Category Archives: Benchmarking

Samsung NVMe Drive Failing

In a recent story here, I mentioned a possible mismatch between some components. On the one hand: an old Samsung MZVPV512HDGL OEM NVMe drive. On the other hand: a brand-new PCIe x4 USB 3.2/Thunderbolt NVMe enclosure. Upon swapping in a newer ADATA drive my issues with the enclosure vanished. So I mounted the other drive in an older Sabrent NVMe enclosure. Now I’m getting indications of the Samsung NVMe drive failing. A strong indicator shows up as the lead-in graphic above.

What Says: Samsung NVMe Drive Failing?

The inability to perform write tests using HD Tune is a pretty big tell. Interestingly, though: chkdsk and CrystalDiskInfo both report the drive as healthy. My best guess is that write failures are occurring, and that HD Tune won’t “write past” such things, while the other tools rely on SMART data and surface analysis and aren’t seeing active errors.

My plan is to retire the drive as soon as the replacement part shows up. That’s been en route via Amazon for too long now, so I just cancelled that order and placed a new one. Hopefully it will be here tomorrow, including a 1TB Sabrent Rocket 4 Plus with internal read/write speeds of up to 6+/4+ Gbps. Of course, that’s not gonna happen in a USB 3.2/Thunderbolt enclosure. But I am darn curious to see how fast the bus can go when the drive is fast enough to get out of the way.

Stay Tuned: More to Come!

According to what I read online, I may be able to get read/write speeds in excess of 2 Gbps via Thunderbolt 3 from the NVMe enclosure. So far, the best I’ve seen from my older Sabrent (USB 3.2 only) enclosures is on the order of 1.1 Gbps. So it should be pretty easy to tell if the new drive/enclosure speeds things up.


Thunderbolt 3 SSD Enclosure Raises Odd Issues

This is the part of playing with Windows that I love best. I’m researching different speeds for backup drives, ranging from a USB-C HDD drive caddy into the SSD realm. My objective is to see how fast an external USB-C drive can go, and to see if Thunderbolt support makes any difference.  I added a cheapo (US$29) NVMe enclosure to my line-up. But alas, that Thunderbolt 3 SSD enclosure raises odd issues. Let me explain…

Why Thunderbolt 3 SSD Enclosure Raises Odd Issues

As far as I can tell, I went too far back in time with the first M.2 NVMe I tried out in the cheapo new NVMe enclosure. My initial attempt featured a 2016 vintage OEM Samsung MZVPV512HDGL SSD. It kept blowing up during write testing in CrystalDiskMark, and it wouldn’t make a Macrium Reflect backup.

So I cannibalized a newer ADATA XPG 256GB SSD (vintage 2020) from my Sabrent-enclosed Ventoy drive and tried that instead. It worked just fine, and got aggregate read/write speeds from Reflect of 5.7/3.0 Gbps when backing up my Lenovo X12 Hybrid Tablet. It includes a USB 3.2 version of USB-C with Thunderbolt 3 support. Total backup time on that system was 6:16 with 76.5 GB on the C: drive and under 1.5 GB on the other partitions. Figure 78 GB overall, that produces a physical time (no compression) of roughly 200 Mbps of ongoing read/write activity. By comparison an mSATA drive (vintage 2013) takes just under16 (15:56) minutes to complete the same backup. That’s more than 60% faster!

It’s All About the Speed

My best guess is that the older drive wasn’t sufficiently compatible with the PCIe x3/x4 requirements inside the NVMe enclosure. Once I switched over to something newer (and definitely PCIe x3 compliant), everything worked fine. I’ve got a brand-new PCIe x4 SSD coming today or tomorrow, and am hopeful the faster media will also produce faster transfer rates for backup, too. We’ll see!


Why USB Disk Speeds Matter

It’s been a busy and interesting week. I’ve been messing around with numerous backups and restores. Ditto for mounting ISOs and running Windows repair installs. A LOT of disk reads and writes to USB drives have been involved. Because of the huge amounts of data involved, I’m better prepared to explain why USB disk speeds matter. A LOT!

Why USB Disk Speeds Matter So Very Much

In a word, the shortest possible answer is “Time.” If you can get something done faster, you can do more in a single work interval. Compare the USB disk speeds for an NVMe drive in a USB-C enclosure (left) to those for an mSATA drive in a USB-A 3.1 enclosure (right — see lead-in graphic). When backups and restores are concerned the top lines (which involve large file transfers) actually matter. Of course, all the times matter as well.

But those differences are pretty stark for backup and restore. Let me explain… If you look at the top pairs of numbers, these cover large data transfers with a queue depth of 8 (upper) and 1 (lower). In both pairs of numbers, the NVMe drive is over twice as fast as the mSATA drive. Those same results were born out in backups and restores (7 and 14 minutes for backup; 11 and 23 minutes for restore).

The More You Do, the Better You’ll Like It!

Those results show why I’ve long been a believer in using fast USB drives whenever possible. I’m still waiting to see what kind of bump I can get with a Thunderbolt 4 NVMe enclosure, proper cables and enclosure, and Thunderbolt 4 on the host device. From what I read, it should be 25-40% as fast again.

This realization came to me when I started copying a backup from a BitLocker protected NVMe drive to an mSATA unprotected drive. I got a consistent 26-27 MBps transfer rate between the two devices. It took over 20 minutes to copy the file!

If I could’ve gone Thunderbolt 4 all the way, I could have quadrupled the transfer speed or better. That would cut my wait time from 20 minutes to 5. Waiting for necessary data can’t be completely bypassed — but it surely shows the “need for speed” on such occasions.


Windows 11 Sports Slow NVMe Driver?

Here’s an interesting thread emerging from the Windows press. A growing number of outlets are reporting that Microsoft’s own NVMe drivers run slower than their Win10 counterparts on identical (and other hardware). If Windows 11 sports slow NVMe driver, what can users do? Not much, it turns out, unless they can run a third-party driver instead (e.g. Samsung NVMe Controller). For good coverage on this topic, see Taras Buria’s recent WinAero story “Windows 11 apparently slows down NVMe SSDs.” It cites a range of interesting and informative original sources.

If Windows 11 Sports Slow NVMe Driver, Then What?

What appears to be affected is the OS boot/system drive (usually C:, where Windows itself resides). Some independent tests show that other non-OS partitions don’t suffer performance degradation. But OS partitions could suffer from reductions in random read/write speeds of 50% or worse. For grins I compared CrystalDiskMark stats from my 11th gen Lenovo X12 Hybrid Tablet running Windows 11 to my 6th gen home-brew Z170-based desktop. The former has a WD SN530 1 TB SSD, while the latter has a Samsung 950 1 TB SSD.

As you can see in the lead-in graphic, the newer Windows 11 unit is a bit slower on most readings than the older Windows 10 PC. Indeed QD32 random reads  are about 1/3 slower. That said, random writes of the same ilk go the other way (but with a less-than-7% delta). For random reads/writes with QD1, 11 edges 10 on writes by just over 9%, and vice-versa for reads by just over 15%. Kind of a wash, if you ask me.

What This Means for Upgrade Plans

MS has acknowledged that the issue is known to them and that they’re working on a fix, ETA unknown. Some reports aver that this phenomenon justifies postponing upgrades until a fix is in. My own experience with Windows 11 has been uniformly positive so far, NVMe performance observations notwithstanding. I’d recommend rethinking upgrades on PCs with heavy I/O workloads (e.g. CAD, AI, data analysis, and so forth). But for routine personal or productivity computing, it doesn’t really seem to make a noticeable difference.

I’ll be watching this issue as it unfolds. Count on me to let you know when this situation changes. Given the importance of NVMe to modern computing workloads, lots of people will no doubt follow this carefully and closely.

Note Added December 10: KB5007262 Fixes Issue, But…

KB5007262 should be installed as part of the upcoming December 14 updates for production Windows 11. It came out for Beta/Dev Channel users in November (ditto for production versions, as a Preview Update on November 23). Indeed, it seems to fix the performance issues. According to this WinAero story, the MS bugfix info for the KB5007262 announcement includes the following text:

“Addresses an issue that affects the performance of all disks (NVMe, SSD, hardisk) on Windows 11 by performing unnecessary actions each time a write operation occurs. This issue occurs only when the NTFS USN journal is enabled. Note, the USN journal is always enabled on the C: disk.”

And indeed, on my X1 Extreme laptop (8th gen i7, Samsung OEM 512GB NVMe SSD, 32 GB RAM) speeds are where experience teaches me they should be. According to the afore-linked story, this fix applies to all versions of Windows 11 except Dev Channel. As far as I can tell, that version remains subject to the slow-down. I’m looking for some additional word from MS on this topic. Hopefully, they’ll fix it there soon, too. Stay tuned!


Estimating Windows 11 Restart Time

Because today is Patch Tuesday (November 9) I got several opportunities to see WU at work handling updates. Owing to across-the-board Cumulative Updates (CUs) today, that meant 1 production version, 1 Beta version and 2 Dev Channel versions. As you can see from the lead-in graphic, estimating Windows 11 restart time is now part of what WU offers. I thought this was pretty cool, until I realized all 4 PCs proffered the same estimate.

What Does Estimating Windows 11 Restart Time Tell You?

Just for grins, I timed a couple of my restarts to see how long they would actually take. I’m pleased to report that the MS/Win11 estimate is conservative. It took 1:25 to get to the desktop with GadgetPack running to show me a second hand on its clock widget on my X1 Extreme (i7-8850H CPU, 6 Cores). It took 2:35 to get to the same place on my X380 Yoga (i7-8650U CPU, 4 Cores).

That tells me that MS isn’t necessarily driving the estimate from observation of previous start times. Rather, it looks like a rough-and-ready interval that will not set user expectations overly high. Why do I say these things? Because the number was the same across a range of CPUs. And because the number was too high for all of them.

My gut feel is that if this estimate were data driven, it would be slightly high on some and slightly low on others. Because it was the same for all four PCs, and too pessimistic likewise, it strikes me as a “safe estimate” probably based on worst-case observations.

How Does 4 Minutes Strike YOU?

All this said, I think 4 minutes is neither a terrible number nor a glorious one. When I’ve really worked at getting start-up times to their barest minimums on Windows 10 (haven’t yet tried this on 11) I’ve seldom gotten below 1:30 or so. But I’ve read about others who’ve documented start times just under a minute (0:45 or higher).

This may be a fruitful topic for research and play. Now, I just need to find the necessary spare time…


Win10 Rollback Works But Thunderbolt Issues Continue

Big Sigh. I’ve been trying to get the Thunderbolt 4 firmware updated on the snazzy new Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9 they sent me, but to no avail. Today, I observed that Win10 rollback works but Thunderbolt issues continue. Something gets weird when the PC reboots to do the firmware install. I see a short (and tiny) error message long enough to know it’s there, but definitely not long enough to read it, or interpret its significance.

When Win10 Rollback Works But Thunderbolt Issues Continue, Then What?

First, the good news. I elected to roll back my Windows 11 update on this machine and it not only went well, it finished in under 3 minutes. That’s amazing! It also confirmed that the Windows.old snapshot is of whatever vintage and state the OS was at the time of upgrade. All my account stuff remained clear and workable, thank goodness.

Now, the bad news. I remain unable to complete the firmware update successfully. That means Thunderbolt sees no devices on either of the PC’s two USB-C/Thunderbolt 4 ports. Bummer! It also means I’m sending this fish back to the pond (Lenovo, that is) with a request to return it when THEY can fix this driver issue. For me, Thunderbolt 4 is a big deal. I don’t think I can review this system without a working and capable Thunderbolt 4 connection for me to test performance, throughput, and so forth.

That said, the USB-3 Type A port is remarkably fast. I get better performance out of my old, tired mSATA drives on this machine (Samsung EVO SSDs in Sabrent mSATA enclosures) than I’ve ever seen before.

Do All Things Come to He Who Waits?

I guess I’ll be finding out. Tomorrow, I’ll fire off an email to the reviews coordinator, explain my situation, and let them know I’m sending the laptop back. It will be absolutely fascinating to see how they respond. I’m hopeful I’ll get a fixed (or replacement) laptop soon. If and when I do, I’ll start posting madly about what I see and learn. Right now, I just can’t go forward with a major subsystem on the fritz. Hope that makes sense…


Loaner Laptop Poses Weird USB Situation

I took delivery of a nifty new laptop here at Chez Tittel late last week. Among the zillions of other things going on around here, I’ve been fooling with this machine since it arrived. This loaner laptop poses weird USB situation, though: I get faster throughput from its USB-A 3.2 Gen1 port than either of its USB4 Type-C/Thunderbolt 4 ports. Throughput is about 10X faster on the USB-A port than on USB-C. That’s not how it’s supposed to work. Go figure!

Driver Issues Explain How Loaner Laptop Poses Weird USB Situation

Once I realized what was going on. I jumped into Device Manager. Sure enough there’s an issue with the ThinkPad Thunderbolt Retimer Firmware. Whaddya bet this could impact USB-C/Thunderbolt 4 timing?

And then, things get more interesting. Lenovo Vantage thinks the firmware update is already installed. Device Manager shows “Firmware update was unsuccessful.” Attempts to uninstall/reinstall don’t work, and manual installation of the downloaded firmware package N32TT02W.exe from Lenovo Support don’t work either.

I need some firmware juju. So I’m contacting Lenovo Support to see what they can tell me. I’ll admit I got fooled when Vantage told me the update was installed (and didn’t check DevMgr until later). Now, it looks like I’ll have to roll the machine back to Windows 10 so I can make sure the update gets properly applied. And then, I’ll roll forward again to Windows 11. Just another day in the life, here in Windows-World!

Checking Updates, Post Install

It hasn’t eluded me that checking the firmware install before upgrading to 11 would have been a peachy idea. I’m not one to rush into such things normally. But I wanted to see how the new PC would work with the new OS. I guess I’m  starting to understand there’s at least one good reason why Lenovo didn’t send me the device with Windows 11 already installed.

As I look around the Lenovo site, I see they have Thunderbolt drivers for Windows 11 aplenty. It’s just that they don’t have one for my X1 Carbon Gen 9 laptop just yet. Live and learn, dear readers: that’s why I’m going to try to do.


Dev Channel Instability Promise Starts Manifesting

Back in late August, Microsoft sent an email to Windows Insiders. It indicated that the company would “soon be flighting early development builds in the Dev Channel.” That e-mail was reported by an Italian TV station, HTNovo. In fact, it’s the source for this story’s lead-in graphic. The next line in the email reads “These builds may be less stable…” With the last few (2 or 3) releases, this Dev Channel instability promise starts manifesting itself. At least, on my Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Hybrid Tablet, anyhow.

Dev Channel Instability Promise Starts Manifesting Exactly How?

Two Builds back — namely 22458, installed on 9/17 — I noticed my X12 start getting laggy and draggy. Click on a Start menu item, and there’s a noticeable pause before it opens. Double-click inside an application — Explorer, for example — and it takes one or two seconds for the drive or folder to expand and show its contents.

I’ve also noticed that the Belkin Thunderbolt dock on that PC is running at about half-speed. I’m seeing data transfers closer to 500 Mbps in Macrium Reflect, and around 70-80 MBps in Explorer for large file transfers. Wired Ethernet is topping out at under 100 Mbps on my nominal GbE Internet connection, which routinely delivers 600-800 Mbps on other wired connections. The same dock runs much faster on a Windows 10 PC, and a USB-C NVMe attached to the X12’s other USB C port directly (no intermediating dock) also runs much, much faster.

Learning What “Less Stable” Means

The weird thing is my older, less capable X380 Yoga (8th gen Intel CPU Thunderbolt 3) isn’t slowing down as much as the X12. That newer tablet includes an 11th gen Intel CPU, faster RAM, and a Thunderbolt 4 interface. My gut feeling is that the penalty must be related to newer-gen drivers and interfaces. My hope is that MS works out the kinks sooner, not later.

I installed the latest Build (22468) yesterday. It is much less laggy and draggy than the preceding 22463 and 22458 builds. But it’s still not “nearly instant.” My Beta Channel test PC (another X380 Yoga) is snappy and even a bit faster than it was when running recent Windows 10 builds.

So right now, I’m having fun. I’m observing performance, looking for potential issues and causes, and giving the new builds a good workout. I don’t mind — it’s what I signed up for when I joined the Insider Program. But it is worth noting and reporting on. I’ll keep you posted as things change and develop further. Please: stay tuned!


Chrome Software Reporter Tool Monopolizes CPU

After upgrading my Lenovo X12 Hybrid Tablet to Windows 11 Build 22454 , I noticed CPU usage stayed elevated. For a long time, in fact: at least 5 minutes or longer. Checking Task Manager the culprit was obvious. Item software_reporter_tool.exe consumed half or more of available CPU cycles. Upon further investigation, I learned two things. (1) plenty of other people have experienced this. (2) it’s a part of Chrome’s Cleanup toolkit, designed to remove software that could cause potential issues with Chrome. Having just rebooted, Chrome wasn’t even running. But that apparently didn’t stop its background tasks from executing. And that, dear readers, is how I learned that sometimes the Chrome Software Reporter tool monopolizes CPU on Windows PCs.

Do This When Chrome Software Reporter Tool Monopolizes CPU

I found an article from Martin Brinkmann at about this phenomenon dated January 2018. It provides a battery of potential fixes. These include a variety of blocking techniques based on file permissions, and Chrome policies (via registry hack). I actually found a 2020 Codersera article that offered a more direct approach.

It’s the one I implemented, and it’s working well so far:
1. Open Chrome controls (vertical ellipsis symbol at upper left of browser window).
2. Click “Settings” resulting pop-up menu
3. Click down-arrow next to “Advanced” near bottom of that window.
4. Scroll down to “System” section and turn off item that reads “Continue running background apps when Google Chrome is closed” (move slider to left).

That should do it. At least, it seems to have worked for me: I haven’t seen any recurrences since I made this configuration change.

When Odd Processes Stand Out, Research Helps

This technique is a familiar one to those keep an eye on Windows performance. It’s often a good way to start digging into slowdowns like the one I ran into last week. I generally try to rely on well-known and -respected resources when it comes to fixes (if not the maker or vendor’s own tech support info). But usually, when there’s a will to fix such things, a way to fix them can be found.

If worst comes to worst (and I have a recent backup) I might even right-click the offending process and select “End process tree” to see what happens. Please note: don’t do this with Windows OS components, or you’re likely to experience a BSOD. ‘Nuff said.


HDD Still Claims Price-Performance 2.5″ Crown

For laptops and portable applications, 2.5″ drives still rule. Once upon a time, hard disk drives (HDDs) owned this space, both in terms of capacity and price performance. But with a 2.5″ 8TB Samsung QVO drive readily available on Newegg for US$700, HDDs no longer own the capacity crown for this space. But 8TB for $700 translates into US$87.50 per TB. The same outlet offers the 5 TB 2.5″ Seagate Barracuda for US$147.59, or US$29.52 per TB. That’s nearly 3 times lower on a per-TB cost basis (2.96 to be more precise). And that’s why HDD still claims price-performance 2.5″ crown.

How HDD Still Claims Price-Performance 2.5″ Crown

Why do mechanical hard drives still deliver better price-performance than SSDs? Because of the costs of materials and manufacturing. HDD manufacture is a mature industry and does not depend on riding the curve for IC mask sizes, scaling and so forth. SDDs on the other hand are made of chips, and that’s a challenging technology wave to ride, and a very competitive marketplace in which to compete right now. Chip shortages may not last forever, but they affect all chip-dependent industries right now, including SSDs.

That said, the form factor on the Seagate 5TB drive is outside the envelope for use inside many laptops (its 15mm height makes it “too fat” to fit; ditto for most external USB-A or USB-C drive enclosures). I’ve owned a couple of these drives and they make excellent backup and external storage devices for the half-dozen-plus laptops I keep around. A 2TB Samsung QVO goes for US$170, and is only 7mm tall (as are all capacities in this line). Thus “laptop suitability” also goes to the more expensive SSD drives.

The Tide Is Turning Toward SSDs

As far as laptops and tablets go, I don’t see much future for HDDs any more. At best, they will make useful portable or compact external storage units for mobile use. Inside the laptop itself, though — except for so-called “portable workstations” — there’s little room for drives that can’t max out capacity in the 7mm 2.5″ form factor. I guess one can hope for a next-gen technology breakthrough in platter density that will let HDDs catch back up with flash RAM chips. But I’m not holding my breath waiting for that, either. IMO the future — even for storage — is entirely solid state, not mechanical.