sif

      Right click on My Computer/Manage. Click on Device Manager. On disk drives , right click on your flash drive. Select Proprietes and click on Policies. Click on Optimize for performance, and OK. Now you can format the drive in NTFS.

  • Z80user

    If NTFS Vs FAT vs exFAT only set the default cluster size, or no indicate, the test are not bad, but the utility is …
    NTFS can format with 512 bytes/cluster to 64 KB by cluster
    FAT16 can be up to 32KB/cluster
    FAT32 are the same option that NTFS
    exFAT can make sililar comparation, but only if the size of cluster are the same, and not all cluster size are equal to performance.

    In OPS/minute NTFS can only make 79 !!! but can write at the same speed at exFAT, only a little less.

    Windows only can mount NTFS if disable cache system on USB drive, but not for FAT16/32.

    Windows 7/2008 Have a good recurse monitor that show the memory use by file system cache (aprox) by click in memory tab. In orange color show this memory, it is grow when copy a file.

    Other test can by copy a LARGE file 3.75 GB of data from/to USB in 4GB flash no a large file that 256MB, the cache of controller make the cache/file size low. If this value are 1, the test are wrong but is value is near to 0 is a good test. Windows 32bits can’t copy all file in memory (Windows 200x Server can use more memory that 4 GB)

  • Boeing711

    Interesting… You’ve answered my question. Thanks a bunch for the research M8.

  • nooitaf

    Mac users should use exFAT if possible as Snow Leopard added exFAT support in version 10.6.5 on November 10.
    OS X 10.6.5 can read, write, and create exFAT partitions additionally to the usual FAT32.

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    Thanks for the advice nooitaf, I was having a few problems with my Mac but I’ll try using exFAT. Now that Snow Leopard have added support, I’m hoping everything’s alright.

  • Anonymous

    The range of your results is suspect. Any drives with read and/or write caching disabled would be much slower than those without. You don’t mention caching once.

  • http://www.freeantiviruscomparison.com free antivirus comparison

    HI, 

    Its really brilliant post guys and very informative article guys. 

    Thanks

  • http://www.txparts.com cell phone repair parts

    The best reviews of USB flash drives pit multiple models against one
    another in a series of standardized tests that evaluate file read/write
    speed, durability, security measures and other practical considerations,
    and use the results to identify clear winners.

  • Karl I

    But which would give longer life span to a pendrive? And, why?

  • Michael Ormandy

    If you are someone like myself who transfers LARGE files and / or enjoys downloading QUALITY video files from the torrents (+4 gig HD quality movies) and want compatibility with whatever media player you stick it in, NTFS is the only choice. Keep in mind, it’s read write is often a tad slower, and since the NTFS files system constantly logs to file journals, it will wear out the drive faster. That said, it’s JUST A FLASH DRIVE. By the time you wear it out, you will want a larger / faster one that will by that time be much more affordable than it had been.

  • theodoros bousios

    “So what have we learned from all of this, besides the fact that I need to get a life and out from in front of this computer?” That’s exactly what i thought when i was reading the article. Anyway it’s a great post, i was always wondering what is the best option for a flash drive, fat32 vs ntfs, … omg i need to get a life too, there are more serious dilemas in this life

  • Malai

    Why is it when I transfer files folders (with sub folders) from the HD to the 64GB USB running exFAT many of the sub-folders ended up empty unlike the normal transfers to USB below 32 GB? Makes me distrust most transfers! I am running Windows 7.

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