Any way to speed up local network?
January 19, 2010 6:50 AM   Subscribe

So, over the holiday season, I invested in a 2tb hard drive. I brought it to the dorms with me and, since a friend had a netbook laying around that he wasn't using, I decided to hook up my hard drive to the netbook and connect the netbook to our router so that people on our network can access it. Everything's working fine, except for the fact that transfer speeds are typically incredibly slow and the connection doesn't seem to be particularly stable. Anyway I can improve this?
posted by fizzzzzzzzzzzy to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Can you tell us the connection speed of the netbook to the network? And what is the router capable of supporting? 10/100/1G? Half or full duplex?

We used to run into a problem with auto-negotiate all the time where it would fail and default to 10mbps/half. Slow as all get out. We'd set it to 100/full to get things moving.

For reliability, make sure the router, cable from the router to the netbook, and netbook are in a safe place where they won't get used (under a bed, for instance). Also be sure the netbook has the processing power to support the file transfers. Do you have specs of it? Processor, ram, etc.?

There's also a chance the protocols being used on the network are to blame, but it's been so long I can't remember if that was the case nor if it still is a problem. I think we had to be using netbios for some reason.
posted by jwells at 7:01 AM on January 19, 2010

How is the 2tb HD connected to the netbook? USB 2.0?

Netbook is connected to your router how? Wireless or wired?

What Operating System are you using?

How are you making these files visible? Windows file sharing/Samba? NFS? Something else?

I believe all of those questions need answers before a definitive answer to your question can be given.
posted by mcstayinskool at 7:04 AM on January 19, 2010

To add to McStay's questions: Is the hard drive 7200 rpm? 5400?
posted by Gainesvillain at 7:43 AM on January 19, 2010

Response by poster: sorry, Here are the specs: Netbook and Router and Hard Drive.

The Netbook is connected to the router through both the wireless and ethernet, is using XP and I'm making the files visible via windows file sharing. It's connected to the netbook via USB 1.0, I'm pretty sure.
posted by fizzzzzzzzzzzy at 7:59 AM on January 19, 2010

wifi and ethernet at the same time? don't do that. if it's just serving the drive, use ethernet only. wifi never beats copper except where it comes to putting things on your lap and maybe printing.

the usb 1.0 is going to slow you down quite a bit, too. i'm guessing "people on your network" number more than the two owners of the drive and netbook.
posted by rhizome at 8:04 AM on January 19, 2010

USB 1 vs. USB 2 :: 12Mb/s vs 480Mb/s. I think that is the issue fo sho.
posted by Gainesvillain at 8:13 AM on January 19, 2010

Your netbook has USB 2.0 and it's highly unlikely you picked up a USB 1.0 drive that is 2 TB in size. I'm betting you have USB 2.0 and don't know it.

The first thing you need to try is wired only. My hunch is that will improve things dramatically.

The second thing you need to try is what your file performance is like with an alternative means of file sharing. FTP, HTTP, something like that. Window File Sharing has never been known to be a top performer.
posted by mcstayinskool at 8:22 AM on January 19, 2010

According to Gateway's specs on that device, the ports are USB 2.0, which is faster, but could conceivably still be a bottleneck... unless the enclosure you have the drive in is USB 1.0.

Also, the network port is 10/100, no gig line.
posted by Lifeson at 8:24 AM on January 19, 2010

Another key point of information needed: how slow is slow?
posted by mcstayinskool at 8:27 AM on January 19, 2010

The limiting factor in this setup should be the wired ethernet connecting your netbook to the router (100 Mbps). At this speed, you should be seeing throughput of roughly 1 GB per 80 seconds. Probably a little slower than that due to real-world inefficiencies. It also depends on what kinds of files you're sharing. If it's lots of little files, throughput will be slower than if it's fewer large files. Are people attempting to read from and write to the drive simultaneously? If so, that will also slow things down.

Also, how are the machines which are receiving the files connected? If they are wireless, then the bottleneck could be on their end, not on the netbook server's end. I was recently on an 802.11g wireless network attempting to transfer a file from another machine which was wired directly to the router. The estimated time to complete a 7 GB transfer was something like 2 hours. When I switched my machine to wired instead of wireless, the transfer completed in about 10 minutes.
posted by Nothlit at 9:40 AM on January 19, 2010

Just to hammer the point home, at work they set up wireless access points in our classrooms. One per classroom. The second I get a complaint about things being slow my first question is if they're using wireless, because they always are. Why? 30 people using one 54mbs wireless device basically have it down to 1.8mbps per person. That's incredibly slow, and often it is worse due to memory in the device. Ditch the wireless and get another computer hooked up to the router and try your file copy again. That at least will eliminate wireless as being the problem.

The HD is SATA, based on your link, BTW. Is that the right one?
posted by jwells at 10:32 AM on January 19, 2010

The 100mbit line is definitely the bottleneck. That's about 12MB/sec. Are you trying to stream media to other people or are they straight copying files?
posted by wongcorgi at 10:37 AM on January 19, 2010

Response by poster: As far as using FTP or HTTP instead, those seem to be designed for non-local access. Will it still be better when transferring over a local network? I'm also thinking of trying Windows Home Server.

Yeah, we're all accessing the network via wireless, so that's probably why.

If no one else is uploading or downloading from the server, we usually get about 1 mbps, which seems way lower than it should be.

We're straight copying files for the most part.
posted by fizzzzzzzzzzzy at 10:52 AM on January 19, 2010

FTP and HTTP are both just ways to serve files. It doesn't matter whether the client computers are "local" to your LAN or "remote" as in halfway across the world- they're still connecting to your machine to download files, which is all that matters.

Wireless in dorms tends to be sluggish, unreliable, and overloaded. Wired is probably going to be your first solution. You might want to try FreeNAS, a bootable BSD setup that gives you the ability to serve files pretty easily and quickly. I believe you can boot FreeNAS off a flash drive or CD without installing it on the hard drive.

Are you getting one megaBYTE per second or one megaBIT per second? They're quite different.
posted by aaronbeekay at 11:02 AM on January 19, 2010

We need more information. What is slow?

1. Grab TeraCopy (free for private use.) and install it on a machine you want to copy to.

2. Copy something. It tells you the speed. What is it? If the netbook is via wireless only, the best you can probably see is ~3MB/sec assuming the machine you are copying to is either wired or on a different access point. If it's on the same access point, ~1.5MB/sec MAX, I would't be surprised at anything as low as 800KB/sec. If both devices are wired, maybe 8-9MB/sec max.

3. Are you copying from this system with a Vista Machine? Vista network transfers can be horribly slow using the windows explorer file copy. It will be much faster with TeraCopy.

4. Re-reading your last comment, both machines on the wireless, and assuming 1mbps means 1 MB / sec, then yeah, that's about as fast as it will go.
posted by defcom1 at 2:08 PM on January 19, 2010

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