In today’s world, large files are more common than ever. In the early days of computer technology, programmers and developers did their best to compress files out of absolute necessity.
In 2019, with NAS devices already available and petabyte drives just around the corner, file sizes don’t have to be small, but it takes additional time to transfer huge files from one storage device to another.
If you don’t have hours to move the file from place to place, the next best option is to choose a method with a high transfer rate.
USB transfer rates
USB is one of the most common data transfer methods. USB, or Universal Serial Bus, has undergone many changes over the years. There are five main speeds:
- USB 1.0: 1.5 megabits per second (Mbps)
- USB 1.1: 12 megabits per second (Mbps)
- USB 2.0: 480 megabits per second (Mbps)
- USB 3.0: 5 gigabits per second (Gbps)
- USB 3.1: 10 gigabits per second (Gbps)
USB 3.0 and 3.1 ports are more common in modern computers. However, it should be noted that it does not always match its potential. The USB transfer rate is limited by the slowest connected device. Even when connecting two USB 3.1 compliant devices, there is a chance that the speed will be slower than what the device is capable of.
Ethernet transfer rates
In the modern era, Wi-Fi Ethernet has faded into the background, but it exists for a reason. Wired connections reduce latency and provide significantly faster transfer speeds than wireless connections. Any serious gamer of you will likely use a wired connection to your PC or consoles to minimize latency.
- Fast Ethernet: 100 megabits per second (Mbps)
- Gigabit Ethernet: 1000 megabits per second (Mbps)
- 10 Gigabit Ethernet: 10,000 megabits per second (Mbps)
Ethernet is most commonly used to connect to the Internet, but there are other applications where Ethernet is better, such as local area networks. For example, if you are planning to set up a private home network for storage or as a Plex server, Ethernet will be one of the most efficient options.
Wi-Fi transfer rates
Like Ethernet, Wi-Fi has changed and grown over the years. As you can see below, the speed has increased significantly over the years. The 802.11ax (WiFi 6) protocol will not only be faster, it will also bring many other great features that will make Wi-Fi much more reliable.
Wi-Fi 802.11b: 11 megabits per second (Mbps)
Wi-Fi 802.11a, g: 54 megabits per second (Mbps)
Wi-Fi 802.11n: 450 megabits per second (Mbps) Wi-Fi 802.11ac: 1300 megabits per second (Mbps)
Wi-Fi 802.11ax: 3500 megabits per second (Mbps)
Keep in mind: these speeds are theoretical. In real-world applications, you rarely see speeds close to this. However, it is the fastest Wi-Fi available to users today. It works great for smaller files, but if you need to upload or transfer a multi-gigabyte file, you will see better results with a wired connection.
Bluetooth transmission rates
Bluetooth is not designed to transfer huge amounts of data at any given time. The protocol was created to transmit data over short distances for certain industries, but has since been widely used for more varied purposes. However, even the fastest form of Bluetooth pales in comparison to other methods.
- Bluetooth 1.0: 700 kilobits per second (Kbps)
- Bluetooth 2.0: 3 megabits per second (Mbps)
- Bluetooth 3.0: 24 megabits in second (Mbps)
- Bluetooth 4.0: 25 megabits per second (Mbps)
FireWire and Thunderbolt transfer rates
A lesser-known method of transferring data is through FireWire and Thunderbolt connections. We say “lesser-known” because they tend to be isolated from Apple devices, while Windows still has the vast majority of the market. These connections are fast and rival USB in many ways.
- FireWire 400: 400 megabits per second (Mbps)
- FireWire 800: 800 megabits per second (Mbps)
- Thunderbolt: 10 gigabits per second (Gbps)
Newer versions of FireWire are planned for the future. FireWire 1600 and FireWire 3200 should provide 1600 Mbps and 3200 Mbps respectively.
For Thunderbolt, this speed is 10 Gbps per channel, so the latest version (Thunderbolt 3) supports up to 40 Gbps due to the number of channels.
Why transfer speeds matter
You may not need a high bit rate right now, but as 4K (and even 8K) video is becoming more mainstream and ubiquitous, you will need to increase the bit rate, otherwise, you will spend days moving a single file. Take time to study and understand the different baud rates. You will thank yourself in the future.
Even knowing the expected speeds can help you identify and diagnose potential problems in your system.