1 January 2013, Comments: 65

There are currently four speed modes defined by USB 3.1 and USB 2.0 specification. They are SuperSpeed Plus (SSP), SuperSpeed (SS)Hi-Speed (HS) and Full-Speed (FS).

The SuperSpeed Plus mode (appended in USB 3.1) has a theoretical transfer rate of 10Gbps. It’s commonly known as USB 3.1 Gen 2 while SuperSpeed or USB 3.1 Gen 1 (previously known as USB 3.0) has a bandwidth of 5Gbps. USB 2.0 is still widely used; it delivers both Hi-Speed and Full-Speed mode that operate at 480Mbps and 12Mbps respectively. (Note: the unit is in bits per second.)

When taken account protocol overheads, latency and flow control, the fastest USB 3.0 or USB 3.1 Gen 1 device should run at near 450Mbytes per second whereas a USB 3.1 Gen 2 device, in best case scenario, should perform at 1.1Gbytes per second in applications. During Gen 2 mode, overhead is reduced from 20% to just 3% with the USB 3.1’s new 128b/132b encoding scheme; hence, you see better effective throughput.

To illustrate how fast USB 3.0 is in real-world scenarios, we plotted a dozen storage devices’ benchmark data in bar graphs so you can easily tell the performance leader in each storage peripheral subcategory.  Results are shown in megabytes per second. Our current testbed is a late-2014 Apple MacBook Pro Retina running Windows 10.

Conventional USB 3.0 Flash Drives

This benchmark was taken from our round-up of some of the fastest 128GB USB 3.0 flash drives, which are best for bulk file transfer (e.g. large media file transfers, ISO backups).  In this test, we’ve included Corsair Flash Voyager GS, Kingston HyperX Savage 3.0, Lexar JumpDrive P20 and Sandisk Extreme PRO 3.0 for comparison.

Mini USB 3.0 Drives

Here, we selected 5 mini 64GB USB 3.0 drives that are targeted at users who value drive dimensions over speed. They include the Kingston DT Micro 3.1, Sandisk Ultra Fit 3.0, Silicon Power Jewel J06, Transcend JetFlash 710 and Verbatim Mini Metal. All four are also designed to stay plugged to a tablet, laptop and alike as a secondary storage.

3.5″ Desktop Hard Drives

We tested a number of traditional self-powered desktop drives as well as enclosures including ioSafe SoloPRO (fireproof), LaCie 2Big RAID, Seagate GoFlex Desk, SIIG USB 3.0 Dock and Thermaltake BlacX 5G USB 3.0 Case.

Fastest USB 3.1 Drives Available

  • dpak4u

    Nice info

  • hmm..i just bought a Segate goflex slim even though its connection is backward compatible with USB 2.0 connection I wonder if I could use the existing firewire ports with a converter to achieve a higher throughput..i dunno just sayin

    • Rohn

      USB is USB whereas firewire is firewire…two different connection types..

    • bonafide

      yes u can, just buy the firewire adapter for the goflex hard drive. so u still have to remove the usb 3.0 end-to-end part anyway. and u must have a firewire port on your notebook/desktop as well. 

    • John Wurth

      No, firewire is far slower than USB3 – FW maxed out at 800Mb/s whereas USB3 is 5Gb/s. Your throughput issue is the hard drive, not the connection, which is far faster than the drive.

      We’ve gotten 267MB/s from USB3; you could never get near that with FW800 – see here: http://tinyiron.net/?p=45

    • Tim Tringle

      Yes, if you do not have USB 3 and your machine does have FW800 then getting the FW800 plug for the drive will give you a performance boost over using the USB3 connection on a USB 2 computer. There will be plenty of people who hate anything that is associated with apple as FW is and they will try to tell you that Firewire 800 is slower than USB 2, don’t believe them.

      To make it clear the speeds from slowest to fastest are

      Firewire 400 (original Firewire)
      USB 2.0
      Firewire 800
      USB 3.0
      Thunderbolt (Intel Lightning)

  • I LIKE EVERTHING ABOUT SUPER USB, AM a university student and ts wow….

  • bcode10

    i use my dell laptop for my disc jockey business looking ot see if i upgrade from a usb 2.0 4 port hub to this 3.0 4 port hub will it work and will it make my stuff work better and faster?? can i also just plug and play with any usb port on my labtop. i have vista 32bit.

    • Ade V

      Your USB system will be limited to the slowest piece of the chain – so no, you couldn’t plug a USB3 hub into a USB2 or 1.1 port & have everything go faster. You will need to buy a USB3 PC Card to plug into your laptop to give you true USB3 speeds (assuming the PC card can go fast enough?)

    • Tim Tringle

      USB 3.0 is a new standard. If you want things to be faster and more stable then get a new laptop with Windows 7 (Not Windows 8) and make sure it has USB 3.0 ports.

      If you have Vista 32 you probably haven’t upgraded in a half a decade or more likely 7 years or so. There is no magic wand thats going to make the machine faster except for maybe adding more memory (and not disk space which is what most people misconstrue as memory) but memory is best purchased in the first 3 years of a machines lifetime before it gets expensive due to no longer being the current type.

      Bottom line, stop being cheap and get a new machine. You are way slower than you have to be. Plus make sure you get 8GB of memory in the new machine, not just the 4GB they try to stick you with. The more memory the longer it will remain fast enough for you.

  • dmosterd

    Verry Informative. Is there also information/specifications about USB 3.0 Hub’s?

  • Minolion

    I use Motorolla USB 2.0 cable with a USB 2.0 WD Essentials 1TB Desktop hard rive and i can get 40-70 MB/s with an average of 55 MB/s. 

    • Pretty sure you mean Mb not MB. Either that or you mean USB 3.0 not 2.0. 70 MB/s exceeds even the theoretical maximum rate of USB 2.0, you will never get transfer speeds that fast. It’s impossible.

      • Incorrect.  The theoretical maxium of USB 2.0 is 480Mb/s.  This is called High Speed.   

        Low Speed(1.0) and Full Speed (1.1) have theoretical maximum’s of 1.5Mb/s and 12Mb/s respectively. 

        There are many sources of this information, it is listed in these comments above.  I am getting my information from notes printed from an IT course I took about a month ago. 

        • Steven, Brian was actually correct in what he stated. MB = Megabyte, Mb = Megabit.
          70 MB/s (Megabytes/Second) is 70 x 8= 560Mb/s (Megabits/Second) which exceeds the USB 2.0 theoretical maximum speed of 480Mb/s (60MB/s)

          • Somehow, with the subject of Brian’s comment being about the capital or lower case b, I still managed to miss that he was referring to Bytes.  Just goes to show that no amount of resources or education can replace one’s ability to fully read someone’s post.  haha.  Sorry.  In that case you would of course, both be correct. 

            I will now go back to grade school to learn comprehension. :)

          • your an idiot… a 3rd grader could understand Brians explanation

          • M F

            A 3rd grader would know it’s “you’re” an idiot.

          • Minolion

            That is really odd, unless Windows 7 is lying to me.
            I looked at the transfer rate (I can’t remember if I was sending to the WD or from the WD) and it averaged 55 MB/s (Yes, capital “B”) and it DID reach over 60 which is why I’m dead confused. Granted, all my information could be on a crap basis and lack understanding.

  • thank your ser …

  • Any results known with the WD elements series?

    • EnidTrevor

      I am using a WD My Book Essentials 1 Tb with USB 3 leads and connections.  My PC has Intel i7 processor and 8 Gb ram

      On a transfer of 5.5 GB of mixed data the following speeds were obtained:

      PC to My Book 43.5 Mb/sec
      My Book to PC 75.8 Mb/sec

      Hope this helpful


      • Boydnar

        Hey gang, point of order.

        MegaBYTES is abbreviated “MB,” and MegaBITS is abbreviated “Mb.” That’s UPPER case vs. lower case. Several people on this page — and everywhere else — are using the wrong abbreviation, which leads to confusion. A LOT of confusion.

        For the less technical . . . a “bit” is a single “1” or a single “0” — that is, the smallest single, indivisible “bit” of information.

        A “byte,” on the other hand, is a collection of 8 bits, be they 1’s or 0’s or both. Therefore, a megabyte is 8 times as large as a megabit. That’s why megabytes gets the upper case “B” and megabits gets the lower case “b.”

  • vdeegan

    I’ve frequently read how that a usb 3.0 device is backward compatible to a computer with usb 2.0.
    But how about to a computer with usb 1.1?   If not, is there a PCI card that can upgrade a computer from usb 1.1 to usb 3.0?   I know there are PCI Express cards that can upgrade a computer with usb 2.0 to usb 3.0; but I’m not sure about upgrading from usb 1.1.  Thanks for any help.

    • If your computer has USB 1 ports, buy a new computer. Any $350 laptop will be better than what you must be using now.

    • Pete Dillon

      The term is not “backward compatable”, but is “downward or upward compatable”. 

      • Peabody1911

        In USB 3.0, dual-bus architecture is used to allow both USB 2.0 (Full Speed, Low Speed, or High Speed) and USB 3.0 (Super Speed) operations to take place simultaneously, thus providing backward compatibility. Connections are such that they also permit forward compatibility, that is, running USB 3.0
        devices on USB 2.0 ports.

  • EnidTrevor

    Hi I have just changed to USB3 for External disc and flash drive and am dissapointed.  The actual speeds I am getting are similar to your tests, which is only a fraction of the theoretical speeds (and the manufacturers tell you all about the max but never that you will only achive a small part of them).

    My speeds are External disc to PC=74 MB/sec;  PC to External Disc=43 MB/sec;  PC to Flash Drive 25 MB/sec; Flash Drive to PC 91 MB/sec.

    I have asked both the PC , and the external drive manufacturer why and neither seem to be really prepared to give a proper answer.

    All the Best and many thanks for your most educational explanation.  But why are actual speeds so much below the theoretical?


    • Hi Trevor,

      The key here is that USB is the interconnect between the device and the PC. It’s like having a really good quality highway. If you dont have a really fast car you will be driving with it’s maximum speed without even touching the speed limit of the highway itself. The same is with your HDD and Flash drive. Interconnect is perfect, but the HDD itself cannot read or write fast enough.


      • Matthew F

        Not true at all, i have done SSD to SSD transfers over USB3 with new Crucial M500 series drives and the speeds are still similar to this review so that is not the case. It is the simple fact they are lying on the speeds, period, and over head, doing what? taking 6x of the claim performance off the claimed “10x faster than USb2”

    • Ernie Price

      I hear you brother!  Just transferring a file to test the speed of your transmission is not the same as doing a hard drive migration/upgrade.  During any normal migration from a USB 2.0 to USB 2.0 averaged around 20 MB/s on any drive I’ve ever used.  Upgrading from the USB 2.0 to a USB 3.0 got me an average of 40 MB/s.  On transferring from USB 3.0 to USB 3.0 I got an average of 58 MB/s.  Read the speeds below.  
        A Low Speed (USB 1.1, USB 2.0) rate of 1.5 Mbit/s (187 kB/s) that is mostly used for Human Interface Devices (HID) such as keyboards, mice, and joysticks. 
      A Full Speed (USB 1.1, USB 2.0)rate of 12 Mbit/s (1.5 MB/s). Most USB Hubs support FullSpeed.
       A Hi-Speed (USB 2.0) rate of 480 Mbit/s (60 MB/s). 
      A Super-Speed (USB 3.0) rate of 4.8 Gbit/s (600MB/s).
      So why is my USB 3.0 Drive just getting to the USB 2.0 speed?  The Drive may be 2 times faster on the USB 3.0, but if it is finally getting USB 2.0 speeds, shouldn’t the box just say REAL USB 2.0.  It just doesn’t make sense a drive like the Seagate GoFlex (which has both a USB 2.0 dock and a USB 3.0 dock)  can get USB 2.0 speeds on the USB 3.0 dock but can’t get to USB 2.0 speeds on the USB 2.0 dock.  WTF :)

      • R_W_S

        There is a lot of overhead going on with USB 2.0 You can expect a throughput of around 20MB/s on 2.0. You can expect a throughput of around 60MB/s on 3.0 even though it should be capable of about 4GB/s thoughput. (you might get 3 or 4 GB/s on a superfast SSD drive, but I doubt you’d get even close to it on even a 10,000 RPM HDD)

  • i would just like to ask, how can you verify if a usb 3.0 port is working properly (or is behaving properly)?

    usb 3.0 supposedly has a faster transfer rate as compared to usb 2.0..

    here are some scenarios i experienced:

    1 asus g73sw laptop (all stock, stock fresco usb 3.0 driver)
    1 seagate expansion 1TB usb 2.0 external hard drive, 7200 rpm
    1 seagate expansion 1.5TB usb 3.0 portable hard drive, 5400 rpm

    (transfer rates as being shown by windows 7 during transfer)
    a. transfer rate of 144 GB worth of video files to usb 3.0 drive: 13.5 mbps ave.
    b. transfer rate of 177 GB worth of files (mostly disc images) to usb 2.0 drive: 20 mpbs ave.
    c. transfer rate of 12 GB worth of video files to usb 3.0 drive: 14 mbps ave.
    d. transfer rate of 2 GB video file to usb 3.0 drive: starts/piques at 101 mbps then declines to around 40mbps at end of transfer

    are scenarios a, c and d normal behavior?
    comparing scenario a and b, why does the usb 2.0 drive have a higher transfer rate as compared to the usb 3.0 drive? does the usb 3.0 drive, being portable, a factor? does a hard drive’s rpm also have an effect on the file transfer rate?

    any insights would be much appreciated.

    thank you very much.

    • It all depends on the specs of your External Hard Drives

      The fact your 2.0 HDD is running at 7200rpm aids its read/write speeds compared to the slower read/write speeds of a 5400rpm HD.

      An explanation by Borislav on a previous post is a great explanation ( http://www.everythingusb.com/speed.html#comment-455302988 )

      “The key here is that USB is the interconnect between the device and the PC. It’s like having a really good quality highway. If you dont have a really fast car you will be driving with it’s maximum speed without even touching the speed limit of the highway itself. The same is with your HDD and Flash drive. Interconnect is perfect, but the HDD itself cannot read or write fast enough.”

    • Tim Tringle

      There is nothing supposed about it, a drive with a USB 3.0 interface plugged into a USB 3 equipped PC will be very fast as compared to plugging it into a USB 2 port. Thing is that even now computers with USB 3.0 can sometimes only have a certain number of USB 3 ports. Usually these are marked in blue.

      As for the explanation below the fact is that usb 2 never really got near the speeds that most drives were already capable of. Alot of things factor in to how long things take to copy but USB 3 is capable of great speed so It should no longer be the bottle neck and should easily approach internal drive speeds.

      • Matthew F

        And yet is no where near it once you put in an SSD drive capable of true USB3 speeds in the 300+ range of transfer, meaning that all thise 5Gbps speed claims are all false as i have yet to find a single USB3 review that comes anywhere near those claims…

    • R_W_S

      Is your USB port truly a 3.0? Is it blue inside? (Not the defining characteristic, but a very good clue.) If not, then that would definitely explain the rates being what they are.

  • G Hazel

    USB2 vs USB3: 40gb of files moving from old PC to new PC with a USB external drive. Took 45 minutes to copy files to the drive with USB2. Took 6 minutes to restore them with USB3. Wow. (Yeah, the new computer itself is faster in every way which certainly has some part to play, but that’s impressive performance improvement).

  • samp1800

    ugh this new kingston se9 is the slowest hunk of metal i have used… 5 mb/s write speed, 10 mb/s read speed

    • John Wurth

      Yeah, the se9 line is super durable, but super slow. The closest faster design is this one from Silicon Power: http://wp.me/p1SurS-CH. It’s not super-fast, but it’s durable like the se9, with a nice design

  • I’m trying to figure out what USB 2.0’s max transfer speed is, but I just keep ending up on USB 3.0 no matter where I click.

    • MrKnobs

      It says right on this page that USB 2.0 is 480 Mbps.

      • I don’t even remember why I cared anymore now.

      • Joe Lyga

        USB 2.0 is around 20-30 megabytes per second max. But a lot of transfer speeds in specs are measured in megabits per second.

      • JK

        Max transfer speed in USB 2 will be around 20 MBPS not more than that… even that depends on HD RPM and system RAM

  • jayarebee

    I purchased a USB 3.0 PCI card with two ports and a pin extension for my USB 3.0 Front Panel Output. The only USB 3.0 device I currently have now is Corsair Survivor 32GB. It always reads 30-40mbps which I am assuming is not 3.0 speed. Listed under my USB Controllers under Device Manager it shows a VIA USB 3.0 Root Hub… so I don’t know if I should try another USB 3.0 device or if I am SOL. My motherboard is an older ASUS M3A32-MVP Deluxe which is why I picked up the little USB 3.0 PCI card to see if I could get USB 3.0 on this system.. I updated my Bios but see nothing for USB 3.0 or SuperSpeed. It was worth a shot if I can’t get 3.0 on this system, but I still have hope…

    • Brian Ellis

      That’s USB 2.0 speed you’re seeing. The tell-tale sign of USB 3 is the blue colored male and female ends and inputs. So your input port needs to be 3.0 the cable needs to be 3.0 and your output device (which usually has no color indicator but is commonly a narrow / slim input area. If all these are not 3.0 you’ll bottleneck the data into 2.0 which is the speeds your are seeing.

  • Matthew F

    So basically, as usual the advertised speeds are pure BS and false advertising since speeds never reach near that. So why are we not going after these “standards” and get them to advertise the true, real work speeds. Theoretical means nothing when it is physically impossible to reach those speeds no?

    • R0tten

      Yes… and No. See the problem with going with the theoretical speeds is….. You can’t! This is because all drives/hardware are not created equal. Some devices will copy from/to faster than other drives. So therefore you cannot say the theoretical speed of this bus is 120Mbps because, say in 2 years, they can come out with a device than can reach 300Mbps on that same bus connector. See what I mean? Then you’ll be in the same boat saying they aren’t giving the true transfer speeds.

      BUT, I will say…. it WOULD be nice if they gave us the “average” transfer speeds. ;p

      • Matthew F

        It is false, toss an SSD drive into a USB3 enclosure (i have done several) and see if you get anywhere near 200M even, you wont, you hover around 100 up and down…they Oh and AWW people with speeds that will never exist on the standard..

        USB2 – put in an SSD drive and you may be lucky to crack 30MB constantly with a good controller..i usually see around 25/26MB. no where hear the 480Mbps roughly they claim.

        • Lion

          USB3 – drive is still the limiting factor.

          USB2 – 480Mbps is 60MB/s, take away overheads for error identification/ correction/packet rerequesting/storage information etc etc depending on the driver. You probably arnt too far off the mark.

          Source – had to write specialised usb2 drivers once with some pretty demanding speed requirements and data accuracy requirements.

        • Bob Harris

          Your enclosure is SATA 2 internally. That is your bottleneck.

          • Matthew F

            I know the limitations of each interface, the issue is with the “false” claims the sellers make of these speeds that even under the best situations with the best controllers you will never see the “advertised” speeds.It is pure false advertising.

          • Bob Harris

            Hi, Matt,

            I don’t disagree with you. The specs usually (I’ve seen it in the DisplayPort specs) list the raw speed of the interface, and then the speed minus the overhead i.e. data vs, data plus protocol. So perhaps that is where the confusion with USB 3 / 3.1 speeds is coming in? You are right that it is a lot of marketing hype to list just the raw speed, as this is of no benefit to the end user.

            All that being said, driving the USB interface to saturation won’t happen with the suggestion you made(SATA II internal protocol / USB 3 external). If you can find an enclosure that is SATA III internally….

  • Wobbler

    There seems to be some confusion here about the transfer speed in terms of how it is specified. Technically, a lower-case b indicates a bit, an upper-case B a byte. This theoretically means there is an 8x difference for the same speed- 8Mbps (megabits per second) is equivalent to 1MBps (megaBytes per second). These can seem dramatically different despite being the same speed. Unfortunately, sometimes software is reporting in megabits per second and others in megabytes per second and sometimes, when people write it they don’t understand the difference in case and just put either MB or Mb down without realising.

    The other issue is data throughput. An 8GB file can appear to have a lower bit rate than the specifications because the specifications are for so many bits per second. However, an 8GB file isn’t actually 8GBs, it’s more due to check bits, etc. So an 8GB file takes up more, which will effectively make the drive appear to be slower than its actual Mbps rate.

    The final issue is whether the drive or interface manufacturers are using a decimal 1,000,000 for a Mega or a binary 2^12 (1,048,576) for a Mega. Manufacturers obviously prefer the decimal version because it make drives seem faster and bigger. However, the file sizes might be referring to the binry version and again will appear slower.

    It’s a minefield out there!

  • Astrogoth

    My WD Passport Ultra 2TB can transfer to another just like it, using all the right Superspeed motherboard drivers and updated drive firmwares at 108 MB/s burst but an average of 80MB/s. So the chart is correct. Nowhere near 600 MB/s!

    • Martin Mark

      2 TB Ultra is only 5200 RPM, while 1 TB Ultra is 5400 RPM both have 8 mb buffer, while Samsung M3 Which is actually Seagate 500 GB – 1 TB versions are 5400 RPM but with buffer 16 mb.

      • Martin Mark

        And fastes one is Seagate my backup pluss 2 TB it is 5400 has 32 mb buffer and 130 / 130 read and write speed also sata board so you can take it out and put in your pc to copy data if controler fails

  • STUPID. No date on this article. Waste of time.

    • maxwell brigenza

      check the first comment time :)

  • Jerry Martinez

    i see a lot of people here not understanding that even if you have all usb 3 that doesnt mean its gonna transfer at top speeds if you have shit for a cpu and ram.

  • Hannan Mamun

    I’m just getting 2.5 MByte/sec on my Toshiba 3.0 while transferring PC to External! People are talking here about 100-200!!

    • everythingusb

      What is the name and model of your drive? Have you tried transferring larger files (i.e. > 2GB)?

      My best guess is that your flash drive isn’t very good at transferring small files. My rough calculation gave me around 6MB per file; that is, if all your files are of the same size. There could be other explanations like your PC having problem connecting to this drive under USB 3.0 mode.

    • xxryuujixx

      Actually, I think it’s more due to smaller files? It’s like u got 3318 files going there.

  • Hannan Mamun

    screenshot here