What Is CrystalDiskMark?

CrystalDiskMark is an IT industry-wide recognized tool for benchmarking storage devices. It’s also a valuable tool for diagnosing hard drive issues. But, can you use CrystalDiskMark on a Mac? Technically, yes. However, there are better options for a Mac.

CrystalDiskMark is a benchmarking tool for storage devices. IT analysts and journalists use it. CrystalDiskMark works by reading and writing specifically sized files to and from a storage device in sequential and random routines. These read and write operations simulate real-world usage (to some degree).

How to Use CrystalDiskMark on a Mac

Unfortunately, CrystalDiskMark isn’t available for macOS. It’s currently a Windows-only application. That doesn’t mean that CrystalDisk can’t be used on a Mac or other operating systems, though.

CrystalDiskMark can be used on macOS and Linux through virtual machines (VMs) or Boot Camp. But, there are pros and cons to using CrystalDiskMark through a VM layer or Boot Camp. Let’s dive into them.

Using Boot Camp to Run CrystalDiskMark on a Mac

macOS includes a tool called Boot Camp. Boot Camp isn’t a hypervisor. Instead, Boot Camp is a tool that modifies the macOS bootloader to boot into other operating systems like Windows. By using Boot Camp, you can run the Windows OS bare metal on a Mac.

Installing and configuring Boot Camp is beyond the scope of this article. If you need assistance using Boot Camp and installing Windows 11 on a Mac, check out Apple’s help articles. Once Boot Camp and Windows are installed on your Mac, though, you can install and use CrystalDiskMark within Windows as you normally would.

There are a few catches when using Boot Camp strictly for CrystalDiskMark, though. While Boot Camp works amazingly well, driver support for Boot Camp won’t be robust when compared to hardware explicitly created for the Windows OS. There may be some performance penalties using CrystalDiskMark. CrystalDiskMark can still benchmark a Mac PC for comparisons against other devices, but it’s best used as a diagnostic and analysis tool for Macs.

Likewise, because CrystalDiskMark doesn’t support macOS natively, using Boot Camp with Windows explicitly to run CrystalDiskMark is inefficient. You’re going to use a lot of drive capacity on your macOS device. A large amount of storage space will be used to install the Windows OS.

Using CrystalDiskMark on an M1 Mac

Apple recently released the M1 processor for the Mac family of products. The M1 processor uses an ARM-based design much like Apple’s i-device-based Bionic chips. The M1 processor and Bionic chips are very similar in design.

That means the M1 processor doesn’t use an X86 instruction set. That’s a problem for running Boot Camp or CrystalDiskMark. Both are X86-based pieces of software.

Because both Windows and CrystalDiskMark are based on x86 instruction sets, they can’t be used on Macs that use the M1 processor. macOS does have Rosetta 2 (an emulation layer for X86-based applications), but Rosetta 2 helps to make applications run on macOS—not full-blown operating systems. Rosetta 2 can’t be used to run Boot Camp or Windows. Because CrystalDiskMark isn’t a native macOS application, Rosetta 2 can’t be used for that either.

The only option to run CrystalDiskMark on the M1 processor at this time is through a hypervisor. Parallels released a new version of its hypervisor for the M1 processor. VMware will have a version of its hypervisor available for the new M1 chip soon, too.

Both hypervisors are level 2 hypervisors, though. That means that the OS is essentially being emulated and not running on bare metal hardware. There will be a translation layer between things like OS calls and disk reads. That’s going to impose a lot of overhead for CrystalDiskMark.

While it isn’t a good idea to use benchmark results by CrystalDiskMark in a VM for true storage drive performance metrics, CrystalDiskMark is still an excellent tool for diagnostics. Just be sure to take a few initial test runs before you need to diagnose drive performance issues later, so you have baseline scores.

A CrystalDiskMark Alternative for Mac

If the prospect of running Boot Camp and Windows on your Mac strictly to run CrystalDiskMark doesn’t seem appealing to you, check out an application called AmorphousDiskMark.

AmorphousDiskMark contains all of the same essential features as CrystalDiskMark. But, because it isn’t a direct port, AmorphousDiskMark is more of a clone of CrystalDiskMark than a macOS-native version of it.

Recap

CrystalDiskMark is an excellent utility for benchmarking the performance of storage devices and diagnosing issues with them. That said, CrystalDiskMark is a native Windows application and doesn’t support macOS.

That doesn’t mean that CrystalDiskMark can’t be run on a Mac, though. One option is to use Boot Camp. Boot Camp is an excellent option for Intel-based Macs since it allows a Mac to dual boot Windows. Boot Camp lets Windows run bare metal on a Mac, but it will require additional storage space since the entire Windows OS needs to be installed to use CrystalDiskMark.

Another option is to use a hypervisor.  If you’re using an M1-based Mac, your only choice is to load Windows into a VM. Since the M1 processor is an ARM-based chip, any hypervisor available for macOS will be a level 2 hypervisor. That means read/write operations to the physical hardware in the Mac will run through a VM translation layer and impact true performance.

Finally, if you need native disk benchmarking in macOS, take a look at an application called AmorphousDiskMark. AmorphousDiskMark is a native CrystalDiskMark clone (sort of). It’s not   clone, but this Mac hard drive benchmarking application is heavily inspired by CrystalDiskMark. It implements the same kinds of tests and uses the same type of algorithms.