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Keep USB Drives Humming

Last weekend, I ran into an interesting problem on a couple of my laptops. Those were a Surface Pro 3 and a Dell Venue Pro 11, each with the same problem. As I ran Macrium Reflect to back each one up, it would fail to complete. This was on the same hardware: an external Eagle Consus USB 3.0 drive dock with an HGST 4GB 7,200 RPM HDD. The error messages were likewise the same. I would either get a “Write operation failed” or “Write operation timeout.” Because I like to keep USB drives humming along properly, I turned to the Macrium KnowledgeBase.

How Does One Keep USB Drives Humming Along Properly, Anyway?

Sure enough, I found a KB article there entitled “Backup aborted! – Write operation failed – The request could not be performed because of an I/O device error.” It told me what I needed to know. As it happens the secret is on the Policies Tab in a Disk Drive item in Device Manager, to wit:

Select the radio button that reads “Better performance” to fix this issue.

According to the KB article, the default setting of “Quick Removal” is the culprit. It means that “Windows will disable write caching to the disk thereby slowing down throughput. All writes will go direct to the disk and throughput IO collisions can occur.” Backup is one of those situations where the IO channel gets pretty saturated. Obviously, it bumped the odds of a collision occurring to a certainty in these cases! After this setting change, a restart is also required.

I’m pleased to report that this fix did the trick. I was able to backup both machines without further issues after applying it. This is a per-PC item. Thus, unless you’re willing to write a GPO to change this setting globally, it must be applied on each individual PC.