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#1 2017-01-05 00:16:25

Horizon_Brave
Operating System: Linux-Nettrix
Registered: 2015-10-18
Posts: 1,473

Destructive to USB's Fact or Fiction?

Hey everyone, so in doing some looking into burning the Debian hybridISO to a USB and then installing the live OS and setting up persistence for it. (as opposed to doing a full OS install with the installer) 

So I've come across a good amount of dissent from users that make the very plausible and seemingly valid claim that setting up a USB with persistence is folly, due to the fact that constant writing to the USB memory (on the scale of an OS ) is massively destructive. The argument is that an OS itself makes many many more reads and writes than a regular user who's just saving documents and images etc...
So because that the USB doesn't use technology on par with an SSD, that they have a very finite number of read/write cycles before they just die out.

My question is that is this more heresay than actual fact? Has anyone actually witnessed this occur? (the actual loss of write/read ability on the drive)  Or is this one of those things that a few people see in *theory* being true, but actually hasn't been verified ?


"I have not failed, I have found 10,000 ways that will not work" -Edison

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#2 2017-01-05 08:59:17

iMBeCil
WAAAT?
From: Edrychwch o'ch cwmpas
Registered: 2015-09-29
Posts: 767

Re: Destructive to USB's Fact or Fiction?

Horizon_Brave wrote:

My question is that is this more heresay than actual fact? Has anyone actually witnessed this occur? (the actual loss of write/read ability on the drive)  Or is this one of those things that a few people see in *theory* being true, but actually hasn't been verified ?

Yes, this is actual fact, as with SSD:

Wikipedia wrote:

Longevity

The memory in flash drives is commonly engineered with multi-level cell (MLC) based memory that is good for around 3,000-5,000 program-erase cycles,[50] but some flash drives have single-level cell (SLC) based memory that is good for around 100,000 writes. There is virtually no limit to the number of reads from such flash memory, so a well-worn USB drive may be write-protected to help ensure the life of individual cells.

Personally, I have never experienced this issue, as I don't use USB sticks so often.

For USB-with-persistance setups, I would recoomend disabling swap partition entirely (if possible), and make as much as possible directories as RAM partition (again, if possible). Typically, you want to make /tmp and /run directories as memory file systems (debian install might do it for you automatically, but you can tune other stuff afterwards). Those dirs are lost across reboots, anyway. Another candidate is probably firefox cache dir ... and so on.


Postpone all your duties; if you die, you won't have to do them ..

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#3 2017-01-05 10:48:06

chris667
Member
Registered: 2017-01-03
Posts: 11

Re: Destructive to USB's Fact or Fiction?

I have a 2007 Asus EEEPC 4g.

It has a 16gb SSD which has been full and in daily use since it was new. I used Puppy Linux, Lubuntu, Crunchbang, Debian and Bunsenlabs on it at various points, without any special install.

It still works, but I could be lucky.

In that time, I have used 8GB SD cards as a way to extend the storage capacity. I have got through four of those.

The Puppy Linux way treats all the filesystem as one file which gets rewritten every half hour, with the OS as read only. I suppose that's the way to maximise life with media that doesn't like too many read/write/erase cycles.

Still, flash memory is so cheap, I don't really worry. So long as you backup, you can be exactly where you were before it failed for about the price of a cinema ticket.

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#4 2017-01-05 12:27:47

Sector11
Conky 1.9er Mod Squid
From: Upstairs
Registered: 2015-08-20
Posts: 6,396

Re: Destructive to USB's Fact or Fiction?

Check out the responses here but in particular, #3 - the Green Check - correct answer. The writer was kind enough to give his references for further reading.  It touches on USB and SSD to give a better overall view of the two.

I have 2 2GB USB sticks, among other 4, 8, 16 and a couple of 32BG sticks, that I've had for about 8 years now.  Used less since I got an External HHD for backups but still.  Never had an SSD drive so can talk about them and never uses anything 'persistent' either.  I've never had any fail, but remember at one time 'dd'ing one wrongly. It was Definitely Destroyed.  wink


The sun will never set if you keep walking towards it. - my son
Being positive doesn't understand physics.
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#5 2017-01-05 17:20:51

cloverskull
Member
Registered: 2015-10-01
Posts: 323

Re: Destructive to USB's Fact or Fiction?

I wouldn't worry much. SD cards in GoPro's are consistently written to and erased in full HD (sometimes 40k) video. An OS will not write on the same scale in daily usage as something like a GoPro. Cautioning people to treat solid state storage hardware like a 5.25" floppy is, IMO, just a bunch of FUD.

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#6 2017-01-05 17:34:50

cpoakes
Member
Registered: 2016-12-02
Posts: 108

Re: Destructive to USB's Fact or Fiction?

Yes, you will wear out your flash drive. No, it won't happen quickly.

Following the reference in the Wikipedia quote (thx, iMBeCil), the article indicates that MLC cells (cheapest, often used in flash media) are worst case rated for 3,000 - 5,000 program/erase cycles. They project a 100G disk with 10G written daily will last for 8 to 13 years. The same can be expected for a 10G device with 1G written daily - arguably greater than the rate for a USB installed OS with persistence. If your MLC actually gets 10,000 program/erase cycles (typical in older/smaller flash media), the longevity is 27 years.

Anecdotally, I have an 8GB MicroSD/USB adapter combination as the root device for an Intel Atom thin client running 24/7 since Jan 2013 (still running wheezy). It runs transmission (saving/sending files to/from my NAS). Any failures? Yes, with the cheap USB adapter not the MicroSD flash device.

So just do it. If it contains crucial data - back it up, but that's wise no matter your storage media.

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#7 2017-01-05 18:31:23

Sector11
Conky 1.9er Mod Squid
From: Upstairs
Registered: 2015-08-20
Posts: 6,396

Re: Destructive to USB's Fact or Fiction?

neutral I'm at that stage in my life that a USB stick or SSD drive "just might" out last me.  lol

And backups will definitely out last me so cloverskull and cpoakes are right: worry not!


The sun will never set if you keep walking towards it. - my son
Being positive doesn't understand physics.
_______________________________
Debian 10 Buster = SharpBang ♯!

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#8 2017-01-05 22:29:59

Horizon_Brave
Operating System: Linux-Nettrix
Registered: 2015-10-18
Posts: 1,473

Re: Destructive to USB's Fact or Fiction?

Thanks for the responses everyone! Hmm so general consensus is that yes indeed the persistent writing to the USB cells is destructive over time. And probably storing a permanent daily use OS on a USB isn't very smart lol. This also applies to SSD's but because it uses most likely more advanced cell technology, it has longer life span, but still limited.

spoakes, that article on the kingston ssd is really neat though, providing a good longevity timeline... Anyway thanks everyone, I'm convinced!  Atleast I have an idea of the lifespan of a USB when the OS is persistently set up on it, so if I recommend it to someone I can give them an idea of what they're looking at.


"I have not failed, I have found 10,000 ways that will not work" -Edison

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#9 2017-01-05 22:31:14

Horizon_Brave
Operating System: Linux-Nettrix
Registered: 2015-10-18
Posts: 1,473

Re: Destructive to USB's Fact or Fiction?

Sector11 wrote:

neutral I'm at that stage in my life that a USB stick or SSD drive "just might" out last me.  lol

And backups will definitely out last me so cloverskull and cpoakes are right: worry not!

lol, imagine when we get holo-cubes for storage then


"I have not failed, I have found 10,000 ways that will not work" -Edison

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#10 2017-01-06 01:06:13

geekosupremo
Member
Registered: 2016-04-27
Posts: 168

Re: Destructive to USB's Fact or Fiction?

Along these lines there is a very interesting thread over here - https://www.servethehome.com/firefox-is … to-fix-it/ - about how Firefox and Chrome are thrashing SSDs.

I haven't tried verifying this myself but reliable people are saying it's a thing. Just another interesting twist.

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#11 2017-01-06 02:02:49

Horizon_Brave
Operating System: Linux-Nettrix
Registered: 2015-10-18
Posts: 1,473

Re: Destructive to USB's Fact or Fiction?

geekosupremo wrote:

Along these lines there is a very interesting thread over here - https://www.servethehome.com/firefox-is … to-fix-it/ - about how Firefox and Chrome are thrashing SSDs.

I haven't tried verifying this myself but reliable people are saying it's a thing. Just another interesting twist.


Yep this same thing was reported by Steve Gibson on his Security Now podcast. I can check back a bit later, but I think in F.F atleast there's a way to stem the amount of constant write cycles


"I have not failed, I have found 10,000 ways that will not work" -Edison

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#12 2017-01-06 06:07:42

ohnonot
...again
Registered: 2015-09-29
Posts: 4,877
Website

Re: Destructive to USB's Fact or Fiction?

Horizon_Brave wrote:

looking into burning the Debian hybridISO to a USB and then installing the live OS and setting up persistence for it. (as opposed to doing a full OS install with the installer) 

So I've come across a good amount of dissent from users that make the very plausible and seemingly valid claim that setting up a USB with persistence is folly

i'd say in this particular case, it would be folly to make a FULL install to a usb stick (*) - yes, it would probably wear down the usb stick's memory, and even more than with the "Live with persistence" method - but long before your usb dies, you would die of frustration at how slow this is.
that's why "Live USB with persistence" exists - it enables you to run a fairly quick'n'snappy OS from a usb stick.
it does this by using RAM as much as possible, for writing, and write that back to the usb stick only when necessary.

so i'm wondering if the "good amount of dissent" was either partly misunderstood, or was born from a partial misunderstanding of how "Live with persistence" actually works.

(*) i'm unsure what you mean by "installing the live OS"? you are aware that installing an operating system TO usb is not the same as setting up a live usb with persistence (which is such an advanced task, i'd never even dream of tackling that myself - but as was pointed out prefabricated solutions exist: antiX, puppy, ...)?


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#13 2017-01-06 13:25:35

Horizon_Brave
Operating System: Linux-Nettrix
Registered: 2015-10-18
Posts: 1,473

Re: Destructive to USB's Fact or Fiction?

ohnonot wrote:
Horizon_Brave wrote:

looking into burning the Debian hybridISO to a USB and then installing the live OS and setting up persistence for it. (as opposed to doing a full OS install with the installer) 

So I've come across a good amount of dissent from users that make the very plausible and seemingly valid claim that setting up a USB with persistence is folly

i'd say in this particular case, it would be folly to make a FULL install to a usb stick (*) - yes, it would probably wear down the usb stick's memory, and even more than with the "Live with persistence" method - but long before your usb dies, you would die of frustration at how slow this is.
that's why "Live USB with persistence" exists - it enables you to run a fairly quick'n'snappy OS from a usb stick.
it does this by using RAM as much as possible, for writing, and write that back to the usb stick only when necessary.

so i'm wondering if the "good amount of dissent" was either partly misunderstood, or was born from a partial misunderstanding of how "Live with persistence" actually works.

(*) i'm unsure what you mean by "installing the live OS"? you are aware that installing an operating system TO usb is not the same as setting up a live usb with persistence (which is such an advanced task, i'd never even dream of tackling that myself - but as was pointed out prefabricated solutions exist: antiX, puppy, ...)?

Yea I'm aware both are two very different procedures. Installing the OS, is just that, going through the installer application like you would on a hdd/ssd, putting the full install to the Usb.. While setting up live w persist, boots the live OS, but has the "sticky" partition that is written/read from for long term files, and the host computers RAM,  for temp read and writes.


"I have not failed, I have found 10,000 ways that will not work" -Edison

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#14 2017-01-07 08:47:32

ohnonot
...again
Registered: 2015-09-29
Posts: 4,877
Website

Re: Destructive to USB's Fact or Fiction?

well in that case i'd say a live usb with persistence is NOT particularly destructive to your usb stick.


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