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USB 3.0 Thumb Drive As SSD Alternative

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August 24, 2013 8:05:13 AM

After reviewing the test results of the following thumb drives: http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/usb-3.0-thumb-drive... it occurred to me that it might be viable to move large applications and perhaps windows itself onto a 64GB Sandisk Extreme thumbdrive in the hope of exceeding the read / write performance of my laptop's 5400rpm HDD.

Essentially my idea is to use the thumb drive in much the same way someone would use an SSD.

I would greatly appreciate feedback on this idea and whether the pros outweigh any cons or vice versa.
a b G Storage
August 24, 2013 8:24:35 AM

No, ssd is fast because of acces time and iops, thumb drive is not. Using usb as boot is about as fun as using a cd-rom for boot.
August 24, 2013 8:44:50 AM

Thanks for your input. I tried, but was unable to find the read and write access times of the Sandisk Extreme to compare with an SSD. I did however find the following article http://www.tested.com/tech/accessories/456707-best-usb-... which sites the following Amazon user review:

“This stick is essentially a single NAND device (probably with multiple die inside) paired with the same controller found on Sandisks U100 SSDs. While they aren’t the leader of the pack, that controller is obviously FAR better than your standard USB stick flash management controller. So quite literally we have an SSD on a stick here.

“…I consider these things a steal for the price, a real SSD controller, quality NAND and S.M.A.R.T monitoring capability. I don’t see any problem with the housing either it seems sturdy enough to me and I like the retracting connector (the entire board inside moves, so don’t worry there are no ribbon cables to wear out inside).”

Sure enough, TweakTown’s review includes a teardown of the SanDisk drive and confirms the Extreme uses the same controller as SanDisk’s ReadyCache SSDs.

Would an SSD controller have any bearing on access times or is that limited by the USB interface?
Related resources
a b G Storage
August 24, 2013 9:24:19 AM

Cd/dvd is lower bandwidth and access times than usb 2.0 which is why I always use usb to install windows. I haven't even had a cd drive for 5+ years. You can't install windows on usb. Only portable versions. You could install programs though, I've ran stuff even off slower usb 2.0 and it was slower loading times since it's limited to 30MB/s but wasn't too bad. The access times are still faster than a hdd but slower than a sata ssd because of the mobo's usb controller.

Testing my usb 2.0 4gb flash drive on hd tune, I got .7 ms access times, my ssd 128gb gets .06 (on as ssd benchmark) and my hdd 500gb 7200rpm blue, 16.4 ms.

Oh btw cd/dvd access times are 100+.
August 24, 2013 6:44:53 PM

Hi there,

Thanks for your feedback. If a USB has better access times than a HDD then it is still in contention to be used an SSD alternative.

You said "You could install programs though, I've ran stuff even off slower usb 2.0 and it was slower loading times since it's limited to 30MB/s but wasn't too bad"

Please take into account the Sandisk Extreme 32GB has been independently tested to exceed 200MB/s write speeds. Considering you have run programs from a USB 2.0 drive and weren't overtly dissatisfied, I am thinking I will be very happy with Sandisk Extreme when used for the same purpose.

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a b G Storage
August 24, 2013 10:47:29 PM
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Yes you will be satisfied. I was really just saying I can't give first hand experience with 3.0 but it is possible to install stuff onto usb and it should be faster than a hdd. I do have 3.0 but no 3.0 devices. The usb with ssd contollers should be better than the others. This has to do with better data management. I'd be curious to know what access times you get.
a b G Storage
August 25, 2013 5:33:18 AM

Still low iops, so slow program loading. USB 3.0 is the same thing (on my ADATA Superior S102Pro 16GB, USB3.0 at least). Almost as slow as USB 2.0 for booting so yeah.
August 25, 2013 8:14:30 PM

k1114 said:
Yes you will be satisfied. I was really just saying I can't give first hand experience with 3.0 but it is possible to install stuff onto usb and it should be faster than a hdd. I do have 3.0 but no 3.0 devices. The usb with ssd contollers should be better than the others. This has to do with better data management. I'd be curious to know what access times you get.


When I buy a Sandisk Extreme along with the HD Tune software I will let you know.
August 25, 2013 8:18:21 PM

aatje92 said:
Still low iops, so slow program loading. USB 3.0 is the same thing (on my ADATA Superior S102Pro 16GB, USB3.0 at least). Almost as slow as USB 2.0 for booting so yeah.


The Sandisk Extreme are a new breed of USB thumb drives with significantly better performance than the majority of other USB 3.0 devices.. Did you check out the links I pasted in my first post.

The Sandisk Extreme's have SSD controllers, quality NAND and S.M.A.R.T monitoring capability. This should improve iops should it not?
a b G Storage
August 25, 2013 8:53:17 PM

When you get hd tune, get the free version, not the free trial for pro. Or you can use as ssd benchmark which will have read/write sequential, 4k, 4k-64, along with access times. Hd tune just only does read sequential and access times.

His flash drive is on the benchmarks you posted.

Aatje run as ssd benchmark on your flash drive.
August 26, 2013 7:03:24 AM

k1114 said:
When you get hd tune, get the free version, not the free trial for pro. Or you can use as ssd benchmark which will have read/write sequential, 4k, 4k-64, along with access times. Hd tune just only does read sequential and access times.

His flash drive is on the benchmarks you posted.

Aatje run as ssd benchmark on your flash drive.


OK, I will. Thanks for the tip. I think a lot information is already available here: http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/usb-3.0-thumb-drive... here http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/usb-3.0-thumb-drive... and here http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/usb-3.0-thumb-drive...

Note the third link (SSD copy benchmark) where aatje92's 16GB S102Pro is right at the bottom of the list as opposed to the Extreme which is at the top. The Extreme is 10x faster at copying iso files!
December 21, 2013 2:48:51 AM

did anyone tried to to usb3 drives as storage device , and what are the results. what is performance as compared to hdd or ssd ?
December 21, 2013 2:56:58 AM

Photongun said:
k1114 said:
Yes you will be satisfied. I was really just saying I can't give first hand experience with 3.0 but it is possible to install stuff onto usb and it should be faster than a hdd. I do have 3.0 but no 3.0 devices. The usb with ssd contollers should be better than the others. This has to do with better data management. I'd be curious to know what access times you get.


When I buy a Sandisk Extreme along with the HD Tune software I will let you know.


do you tested it and what are the results? really appreciate if you can share the results with us
a b G Storage
December 21, 2013 8:49:23 AM

Read the link in the first post, it already shows the performance.
December 24, 2013 9:40:17 AM

The main problem with USB 3.0 flash drives and using it as a boot device for an OS revolves around the type of NAND memory used and the controller. I've been running various SSD drives in my laptops for about 18 months now and get blazing speed for my hosts and the VMware VMs I run under the host. I recently read about Mushkins new SSD thumb drive and purchased it. While not as fast as I had hoped, it has very good random read/write 4k speeds compared to regular USB 3.0 thumb drives. I also bought a SANDisk Extreme 64 GB and was very impressed with the speed of this USB 3.0 thumb drive.

Bottom line is I am now running my main VM instance on the Mushkin SSD thumb drive and am happy with the performance. Below is an e-mail I sent to a friend concerning the disk benchmarks of various devices I have:
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


In my never ending quest to find the fastest USB 3.0 flash drives. I bought 2 more:



SANDisk Extreme 64GB USB 3.0

Patriot Supersonic Magnum 128GB USB 3.0



I ran the CrystalDiskMark performance test against them as well as the Corsair Voyager GTs we have (the previous fastest) and the new Mushkin SSD flash drive I bought the other week. For comparison purposes, I also bench marked my OCZ 4 (SATA III) which is of course the fastest.



Some interesting numbers, especially on the random writes. The Corsair Voyager GT is blazing on reads but sucks on the random writes. It seems the SSD technology does much better on writes and high queue depths. I was disappointed on the Mushkin SSD thumb drive, not as good as I would have thought for a flash drive with a SSD controller.



I had read good things about the SanDisk Extreme thumb drive, this is the new champion for a non-SSD flash drive. Check out the write speed on the SanDisk!!





OCZ Vertex 4 512 GB



-----------------------------------------------------------------------

CrystalDiskMark 3.0.3 x64 (C) 2007-2013 hiyohiyo

Crystal Dew World : http://crystalmark.info/

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

* MB/s = 1,000,000 byte/s [SATA/300 = 300,000,000 byte/s]



Sequential Read : 518.669 MB/s

Sequential Write : 493.293 MB/s

Random Read 512KB : 332.081 MB/s

Random Write 512KB : 484.599 MB/s

Random Read 4KB (QD=1) : 34.734 MB/s [ 8480.0 IOPS]

Random Write 4KB (QD=1) : 122.935 MB/s [ 30013.3 IOPS]

Random Read 4KB (QD=32) : 374.371 MB/s [ 91399.1 IOPS]

Random Write 4KB (QD=32) : 319.018 MB/s [ 77885.2 IOPS]



+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





Mushkin Enhanced Ventura Ultra 240GB



-----------------------------------------------------------------------

CrystalDiskMark 3.0.3 x64 (C) 2007-2013 hiyohiyo

Crystal Dew World : http://crystalmark.info/

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

* MB/s = 1,000,000 byte/s [SATA/300 = 300,000,000 byte/s]



Sequential Read : 163.076 MB/s

Sequential Write : 108.470 MB/s

Random Read 512KB : 167.841 MB/s

Random Write 512KB : 109.353 MB/s

Random Read 4KB (QD=1) : 23.732 MB/s [ 5794.0 IOPS]

Random Write 4KB (QD=1) : 61.716 MB/s [ 15067.3 IOPS]

Random Read 4KB (QD=32) : 17.377 MB/s [ 4242.5 IOPS]

Random Write 4KB (QD=32) : 74.604 MB/s [ 18213.9 IOPS]



++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





Patriot Supersonic Magnum USB 3.0 128GB



-----------------------------------------------------------------------

CrystalDiskMark 3.0.3 x64 (C) 2007-2013 hiyohiyo

Crystal Dew World : http://crystalmark.info/

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

* MB/s = 1,000,000 byte/s [SATA/300 = 300,000,000 byte/s]



Sequential Read : 245.166 MB/s

Sequential Write : 146.839 MB/s

Random Read 512KB : 170.613 MB/s

Random Write 512KB : 1.215 MB/s

Random Read 4KB (QD=1) : 9.120 MB/s [ 2226.6 IOPS]

Random Write 4KB (QD=1) : 1.565 MB/s [ 382.0 IOPS]

Random Read 4KB (QD=32) : 8.202 MB/s [ 2002.5 IOPS]

Random Write 4KB (QD=32) : 1.654 MB/s [ 403.8 IOPS]



+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





SanDisk Extreme USB 3.0 64 GB



-----------------------------------------------------------------------

CrystalDiskMark 3.0.3 x64 (C) 2007-2013 hiyohiyo

Crystal Dew World : http://crystalmark.info/

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

* MB/s = 1,000,000 byte/s [SATA/300 = 300,000,000 byte/s]



Sequential Read : 209.799 MB/s

Sequential Write : 192.558 MB/s

Random Read 512KB : 151.614 MB/s

Random Write 512KB : 23.436 MB/s

Random Read 4KB (QD=1) : 12.553 MB/s [ 3064.7 IOPS]

Random Write 4KB (QD=1) : 10.113 MB/s [ 2468.9 IOPS]

Random Read 4KB (QD=32) : 10.181 MB/s [ 2485.7 IOPS]

Random Write 4KB (QD=32) : 4.796 MB/s [ 1171.0 IOPS]



+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++




Corsair Flash Voyager GT 64GB



-----------------------------------------------------------------------

CrystalDiskMark 3.0.3 x64 (C) 2007-2013 hiyohiyo

Crystal Dew World : http://crystalmark.info/

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

* MB/s = 1,000,000 byte/s [SATA/300 = 300,000,000 byte/s]



Sequential Read : 240.637 MB/s

Sequential Write : 98.625 MB/s

Random Read 512KB : 207.380 MB/s

Random Write 512KB : 1.864 MB/s

Random Read 4KB (QD=1) : 23.857 MB/s [ 5824.5 IOPS]

Random Write 4KB (QD=1) : 0.015 MB/s [ 3.8 IOPS]

Random Read 4KB (QD=32) : 25.767 MB/s [ 6290.8 IOPS]

Random Write 4KB (QD=32) : 0.016 MB/s [ 3.9 IOPS]



+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

March 20, 2014 6:09:37 PM

this is the thread i was looking for. i want to do the same thing. just install an os on a 32g 3.0 and just leave it plugged in and not even have an internal hdd. but i have the same questions about performance affects. i dont know alot about hdd specs, would a thumb drive be capable of this sort of thing? and when i say capable i mean at least as good as an average hdd.
a b G Storage
March 20, 2014 8:52:36 PM

Your question is really the same as the op and was already answered. Get a flash drive that uses a ssd controller and it may perform better than a hdd. Not all flash drives are created equal and vary largely in performance. You really need to look up benchmarks before you buy and there was one posted here as well.
March 20, 2014 9:58:43 PM

k1114 said:
Your question is really the same as the op and was already answered. Get a flash drive that uses a ssd controller and it may perform better than a hdd. Not all flash drives are created equal and vary largely in performance. You really need to look up benchmarks before you buy and there was one posted here as well.


ok i went back and read that article. but how does an ssd improve a usb 3's capabilities? so far i gather that 3.0s are faster than any hdd (which makes me wonder how theyre still on the market) if thats the case, why arent these more practical? are there any that you can install internally?

i mean, what i'd like to do is just get a 32g ssd to run my os, and just have a couple of these babies as seperate drives.

a b G Storage
March 21, 2014 3:15:30 PM

Don't confuse a ssd and a flash drive that uses a ssd controller. You could also just get an external ssd which will be a sata ssd with a usb adapter. Typically a flash drive has a cheap simple data controller and having a more complex ssd controller that manages the data a lot better will give you much better performance. You will see even different ssd controllers will vary greatly in performance.

All 3.0 are not faster. There are some that are even slower than 2.0 despite being 3.0, and this is even stated in the article. This also means that they can be slower than hdds. Hdds are still here because price per GB. Usb is an external connection hence only external devices.
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