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Question #53733 posted on 10/01/2009 3:01 a.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,

My hard drive is full. My parents bought an external hard drive for me, and I've never gotten around to moving stuff over there because I always figured it would take half a lifetime to transfer all my stuff. So, just out of curiosity, what would be a good ballpark estimate for the time it would take to transfer 60GB of files to an external hard drive via USB? I think my laptop has USB 2.0, if that helps.

-Lots of stuff

A: Dear Lots of stuff,

60 GB really isn't that big of a deal. Yeah, it'll take longer than 5 minutes, but that's why I'd suggest just starting the copy and then going and doing something else.

USB 2.0 has a theoretical maximum transfer rate of 60 MB/s (480 Mbps), but for a variety of reasons the real maximum is more like 40 MB/s. You're unlikely to even see that, though; I usually see more like 10-20 MB/s when copying to an external drive (due to things like copying smaller files, disk fragmentation, etc.).

Assuming something in that range, then, it'll probably take you one or two hours to move all your stuff over. So start it and then head off and do something else. Oh, and something to do after you've moved your files and freed up space on your main hard drive: defragment. One consequence of using a drive that's mostly full is that it tends to get very badly fragmented, which can noticeably slow down your computer. Note that defragmenting could also take a while, so again, I suggest starting it and then just letting it go.

One more thing: be careful with that external drive. Just like any other hard drive, external drives are sensitive to being dropped, jostled, or otherwise experiencing mechanical shock, especially when they're running. I would highly recommend having backups of anything that's important to you. (Of course, I would recommend that whether we were talking about this external drive or not.)

—Laser Jock