How to benchmark the speed of your hard drive or SSD
Benchmarking has been a popular way of testing the performance or hardware for years. It’s primarily prevalent for processors, but you can benchmark other pieces of hardware as well, including your hard drive and SSD. Follow along and we’ll show you some reasons as to why you might want to benchmark your hard drive or SSD as well as some tools to do so.
Sequential read and write
To give you a quick rundown of what to expect when you benchmark a hard drive or SSD, one of the tests will be a sequential test. It will test the sequential read and write speeds of the hard drive. Sequential read is essentially a disk access pattern where the user is accessing a large chunk of data (e.g. a movie, photos, etc). It’s usually measured in megabytes per second in benchmarking software.
Sequential write speeds are another disk access pattern used to write blocks of data to a location on the hard drive or SSD (e.g. a process that happens when you’re installing software). This disk access pattern is similar to that of sequential read, except that it happens when you’re writing (installing) large files to the drive, such as videos, music, photos, etc. This is also measured in megabytes per second.
4K random read and write
Another test you’ll find on benchmarking software is 4K (an Advanced Format, see definition here) random read and write. As far as 4K random write goes, this is another disc access pattern where 4K blocks of data are written to — you guessed it — random locations of the hard or SSD. Also measured in megabytes per second, benchmarking software will show you how quick and effective the storage device is at saving pieces of information at random locations on the disc.
As you can imagine, 4K random read is similar, only that it benchmarks how effective reading data from random locations on the hard drive or SSD. Benchmarking software will basically show you just how well your hard drive or SSD performs at quickly retrieving data from random locations.
Getting to benchmarking
Those are the primary pieces of language you should know before jumping into benchmarking software. It’ll help you understand better just how well your hard drive or SSD is performing. However, it’s worth noting that, depending on the benchmarking software you grab, you’ll see different tests. Some pieces of software show just the random and sequential tests, while other pieces of software also throw in real-world tests (e.g. how long it would actually take the user to write an ISO file (or similar file) to a location on the hard drive).
Here’s just a few tools we recommend you take for a spin to benchmark your storage device.
ATTO Disk is a popular piece of free benchmarking software recommended by a few different manufacturers. ATTO uses compressible data to benchmark your storage device. Now, using compressible data can bolster performance numbers, however, you could picture that as sort of “fudging” the numbers, since those extra performance numbers aren’t always going to correlate right into real-world use.
Top manufacturers use ATTO to build and test drives, offer transfer sizes from 512B to 64MB, transfer lengths from 64KB to 32GB and even support for overlapped I/O and a variety of queue depths.
Another excellent option is As SSD Benchmark. It uses uncompressed data for testing an SSD. This ensures that it’s really putting it through the wringer. In turn, this gives you lower speeds, but also gives you an idea of what you’ll be getting when you’re really putting your SSD through the works.
Last up on our list is Crystal Disk. It does essentially the same thing as the other two options on here, but is another additional choice you have. It measures random and sequential read and write performance, just like the rest, but also offers some additional themes/UIs to choose from.
Benchmarking your hard drives and SSDs can be super useful if you’re just wanting to find out the performance of your current storage device or even compare different types side-by-side. By using using the tools above, you’ll be able to get an accurate look into both your sequential read and write as well as your random read and write.