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Portable Apps is either slow or need to run CHKDSK too often

Lasher's picture
Lasher - September 30, 2012 - 11:00pm
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I'll start by pointing out that I am primarily a Linux user at home. I study full time and the idea Portable Apps has been a god send for being able to use Open Source apps at school instead of being locked in to the propriety junk they have installed there, and being unable to install alternatives due to the admin. The concept of having all my favourite stuff launchable from a USB is fantastic.

That being said, I am at my wits end with these Windows computers. I have reinstalled the platform to several different USB sticks several times over the past few months. I even recently purchased a 16Gb USB 3.0 specifically for using Portable Apps, hoping to see some improvement. I have tried Fat32, NTFS, enabling write caching for the 3.0. I never just pull out the stick, and ALWAYS 'safely remove drive'.

I use possibly 2 to 3 different computers throughout the day with the USB. I try to get on the same computer for each class, but the other students rotate where they sit often, so I'm logged in at different terminals all the time.

And often, the software is miserably slow... infuriatingly so. After a fresh install it all seems zippy and awesome, but after logging off of this one and logging in to that one - it becomes tiresome waiting for apps to launch or for Firefox OR Chromium to load a single page. I have tried installing Chromium on a seperate USB without the Portable Apps platform and it works fine.

So what am I doing wrong? Should I not enable write caching (Something I tried because it was slow before)? Do I have too many Apps installed (FF,Chromium,Gimp,Blender,Audacity,CMD,Explorer+ etc. [Not even simultaneously but 1 at a time])? I'll add that also often, putting in the USB causes Windows to pop up the dreaded 'check disk for errors' window. For the amount of times I've seen that pop up...

The one other factor I have considered is that I am also using the USB in Linux to back up files. I never get any errors in Linux, even if Windows wants to run a check and I don't and test it in Linux, there's no problem. Could there be some cross chatter when mounting the drive that Windows doesn't like? This is frustrating the hell out of me. I hate Windows! All these popups and write/read problems make me want to throw the damn PC out the Door. I'm very close to doing a Collumbine but shooting all the computers not the people.


First, you should know that

First, you should know that you only get the speed benefits of USB 3.0 when you are plugged into a USB 3.0 port. The drive will only run as fast as a USB 2.0 device otherwise. The problem could be that your on a USB 1.1 bus at school if the computers are a bit on the old side.

If Windows is giving errors about running disk check, it means that something is happening on the drive's filesystem that it doesn't like. I'd wager that this is your speed issue. Linux probably isn't the culprit, but can I ask you to not backup files to your USB for a while? Just to see if the symptoms disappear.

Additionally, the PortableApps.com Platform can't be a factor in speed. It's only around 3 MB total and doesn't do any read/write operations unless you are opening/closing it, or modifying settings.

Siggys waste bandwidth... that's why I have one.

Probably The Thumb Drives

It's probably the thumb drives. Some apps will run okay on some thumb drives, but many apps will run really poorly unless you have a lighting-fast drive. I believe it's the random-write performance that kills the apps, so apps are slow on drives that are otherwise really fast - those with high sequential speeds but poor random write.

In my experience Firefox can be pretty slow on many thumb drives. Gimp and Thunderbird are real behemoths. It can take seconds just to move from one message to another in Thunderbird and it can take 2 minutes or more for Gimp to start, though it seems okay once it's running.

I'd try two things if I were you:
- test the drive(s) in Crystal Diskmark, paying special attention to the 4k random write scores. Anything below about 0.5 MB/s will probably result in poor performance. Even at 0.5 MB/s performance will be none too good. Note that many thumb drives have really appalling 4k writes speeds (below 0.05 MB/s).
- copy the platform plus one or two of the slower apps to the local hard drive and run the apps from there. See if/how much performance improves.

For What It's Worth

For what it's worth, I'm using Portable Apps on a Sandisk Extreme USB 3.0 drive. It's the only thumb drive I've owned that is fast enough to run apps at what I consider acceptable speed. I'm using it on USB 2.0 ports, but even so performance is pretty good. Here are my latest Diskmark numbers (on usb 2.0).

                           MB/s    IOPS
Sequential Read           33.743
Sequential Write          30.301
Random Read 512KB         33.150
Random Write 512KB        22.539
Random Read 4KB (QD=1)    6.507   1588.6
Random Write 4KB (QD=1)   5.921   1445.5
Random Read 4KB (QD=32)   6.889   1681.9
Random Write 4KB (QD=32)  6.204   1514.7

[Note that this is for the newer Sandisk Extreme USB 3.0, not the older Sandisk Contour Extreme. Gotta watch out for Sandisk's stupid product naming scheme.]

Thanks guys.

I forgot to say, I am using 3.0 ports on the school computers. I have discovered though that the write caching for faster speeds seems to need to be enabled on each desktop I go to rather than 'this is what i need to be' being written to the usb. The brand is Strontium (maybe that's the ticket). But again, I already experienced similar problems on several other USB sticks which lead me to purchase a 3.0 one.

Would you advise I use the USB only in 2.0 ports? I don't really need to transfer large amounts of data, I just want better performance. Also, If I reformat the drive, are there suggestions on what I should try in terms of block size, fat32, NTFS?

Again, thanks for your replies. I really appreciate the help. I'll look into this Diskmark now (I'm assuming for Windows?- gotta reboot).

EDIT:

                           MB/s    
Sequential Read           28.05
Sequential Write          14.46
Random Read 512KB         28.65
Random Write 512KB        0.762
Random Read 4KB (QD=1)    1776   
Random Write 4KB (QD=1)   0.007
Random Read 4KB (QD=32)   3.921
Random Write 4KB (QD=32)  0.007

Sad

That Looks Typical

That looks like a very typical thumb drive. I think you've found your issue - those 4K random write speeds are pretty appalling.

Sorry to say, but in my experience the only thing you can do is find a drive with more balanced performance. You'll probably get better app performance on a drive with 1 MB/s 4K speeds even if the sequential speeds are much lower. You might want to test your other drives.

USB 3.0 tech is not quite as mature as USB 2.0. I've heard of people running into hardware compatibility issues that result in slow speeds. Barring that I think USB 3.0 drives in USB 3.0 ports will always be faster than in USB 2.0 ports.

In my experience different file systems don't really help. NTFS can change the performance profile of an app but the caching doesn't really fix the problem. You may get performance in bursts, but the pauses between bursts may be even more intolerable. It might help some apps better than others. For myself I prefer FAT32 because it ejects faster, but that's the only reason.

Yep...

I've just reformatted to exFat to give that a whirl and run the benchmark again.

           Sequential Read :    29.438 MB/s
          Sequential Write :    14.723 MB/s
         Random Read 512KB :    28.929 MB/s
        Random Write 512KB :     0.835 MB/s
    Random Read 4KB (QD=1) :     4.079 MB/s [   995.7 IOPS]
   Random Write 4KB (QD=1) :     0.007 MB/s [     1.7 IOPS]
   Random Read 4KB (QD=32) :     4.874 MB/s [  1190.0 IOPS]
  Random Write 4KB (QD=32) :     0.007 MB/s [     1.6 IOPS]

There's some improvement, yet these random writes remain the same. The whole platform is zippy again, but we'll see how I go after a week of using it at school.

Looks like I'll be shopping around a bit. At least awareness of this makes one probe a little deeper before spending the moola. Thanks again.

More info available

You can get some good info about USB drives and reformatting (and aligning) at:

http://www.uwe-sieber.de/usbstick_e.html

neutron1132 (at) usa (dot) com

Reply

I personally use Linux on my computer (Although my current hard drive likes to eat up my boot partition every time I remove it to do maintenance on the laptop.) However I find that I get speeds in upwards of 5mb/s read and write on flash drives in Linux (I haven't done a bench test on my drive yet) whereas windows I get that horrible 35kb/s write speed that makes me want to rip my hair out.

If your using an old flash drive you'll have poor write speeds even more so since flash drives degrade over time.

I'm not saying it's a problem with windows per-say, but I doubt getting a faster flash drive will fix anything unless the computer happens to be able to normally write to flash drives at high speeds.

Time Machine Error

Time Machine Error, insert dalek

Wm...
portability is like flexibility, you either have it or you don't.