Check Disk Speed In The Terminal

In today’s article, we’re going to learn how to check the disk speed in the terminal. When I say ‘disk’ I also mean drives, like SSDs. I could use ‘storage drive’, or perhaps just ‘drive’, but the word ‘disk’ is what I’m going with. So, if you have any questions about other devices – the answer is that it should work just fine if you want to speed test them. 

I should point out that we’ll only be checking disk read speeds. We won’t do any write tests today. We’re just going to see how fast we can read data from the disks we have installed.

There’s a number of ways to check the speed of your disks. You can do so with tools like Gnome Disks or HardInfo, for example. If you’d rather, you can do a full-blown benchmark of your Linux system with GeekBench. This article will explain how to check disk speed in the terminal, because why not? The GUI tools may provide more data, but you don’t always need more data.

The tool we’ll be using for this ‘hdparm’ and it’s available for any major distro out there. In fact, it may be installed by default. So, if you want to get a head start, check to see if you have it installed. If not, go ahead and install it – just like you’d install any other software.

Anyhow, the tool describes itself as:

hdparm – get/set hard disk parameters

Which sums it up nicely. If you check the man page with man hdparm, you’ll see it’s actually pretty complicated. Fortunately, we’ll just be using it to check the disk speed. It can be used to do all sorts of stuff, as you can see from the man page. Perhaps we’ll cover some of that in a future article?

Anyhow, there’s not a whole lot that goes into this. So, let’s jump right in.

Check The Disk Speed In The Terminal:

This article requires an open terminal, like many other articles on this site. If you don’t know how to open the terminal, you can do so with your keyboard – just press CTRL + ALT + T and your default terminal should open.

With the terminal open, you should first identify the disk you’re looking to test. You can list all your attached drives with:

Once you identify the drive you’re looking to check, you’ll almost certainly want to add a /dev/ in front of it – because that’s really where it’s mounted. So, if the disk you want to check is sda1, you’d use /dev/sda1. Even if it says something like /media/<user>/<drive_name>, you’ll still be using /dev/<disk>.

Now, to check the disk speed, you’ll use the following:

That gives you a good example result, including things like buffer and cache. If you want, you can actually check the direct disk speed as well. That just requires the --direct flag. It looks like this:

That’ll give you some results as though you were reading directly from the disk without a buffer involved. It’s an option to check, should you want to. But, you can get a good look at what your disk reads are going to be.


That’s actually all there is to it. ‘Snot very difficult. Sure, hdparm is this big complicated application – but you can still use it to check the disk speed in the terminal. You don’t actually have to master all the options of these complicated applications in order to use them. You can still use them, learning more and more options as you use their features as needed.

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Last Updated on June 13, 2022 by KGIII

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Author: KGIII

Retired mathematician, residing in the mountains of Maine. I may be old and wise, but I am not infallible. Please point out any errors. And, as always, thanks again for reading.

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