Linux Check IDE / SATA SSD Hard Disk Transfer Speed

So how do you find out how fast is your hard disk under Linux? Is it running at the SATA I (150 MB/s) or SATA II (300 MB/s) or SATA III (6.0Gb/s) speed without opening computer case or chassis?

You can use the hdparm or dd command to check hard disk speed. It provides a command line interface to various hard disk ioctls supported by the stock Linux ATA/IDE/SATA device driver subsystem. Some options may work correctly only with the latest kernels (make sure you have cutting edge kernel installed). I also recommend compiling hdparm with the included files from the most recent kernel source code.


How to measure hard disk data transfer speed using hdparm

Login as the root user and enter the following command:
$ sudo hdparm -tT /dev/sda
$ sudo hdparm -tT /dev/hda
Sample outputs:

 Timing cached reads:   7864 MB in  2.00 seconds = 3935.41 MB/sec
 Timing buffered disk reads:  204 MB in  3.00 seconds =  67.98 MB/sec

For meaningful results, this operation should be repeated 2-3 times. This displays the speed of reading directly from the Linux buffer cache without disk access. This measurement is essentially an indication of the throughput of the processor, cache, and memory of the system under test. Here is a for loop example, to run test 3 time in a row:
for i in 1 2 3; do hdparm -tT /dev/hda; done

  • -t :perform device read timings
  • -T : perform cache read timings
  • /dev/sda : Hard disk device file

To find out SATA hard disk link speed, enter:
sudo hdparm -I /dev/sda | grep -i speed

	   *	Gen1 signaling speed (1.5Gb/s)
	   *	Gen2 signaling speed (3.0Gb/s)
	   *	Gen3 signaling speed (6.0Gb/s)

Above output indicate that my hard disk can use 1.5Gb/s, 3.0Gb/s, or 6.0Gb/s speed. Please note that your BIOS / Motherboard must have support for SATA-II/III:
$ dmesg | grep -i sata | grep 'link up'
Linux Check IDE SATA SSD Hard Disk Transfer Speed

dd Command

You can use the dd command as follows to get speed info too:

dd if=/dev/zero of=/tmp/output.img bs=8k count=256k
rm /tmp/output.img

Sample outputs:

262144+0 records in
262144+0 records out
2147483648 bytes (2.1 GB) copied, 23.6472 seconds, 90.8 MB/s

The recommended syntax for the dd command is as follows

dd if=/dev/input.file  of=/path/to/output.file  bs=block-size  count=number-of-blocks  oflag=dsync
## GNU dd syntax ##
dd if=/dev/zero of=/tmp/test1.img bs=1G count=1 oflag=dsync
## OR alternate syntax for GNU/dd ##
dd if=/dev/zero of=/tmp/testALT.img bs=1G count=1 conv=fdatasync

Sample outputs from the last dd command:

1+0 records in
1+0 records out
1073741824 bytes (1.1 GB, 1.0 GiB) copied, 4.23889 s, 253 MB/s

Disks & storage – GUI tool

You can also use disk utility located at System > Administration > Disk utility menu. Please note that in latest version of Gnome it is simply called Disks.

How do I test the performance of my hard disk using Disks on Linux?

To test the speed of your hard disk:

  1. Open Disks from the Activities overview (press the Super key on your keyboard and type Disks)
  2. Choose the disk from the list in the left pane
  3. Select the menu button and select Benchmark disk… from the menu
  4. Click Start Benchmark… and adjust the Transfer Rate and Access Time parameters as desired.
  5. Choose Start Benchmarking to test how fast data can be read from the disk. Administrative privileges required. Enter your password

A quick video demo of above procedure:

HTML 5 Video 01: Running Disks on Ubuntu to test SSD read and write speed

Read Only Benchmark (Safe option)

Then, select > Read only:

Fig.01: Linux Benchmarking Hard Disk Read Only Test Speed

Fig.01: Linux Benchmarking Hard Disk Read Only Test Speed

The above option will not destroy any data.

Read and Write Benchmark (All data will be lost so be careful)

Visit System > Administration > Disk utility menu > Click Benchmark > Click Start Read/Write Benchmark button:

Fig.02:Linux Measuring read rate, write rate and access time

Fig.02:Linux Measuring read rate, write rate and access time

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31 comments… add one
  • Rakesh Aug 21, 2012 @ 7:47

    On my Linux server I have attached SATA Hard disk but it showing IDE.
    How I can change it ????

  • Prabhat Aug 22, 2012 @ 7:05

    was really very helpful

  • Jock Strapp Apr 11, 2013 @ 9:39

    boot@catweazel ~ $ sudo hdparm -tT /dev/md0
    [sudo] password for boot:

    Timing cached reads: 24454 MB in 2.00 seconds = 12239.97 MB/sec
    Timing buffered disk reads: 1886 MB in 3.00 seconds = 628.60 MB/sec

    Arf! Arf!

  • Shawn Hicks Nov 26, 2013 @ 17:56

    Script to get sata link speeds and display in readable format.

    for i in `grep -l Gbps /sys/class/ata_link/*/sata_spd`; do
     echo Link "${i%/*}" Speed `cat $i`
     cat "${i%/*}"/device/dev*/ata_device/dev*/id | perl -nE 's/([0-9a-f]{2})/print chr hex $1/gie' | echo "    " Device `strings` | cut -f 1-3
  • Sepahrad Salour Jan 26, 2015 @ 8:10

    Thanks for your interesting article.

  • Stig Nørgaard Færch May 10, 2016 @ 10:01

    Four years later…

    Timing cached reads: 24932 MB in 2.00 seconds = 12478.39 MB/sec
    Timing buffered disk reads: 4260 MB in 3.00 seconds = 1419.88 MB/sec

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