Gnome Disk Utility is many things. It can be both a source of information for all your storage devices and a solution for backing them up and restoring them from images. It can also benchmark them, showing you the actual performance of your storage media. It might be only a simple two- or three-click affair, but many people are not aware of its existence.
If you are using the Gnome desktop, you probably have Gnome Disk Utility already installed on your computer. If not, and you’re using a Debian-based Linux distribution, you can install it using the command:
sudo apt-get install gnome-disk-utility
The application is accessible from the “Accessories -> Drives” menu or if you want to launch it from the terminal:
Choose what to benchmark
The application doesn’t win any originality awards for its interface, but at the same time it is exactly what it should be – nothing more, nothing less. In the left pane of its window, you can see a list of all storage devices connected to your computer. Selecting one of them updates the right part of the screen, presenting the selected device’s status as well as a graphical representation of its contents.
In our case, you only see one color used throughout, since our (virtual) hard disk drive was relatively small, so we used it as a single piece without separating it into individual partitions.
Having selected a storage device, a click on the button with the two gears pops up a menu of the actions you can take on the device. You can delete a partition, complete a file system check or repair, take or restore a backup, and benchmark the selected storage media.
After selecting that you want to benchmark a device, a new window will appear on your screen that, for now, is empty. Click on the “Start Benchmark” button to begin the benchmarking process.
More accuracy equals more time
Before Gnome Disk Utility starts measuring the media’s performance, you need to define how detailed you want the process to be. In the Benchmark Settings window that appears, you can increase the values for more accurate results. The higher you go, the more time the benchmarking will take to complete.
Writing needs exclusive access
The performance measurement process evaluates only the capabilities of a device In terms of reading data. To measure its performance in writes, you need to enable the “Perform write-benchmark” option. However, please note that for the application to write to the selected device, it must not be mounted on the operating system. The application should be able to get “exclusive access” to the device for writing to work.
It’s worth mentioning that unlike similar solutions, Gnome Disk Utility does not affect the contents of the storage media during the writing test, so its use is considered safe. It is always advisable, of course, to have a relatively recent backup of your data handy, especially before any process acts in whatever way on your storage media.
It can take a while
Note that for the app to access a device to measure its performance, you will be prompted to give it root access. Immediately after entering your password, Gnome Disk Utility will begin refreshing the window you saw before with a graphical representation and additional information on the performance of the storage media.
If you had entered values that were too high regarding how many samples Gnome Disk Utility should take into account or are benchmarking the performance of a humongous hard drive, the process could take quite a while. And by “a while” we don’t mean minutes but several hours. Usually, if the storage media doesn’t have a hardware problem, you do not have to wait so long to get a general overview of its performance. A few minutes are more than enough to provide relatively reliable “average” values.
Don’t postpone aborting
Unfortunately, however, the application completes its measurements serially, and it couldn’t be any other way, for if it tried to measure different things in parallel, that would affect the storage device’s performance. This means that if you click the “Abort Benchmark” or Close buttons at the bottom of the window before the program completes the procedure, you will get an overview of only the very first performance metric: the Average Read Rate.
For a more comprehensive view of the device’s performance, you should either wait or, if the procedure takes too much time, abort it, go back and reduce the values that define how detailed the benchmarking procedure should be, and then restart the process.
This way, you will get values for both Average Access Time and, if you had enabled the option to perform write benchmarks, the device’s Average Write Rate.