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Is it realistic to run Linux on a USB 3.0 flash drive, for simple tasks—without issues?

Is it realistic to run Linux on a USB 3.0 flash drive, for simple tasks—without issues?

lifeandthensome

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K900_

The drive won't die, but it won't be fast.


Ill_Scratch_7432

For me it works faster than the windows on my hard drive.


stappernn

well you set the bar pretty low tho....


whosdr

If you're really serous about this, you can get USB enclosures that are basically large flash drives, in which you insert a SATA or NVMe SSD. While it might cost more, the performance over a USB 3.0+ bus is effectively the same as an internal SSD. I have one of these at 256GB, with a full Linux Mint install + encrypted home.


clavenax

I have one of those with an old (2013-ish m.2 ssd) and it gets crazy hot after a few minutes so I only use it to pass around files between computers. The ssd made the laptop it was in overheat so it's not the enclosure's fault, things are better with newer ssd drives?


ComBlockWither

I'd say it is an SSD fault. In my experience, 2.5 inch SSDs are warm, but not hot.


daemonpenguin

Agreed. Having a drive get hot is not normal.


whosdr

The enclosure I have is made of I'd guess aluminium, has holes cut along the edges for ventilation and a thermal pad connecting the flash memory to the casing. As such it's acting as a heatsink. For large transfers and during updates it can get a little warm but under normal usage it's just fine.


clavenax

Got it, mine is made of aluminium as well but no holes and no pads.


BubbleWaston

If the the external drive gets unplugged accidentally.. say bye bye to your os... this happened to me and ubuntu wouldn't boot anymore ... plus it nearly corrupted the motherboard I had to reinstall everything from scratch


whosdr

The data partition with videos/etc isn't shared with the OS. But I've yet to have that happen, have pulled the drive live without any noticeable issue.


BubbleWaston

I did it once and my laptop got stuck in grub ... and I could not even turn it off via the power button, keyboard touchpad even powerbutton nothing worked... I had to take the laptop apart de remove the battery (it was a 2 in 1 not made to be dismantled) I never booted of an external drive after this incident.


whosdr

I don't exactly have many other options though. The USB will have to do for my purposes.


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BubbleWaston

I was not in any operating system .. I see what you are saying but trust me, I tried everything for 3 hours. long press short press power+esc and every possible combination of keys the console won't budge . Only solution remove the battery recover data and clean install.


SnooMaps9383

i daily drove a 16gb 2.0 usb with arch and gnome for a week , browsers startup slow and but overall it wasnt so bad...u can improve performance with things like tmpfs in ram or smthng (i forgot , sorry), its in the arch wiki... for what ur doing , u just need a minimal install of debian or ubuntu and it will run fine also , suggestion, since its just eBooks , music and a browser. try a WM like i3


Truserc

Agree with that


1_p_freely

Sure, I do it all the time. You want a fast one, not in terms of sequential read/write (which is what manufacturers love to advertise), but in terms of random I/O. These are a bit harder to find. Some that I've had good success with are the Visiontek Pocket SSD and the Corsair Voyager GTX. Note that these are not $10 flash drives.


daemonpenguin

Yes, you can do that. I have frequently run Linux distributions off a thumb drive, usually to test hardware or rescue files and am curious about this question. I've never had a USB drive get warm let alone hot enough to damage anything. I'm curious in what situation you'd run into such a problem.


CAPTCHA_cant_stop_me

There's several linux distros out there that actually recommend and are designed to be used on a usb drive and not a normal hdd or ssd. The one that comes off the top of my head would be Tails. Its pretty duable, but be warned your read and write speeds would be bound to whatever the usb is capable of.


DeedTheInky

Yeah I've messed around with Tails on a USB and it's pretty good, I wouldn't want to try and do anything super heavy on it but for just simple stuff like web browsing/word processing it's perfectly usable IMO. :)


AcidShAwk

I have a personal development environment on an external ssd. It's bootable and has my cloud accounts linked and ready to go whenever I need it. I'm not often mobile.. But when I need to go on a trip or on vacation it's my battlestation. I can pretty much boot it on any laptop that allows for booting off USB. Usb 3 is definitely required to make it decently usable. However, having a laptop where the entire os can be loaded into memory at bootup is key to optimal performance. You need at least 8gb I would say or about half for the os and the other half for your applications and desktop environment.


fagnerln

It works, the speed of USB 3 isn't good but acceptable. I recommend to use a lighter distro, like Xubuntu. But I don't recommend unless if you really need to use the same OS in various PCs. USB isn't reliable to long sessions in my experience, and as it's a external device, USB connectors don't have a lock, so if for some reason something touches it can corrupt some files or even the filesystem.


UsernameTaken1701

Sure. Just get more than one and make sure you regularly clone backups.


tymondeus

I ran Ubuntu on an external USB 2.0 hard drive years ago. Used it as my main computer for a while. For flash drives you can install it with a persistence file. Iirc it's an option in some live usb creation utilities.


jojo_la_truite2

that worked great using this: https://www.amazon.com/SanDisk-SDCZ880-128G-G46-Extreme-128GB-Solid/dp/B01MU8TZRV I only encoutered issue doing heavy write on disk (create / populate / drop db continusly for testing purpose). Write get slow at some point, I assume some caching mecanism that get full. Anything else felt like regular ssd install. The stick does get warm though.


timrichardson

It works, but there is a lot of real-world performance difference between USB sticks, even those that claim very high transfer speeds. Running an OS means a lot of small random writes and USB sticks don't do their performance claims on that type of load. I finally found a USB stick which is good: the Samsung Bar USB 3 or higher. I've installed different linuxes on these about ten times it's good enough for testing use. I don't think anyone would consider a USB drive a sound choice for a 'production' install.


Behrooz0

Short answer: No. Long answer: Most usb flash drives don't support wear-leveling and GC. Unless you boot with an read-only root, /home/ and /var/, It will die so fast it will make your head spin.