Geek Tip for Fast File Transfers

My 6-year-old desktop computer was starting to show its age, so I decided it was time to build a new one. I did some research, ordered all the parts, and spent part of the weekend assembling the new box. As part of the build, I got one of Seagate’s brand-spanking-new line of desktop hard drives, the 8TB Archive drive, which will house my ever-expanding photo library, among other things. Of course, part of the process of using a new hard drive is getting files onto it, so I started the process of copying files from my old drive, which was now connected via a USB 3.0 drive dock (affectionately known as “The Toaster”).

The copy started out fine, albeit slowly, with transfer rates in the 65MB/sec range. Strange, seeing as how both drives are quite fast, and the USB 3.0 connection certainly isn’t a bottleneck. Be that as it may, I let go until I noticed that the file copy would frequently stall and would sit there idle for as much as a minute before suddenly continuing as if nothing had happened. After 20 minutes or so of this I stopped the copy, removed the drive from The Toaster and connected it inside the machine via a normal SATA port. I restarted the copy and sure enough, the stalling problem went away, but the transfer rate was still abysmal.

While the copy ran, I searched for answers to the stalling issue. I found a number of things I already knew and had checked, but I also found a little nugget on a hardware forum that intrigued me. A user was having a problem that was similar to mine, and I scrolled down through the posts of potential solutions until I got to the bottom, wherein someone asked the OP to mark a particular post as the best answer, since it solved his problem.

The fix involves setting the security permissions on the drives in question. I was dubious at first, since in my experience security issues usually result in access denied errors or something similar, but I figured I’d try it. For each drive, I gave my user permissions for full control and applied the changes. I then restarted the file copy. The result can be described in two words. Holy. Shit.

In short, the transfer rates were now in the eye-popping range. Speeds were now in the 150-200 MB/sec range, and frequently burst to well over 200. At one point, I glanced down to the copy window and saw this:


Speeds like this, and even much higher, aren’t at all uncommon among today’s smoking-fast solid state drives, but when you’re talking about two consumer-grade spindle hard drives, and in fact one of which (the 8TB) has only a modest 5900rpm spindle speed, it’s pretty darned amazing. This indicates that the 8TB was consistently running right at its design limits throughout most of the copy process. Later, I also removed the drive from the computer and put it back in the toaster, and confirmed that the stalling problem had been solved as well.

I have searched high and low, and I haven’t found another single reference to drive permissions having an effect on speed. I don’t know why or how it works, but I’m here to tell you that, while your mileage may vary, it certainly worked for me. Copying 1.9TB of data in just 3.5 hours was proof enough for me. So if you’re having stalling problems with an external drive, or maybe even just speed problems across any drives, try checking the drive’s permissions. You do, of course, need to exercise caution, since mucking around with permissions can cause some massive problems if you screw them up. But in some cases at least, it can certainly be worth checking it out. If you try it, and it works for you (or if it doesn’t), let me know!