Ubuntu – Why do file transfers over USB slow down the whole computer?


Whenever I transfer large files, or large amounts of files, over USB to or from an external drive, the whole computer slows down to a crawl during the transfer. I'm using Ubuntu 14.04, but I've had this problem before in earlier versions. Why does this happen? I want to be able to file a bug report to stop this from happening.


Best Answer

This sounds like a classic case of system load to me.

When you read/write something to/from a drive, it needs to lookup file information. However, that file may be fragmented, in different locations, or even organized.

When you copy something from your drive to a USB, you have to read a (potentially) fragmented file and then re-write it to another storage medium. With some systems (read EXT), it is often faster than other systems (cough NTFS cough). Also, if you have a bad processor, it wastes cycles for other things trying to copy things over.

There is really nothing you can do to solve this issue. There are workarounds, however:

  1. Defragment your hard drive.
  2. Use an EXT formatted flash drive where possible.
  3. Install more memory as a "cache" space.
    1. Use excess memory as a ramdisc.
  4. Use a better USB protocol.
  5. Upgrade your processor/PC.
  6. Get an SSD.