How can I speed up my disk transfer rate?

If you find yourself waiting around for files to transfer from one drive to another, there are several things you can try to speed up disk transfer rates. The transfer speed depends on a variety of factors, including the drives themselves, the interface used to connect them, and software settings. With some tweaking in the right places, you can optimize data transfers and reduce frustrating waits.

Use Faster Drives

One of the biggest factors determining transfer speed is the capabilities of the storage devices themselves. Upgrading to faster drives with higher data transfer speeds can dramatically improve performance. For example:

  • Switching from a traditional hard disk drive (HDD) to a solid state drive (SSD) can significantly boost transfer rates. SSDs have much faster read/write speeds compared to HDDs.
  • Using external drives that connect via faster interfaces like USB 3.0, Thunderbolt 3, or USB-C can improve speeds compared to older USB 2.0 drives.
  • Using higher RPM HDDs can provide a speed boost over slower 5400 RPM models.
  • Using RAID 0 disk arrays can enhance performance by striping data across multiple disks at once.

Upgrading your source or destination drive to a faster model is one of the most effective ways to improve real-world transfer speeds.

Use a Faster Interface

The interface between your computer and storage device also plays a huge role in determining maximum transfer speed. Common connection types include:

  • USB 2.0 – Up to 480 Mbps
  • USB 3.0/3.1 Gen 1 – Up to 5 Gbps
  • USB 3.1 Gen 2 – Up to 10 Gbps
  • USB-C – Up to 10 Gbps
  • Thunderbolt 3 – Up to 40 Gbps

With all else being equal, switching to a faster interface can dramatically speed up transfer times. For example, copying files over USB 2.0 could take 5+ minutes, but with USB 3.0 or Thunderbolt 3 the same transfer might take 30 seconds. External drives and enclosures are available with a variety of modern interface options to choose from.

Upgrade Motherboard Drivers

Outdated drivers on your computer’s motherboard can hamper performance for connected drives and interfaces. Manufacturers periodically release updated drivers that may contain disk transfer optimizations and bug fixes. Upgrading to the latest drivers for your motherboard chipset and storage interfaces can potentially boost performance.

You can generally find the latest drivers available on your motherboard or computer manufacturer’s website. Refer to your motherboard manual for details on locating driver updates.

Tweak Software Settings

In addition to hardware, software settings can also impact disk transfer speeds in certain scenarios. There are a few tweaks worth trying:

  • Disable anti-virus scanning or real-time protection for the source and destination drives during big file transfers to eliminate software bottlenecks.
  • Adjust power plan settings to use “high performance” mode when you want maximum transfer speeds.
  • Enable write caching on the destination drive if supported.
  • Use a different file copying utility like TeraCopy for better optimized data transfer.

You may need to restart your computer to apply some setting changes. Test transfer speeds before and after making tweaks to see if performance improves.

Verify Drive Health

If you’ve tried various upgrades and tweaks without much improvement, it’s possible there are underlying issues with the health of your drives. Symptoms like unusually slow write speeds, high latency, or excessive seek time can indicate a problem with the physical storage media.

Check the S.M.A.R.T. status of your drives using free tools like HD Sentinel to detect issues like bad sectors, read/write errors, high temperature, and hardware faults. Replace any potentially failing drives to restore normal transfer performance.

Fragmentation Effects

File fragmentation on HDDs can take a toll on transfer speeds. When files are broken up into many fragments spread across the drive, the read/write heads must physically seek between locations to access the full file. This can significantly slow down transfers.

Periodically defragmenting your HDD using the built-in Windows Disk Defragmenter or a third party tool like Defraggler can help optimize file layout and improve transfer rates.

Network Transfer Options

If you need to move data between computers on a local network, the network itself can become a bottleneck. Some options to improve network transfer speeds include:

  • Use wired Ethernet connections instead of Wi-Fi wherever possible.
  • Upgrade to a faster Ethernet standard like Gigabit Ethernet or 10 Gigabit Ethernet if supported by your network adapters and switches/routers.
  • Consider link aggregation techniques like port trunking to combine multiple network connections.
  • Enable jumbo frames on your network interface cards and switches if supported.
  • Schedule large data transfers during off-peak hours if the network is busy.

Examples and Results

To give you a better idea of the potential real-world improvements, here are some examples of transfer speed changes from simple hardware upgrades:

Upgrade Scenario Before After
Replaced 5400 RPM HDD with SATA SSD 107 MB/s 462 MB/s
Switched external HDD from USB 2.0 to USB 3.0 36 MB/s 96 MB/s
Upgraded network link from Gigabit Ethernet to 10 Gigabit Ethernet 94 MB/s 1015 MB/s

As you can see, simple upgrades like using an SSD or faster interface can multiply disk transfer speeds, reducing copy times from minutes to seconds in many cases.


With the right combination of hardware upgrades, driver updates, software tweaks, and proper disk maintenance, you can realize significant improvements in disk transfer speeds. Always start with the easiest changes like using a faster interface or drive before resorting to more complex solutions. With a few guided upgrades, you can eliminate disk transfer bottlenecks and long wait times.