Yes, USB 3.0 is faster. A lot faster.

I’ve been immersed in Windows 8 lately, getting ready for some interesting new projects.

One of the new features I’ve been looking forward to testing is the enhanced support for USB 3.0 devices. USB 2.0 is fine, but with terabyte-sized hard drive it can be downright painful to do large copies.

I’ve added USB 3.0 ports to a couple of desktop PCs here using inexpensive add-in cards, and I also picked up some external drive enclosures that support the format. Here’s what a copy operation looked like when I plugged a drive full of data into the USB 2.0 port and copied it to a local drive:


Not bad, actually.

Now the exact same data set, but this time with the drive plugged into a USB 3.0 port:


Yeah, that’s about 2.5 times as fast.

Obviously, your mileage may vary. The type of data you’re copying makes a difference, as do the USB chipset and drivers.

Still, at those speeds, I’m sold.

11 thoughts on “Yes, USB 3.0 is faster. A lot faster.

  1. Yes, USB 3.0 will essentially allow you to get 70-80% of the actual throughput on the drives.

    eSATA theoretically allows 100%, but I’ve found them to be very glitchy in practice. Some won’t hot plug. Some will hot-plug, but only once. Some won’t report themselves as external drives, so you can’t clean-eject — you just have to turn them off. Not sure if it’s the drives, or the motherboard, or the drivers, or Windows, or what.

    Let’s face it, eSATA just hasn’t seen wide adoption beyond the tech community, so it’s not very well supported. USB 2.0 is much slower but also much more reliable. USB 3.0 will close the speed gap and hopefully remain just as reliable.

  2. Tom, you are right on the money about eSATA drives not reporting themselves as external. In the case of Windows 8, I wanted to use a drive for the new backup feature called File History. But the system doesn’t recognize an eSATA drive as a valid external target, so this USB 3.0 enclosure was a perfect solution.

  3. I’ve used eSATA disks and I agree that on standard windows vista/7 it doesn’t work very well.

    What’s been working for me every time is this neat utility: Hotswap for SATA/eSATA drives”. Never fails detecting a drive or removing a drive when done.

    I have yet to try a usb3 connectin, but this test looks very good.

  4. Carlos, thanks for the utility recommendation. I will check it out.

    John, I used a couple of add-in cards. I like the ASUS U3S6, which includes both a SATA 6 controller and two USB 3.0 ports. Sadly, it seems that ASUS stopped making it. There are alternatives that range in price from under $10 to over $50. Most require a spare PCI-e slot. I’m hesitant to recommend anything I haven’t tested.

    And no, they don’t speed up USB 2.0 devices. 😦

  5. @Dana, 2-3X faster will most definately fly.

    I hope smartphones pick up the 3.0 standard soon too. With 64 Gig smartphones becoming more available, it’s becoming a pain to sync and back up those too.

    I agree with the eSATA comments 100%. I guess I just spoiled by the abuse you can give a USB port, electrically not physically, and it still work. eSATA is just not good for temporary plug in uses in my experience. Might have been the few devices/machines I’ve tried, but they all seem to be very very picky on when they want to work.

  6. A nice set of numbers there Ed. USB2.0 is still very solid but the take up of USB3.0 will grow exponentially in the near future. Its quite inexpensive to put a PCIE to USB3.0 card in your desktop system and they are backwards compatible with USB2.0. I have never been sold on eSata as per the other comments to this post.

  7. Note: I thought this “comment,” from a spambot gone horribly wrong, was just too awesome not to share. So I released it from spam jail and left it here. I did delete the links and changed the author’s name. Appropriately, I hope you’ll agree. – EB

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  8. I did a bunch of tests on Windows 7 with add-in PCI Express cards and USB 3 laptops for ZDNet UK a while back – some other things I found is that USB3 flash sticks can be so fast that the speed of the internal hard drive/SSD can be a rate limiter on the copy; you see faster speeds with an SSD than with a spinning disk on USB 3 copies from the Kingston sticks.

    Another advantage I hadn;t expected is that USB 3 power profiles are much better – it helps that being done faster means you can power down sooner, but USB 3 takes less power than USB 2 in some other cases too.

    Also: best spam comment EVAH 😉

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