I have a fondness for tiny, simple utilities that require no installation and do a simple job well. HD_Speed, a device I/O testing utility -- tiny at a mere 72K (!) -- does exactly what its title implies, but with just the right set of features to be genuinely useful.
HD_Speed runs from any directory -- no installation needed, although you have to have write access to the same directory if you want to log the test results to a file. When the program runs, you'll be presented with a drop-down list of available drives -- lettered drives and raw physical devices, so you can gauge performance across the file system for that device and its raw physical access speed.
Click "Start" and the program repeatedly assesses the device's performance, with the results graphed on-screen. The stats include a running speed average, the current speed and an I/O error count (if any). Write tests will overwrite the contents of a given drive or volume, so do not use this test unless you're sure the contents of the drive are entirely disposable.
The program offers several options that may affect the performance results:
- Position (%): This feature lets you set where on the file system, from beginning to end, the program will run its performance tests. Many hard drives have markedly higher read speeds closer to the front of the drive than to the end of the drive, so you can use this tool to gauge the difference between, say, the 0%, 50% and 100% marks. Flash drives tend to have uniform read speeds all across the drive.
- Block Size: This option lets you force a block size to use for the tests. The default, "Auto," simply uses whatever block size is announced by the file system on the device itself.
- Test Burst Rate: When you check this option, the tests are confined to a single area of the disc, which more aggressively tests the disk's caching mechanisms -- as well as the caching mechanisms of the controller and OS. When unchecked, the program tests the device's linear read speeds, which provide better real-world results.
- Duration: With this option, you can specify, in minutes and seconds, how long you want the test to run.
- Log The Results To A File: With this checked, the test results are logged to a text file in the same directory as the executable. It's named HD_Speed Log.txt and subsequent runs of the program will append to an existing log.
You can run the program from a command line with switches to control most of the options above, including the test duration and the log file name.
About the Author: Serdar Yegulalp is editor of Windows Insight (formerly the Windows Power Users Newsletter), a blog site devoted to hints, tips, tricks and news for users and administrators of Windows NT, Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Server 2003 and Vista. He has more than 12 years of experience working with Windows, and contributes regularly to SearchWinComputing.com and other TechTarget sites.