Slow External Hard Drive: Troubleshoot and Speed It Up

External hard drives have become a must-have accessory for most users. Thanks to them we can save all kinds of data from our computer and always carry it with us wherever we go. Windows, and any operating system, are able to recognize, mount and use them just by connecting them to a USB port on the computer. And normally we will not have any problem when using it. However, with the passage of time, we may find a loss of performance and that the speed when copying and writing data is very low. And even this can be very long at 0 bytes per second . why?

There are many reasons why an external hard drive can run slow. Some of them may be the fault of the hard drive itself, and how we have been using it, but others may be related to Windows and to our computer.

Slow External Hard Drive

Next, we will see how to solve all of them to be able to get excellent speeds again when copying files from these drives.

External hard drive issues that slow it down

External hard drives are very long-suffering. Unlike the units that we can have in our computer, these are always in motion. And this, in the long run, can affect its proper functioning. Therefore, if the external hard drive is very old , its own natural degradation may be responsible for this malfunction. We can check if it is near the end of its useful life by checking its health status with any SMART program such as CrystalDiskInfo .

Other clues that can help us identify a malfunction of this type of storage device with the lights. Most units have an operation LED that flashes depending on how it works. In case something goes wrong, the case will emit a pattern of lights that can help us to detect and solve these possible problems.

It can also happen that the problem is with the cable. The USB cables that these hard drives are connected with can often be damaged. If there is a crack in the rubber, or the connector is peeled, bent, or bad, this will be a problem. If we see that the cable or connector is not in good condition, we must change it for another.

Lastly, we recommend that we always use hard drives that are USB 3.0 . USB 2.0 disks today will run too slow, and that will affect the user experience by taking much longer to copy our data. Any new hard drive we buy will use this standard, but it’s always best to be safe.

And if we have mounted our own external hard drive with a case, then we must make sure that it is of good quality.

Configure Windows and PC to increase speed when using an external hard drive

But the problems are not always with the hard drive itself.

Fix errors and defrag

We are constantly connecting and disconnecting hard drives from the computer. And we also connect it to other computers, repeating the process over and over again. These units are for that, they are Plug & Play devices and have the cache disabled by default so that we can connect and disconnect them from the USB without having to remove them safely. But, in the long run, this ends up taking a toll on performance.

Therefore, to keep the disk in good condition it is recommended to periodically analyze it and check for errors with Chkdsk on the drive. In this way, we can repair the file system, without losing data, so that its performance is optimal again. To do this, we simply have to connect the unit to the computer, right-click on it, open the properties window and, in the “Tools” tab , use the error checking function.

Propiedades disco duro externo W10

Like any other normal hard drive, over time it becomes fragmented. And this means that the head has to travel more space to find new free eggs to save the data, which translates into a lower reading and writing speed. As external hard drives usually have a much higher data movement than other drives, they need to be defragmented from time to time . We can do this from the same section from which we have checked for errors. Or we can also use a program to defragment hard drives.

Desfragmentar HDD externo W10

If our external hard drive is actually an SSD, we shouldn’t have either of these two problems. Although we should optimize it from the previous section.

Beware of malware

Another reason, much more frequent than we can imagine, is that our computer, or the external hard drive, is infected by malware . Even if we have our PC protected, as these units connect to many different computers, it is very easy that sooner or later we end up infecting the unit with one of these malware. Therefore, to improve its speed (and, incidentally, protect ourselves) it is necessary to analyze it with a good antivirus to guarantee that it is clean.

Windows Defender, if we use Windows 10, it will be more than enough for this task.

Windows defender

Although not recommended, if the hard drive is legit and we are 100% sure that it is not infected by malware, then we can temporarily disable the antivirus. This way it will not monitor its data in real time and we will not lose performance.

Turn off indexing

Windows 10 wants us to be able to instantly find any file saved on any of the drives connected to the computer. And for this it makes use of indexing. This technique, although it is very useful in many cases, is one of the reasons why a hard disk can run very slowly.

Indexing all the data on an external hard drive means that the read and write speed is greatly reduced during the process. Therefore, if we want to increase the speed of this unit, and of the entire system in general, we must deactivate this feature.

For this we only have to use the keyboard shortcut Windows + R, to open the run window, and write the command “services.msc” in it. Here we will search for the ” Windows Search ” service, double click on it and change its status to “Disabled”.

Deshabilitar indexar archivos en Windows 10

After doing so, we can see that the speed has increased.

Check that no process is using a lot of hard disk

Another reason why the speed of this hard drive is too slow is because some other program or process is using it. To find out, what we must do is open the Windows 10 Task Manager (Control + Shift + Esc) and check which processes are making intensive use of the hard disk.

Uso disco duro Administrador tareas Windows

If we detect that a process is using our hard disk too much, then we must close it, or wait for it to finish, so that the load on the hard disk is released and it can work normally again.

Check power settings

It can also happen, especially in notebooks, that this performance problem is due to a limitation of the available power. In order to make the battery last longer, laptops tend to limit the consumption of peripherals connected to the USB ports of the computer considerably. If we don’t give the external hard drive the power it needs, it can’t function at full capacity.

For this reason, if we have a laptop (or a desktop computer) it is advisable to change the power profile to ” High performance ” so that the USB ports can be given all the power they need. We can do this from the Windows Control Panel, or simply by clicking on the battery icon that appears next to the clock on the start bar.

Perfiles de energía Windows

When we finish copying the files we can revert the changes and return to the profile that we want to use to prevent the battery from draining faster.