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Thread: USB Thumb drive replacement for computer hard drive.

  1. #1

    USB Thumb drive replacement for computer hard drive.

    This may not really fit on Energy Science forum but I found it kind of interesting and, really, thought Aaron might get a kick out of it. My laptop hardrive crashed a few days ago, I've never seen this happen before but it isn't a software problem and I can hear it going kerplunk, kerplunk as it tries to boot. This was about three hours after I posted a comment on ESF, so I moved it from one in a billion to one in a million that it is some sort of directed attack against me. Sure I talk a lot of smack on this forum, but I have never actually built anything that makes anyone go "wow" and I believe many here have and have shared what they did. That said I was about to go shell out another $400 bucks for another cheap laptop when I said no, I have this broken laptop, I have another from two years ago another from two years before that, it is too wasteful.

    So the first step was to make a bootable linux USB drive. I did that, at first, with Unetbootin which later proved to be a problem, but it got the dead laptop back to life. I chose Lubuntu, which is a very small Linux Ubuntu clone that looks like Windows XP, it is fast, it is stable, it is wonderful. The problem is the Unetbootin created bootable USB drive doesn't allow you to write anything to the bootable USB drive, everything disappears when you turn the computer off. This led me to learn about "persistent" bootable linux USB drives. I made a Lubuntu persistent USB drive quite easily, unfortunately I'll need to try and dig out the url if anyone is interested as I actually couldn't bookmark it as I got there with a non-persistent drive.

    So now my previously defunct laptop is running off a persistent bootable linux USB drive. There are many advantages which have occured to me and some disadvantges. Regarding advantages, 1) Lubuntu itself is much faster than Windows 7 or whatever crap I had on there, it is also cleaner, less prone to virus attack, no commercial programs, etc. 2) If you run from a USB 3.0 drive to a USB 3.0 port data transfer will be faster than even a fast hard drive platter, even a further improvement in performance. I am currently running off a USB 2.0 drive, if I go to a USB 3.0 drive, maybe 8 instead of 5 bucks, there should be essentially no latancy for most programs that aren't downloading off the internet. 3) While I am not doing it, it is easier to encrypt a drive with Linux 4) When you are finished working, if you like, you simply remove the USB drive, there is no longer any physical connection between the web or your computer and your work. 5) Theoretically, as I'll get to in a moment, no one should need to lug around a laptop for travel anymore, just take the USB with the pre-installed operating system. I don't really know as there are so many non-technical currents involved, heck I don't understand why Microsoft is still in business, but I would think that might be the trend over the next couple years, after that, just have everything on a dockable smartphone.

    Disadvantages. 1) Currently, if you want to store more than 4 Gb on a persistent bootable USB it involves a bit of a workaround, nothing that couldn't be easily overcome and really unless you want lots of movies on your USB you likely don't need more than 4 Gb of storage. 2) Currently as most to nearly all computers ship, they look to boot from the hard drive before any USB drive. This means if you put a bootable USB drive in such a computer it will ignore it and boot from the hardrive. Pressing F1 or F2 or whatever it is for the manufacturers computer allows one to go in and easily change the boot order so that the USB drive is looked at before the hard drive at start up but a salesperson or whatnot doesn't want to worry about that. The manufacturers would need to change the default boot order in the BIOS, then the salesman could carry three copies of everything he has worked on, on his own operating system, on his key ring instead of lugging around a laptop computer.

    Anyways, and again no future predictions here (i.e. why is Microsoft basically a monopoly with an inferior product against a financially free superior alternative) but technically it looks to me that hard drives are toast. USB drives are faster, more secure, more customizable.

    Ciao,

    Paul

  2. #2
    Senior Member Tom C's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
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    Pacific Northwest
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    Paul,

    Great post, I have an old laptop running Ubuntu really fast for an old geezer laptop! Linux will rule the world one day just a matter of time. the only thing I have ever found faster than usb 3.0 is a SSD I have a laptop it has a 40 Gig SSD and a 500 Gig sata combo drive in it, boots lightning fast.

    Tom C


    experimental Kits, chargers and solar trackers

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by ZPDM View Post
    This may not really fit on Energy Science forum but I found it kind of interesting and, really, thought Aaron might get a kick out of it. My laptop hardrive crashed a few days ago, I've never seen this happen before but it isn't a software problem and I can hear it going kerplunk, kerplunk as it tries to boot. This was about three hours after I posted a comment on ESF, so I moved it from one in a billion to one in a million that it is some sort of directed attack against me. Sure I talk a lot of smack on this forum, but I have never actually built anything that makes anyone go "wow" and I believe many here have and have shared what they did. That said I was about to go shell out another $400 bucks for another cheap laptop when I said no, I have this broken laptop, I have another from two years ago another from two years before that, it is too wasteful.

    So the first step was to make a bootable linux USB drive. I did that, at first, with Unetbootin which later proved to be a problem, but it got the dead laptop back to life. I chose Lubuntu, which is a very small Linux Ubuntu clone that looks like Windows XP, it is fast, it is stable, it is wonderful. The problem is the Unetbootin created bootable USB drive doesn't allow you to write anything to the bootable USB drive, everything disappears when you turn the computer off. This led me to learn about "persistent" bootable linux USB drives. I made a Lubuntu persistent USB drive quite easily, unfortunately I'll need to try and dig out the url if anyone is interested as I actually couldn't bookmark it as I got there with a non-persistent drive.

    So now my previously defunct laptop is running off a persistent bootable linux USB drive. There are many advantages which have occured to me and some disadvantges. Regarding advantages, 1) Lubuntu itself is much faster than Windows 7 or whatever crap I had on there, it is also cleaner, less prone to virus attack, no commercial programs, etc. 2) If you run from a USB 3.0 drive to a USB 3.0 port data transfer will be faster than even a fast hard drive platter, even a further improvement in performance. I am currently running off a USB 2.0 drive, if I go to a USB 3.0 drive, maybe 8 instead of 5 bucks, there should be essentially no latancy for most programs that aren't downloading off the internet. 3) While I am not doing it, it is easier to encrypt a drive with Linux 4) When you are finished working, if you like, you simply remove the USB drive, there is no longer any physical connection between the web or your computer and your work. 5) Theoretically, as I'll get to in a moment, no one should need to lug around a laptop for travel anymore, just take the USB with the pre-installed operating system. I don't really know as there are so many non-technical currents involved, heck I don't understand why Microsoft is still in business, but I would think that might be the trend over the next couple years, after that, just have everything on a dockable smartphone.

    Disadvantages. 1) Currently, if you want to store more than 4 Gb on a persistent bootable USB it involves a bit of a workaround, nothing that couldn't be easily overcome and really unless you want lots of movies on your USB you likely don't need more than 4 Gb of storage. 2) Currently as most to nearly all computers ship, they look to boot from the hard drive before any USB drive. This means if you put a bootable USB drive in such a computer it will ignore it and boot from the hardrive. Pressing F1 or F2 or whatever it is for the manufacturers computer allows one to go in and easily change the boot order so that the USB drive is looked at before the hard drive at start up but a salesperson or whatnot doesn't want to worry about that. The manufacturers would need to change the default boot order in the BIOS, then the salesman could carry three copies of everything he has worked on, on his own operating system, on his key ring instead of lugging around a laptop computer.

    Anyways, and again no future predictions here (i.e. why is Microsoft basically a monopoly with an inferior product against a financially free superior alternative) but technically it looks to me that hard drives are toast. USB drives are faster, more secure, more customizable.

    Ciao,

    Paul
    Have you tried Ubuntu's forum page?

    http://community.ubuntu.com/

    Or Tweet @ubuntu if you can get a request into 140 chars.

  4. #4
    Networking Architect Aaron Murakami's Avatar
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    Paul,

    If your hard drive goes bad in your laptop, you don't have to buy another laptop, you can just replace the drive. Most laptops have an access panel on the bottom where you just remove 1-2 screws and the panel and you can pull out the drive and replace it. Just search google for your laptop model and how to replace the drive.

    I have quite a few computers and most of my laptops are old refurbished Dell D620 and D630's with XP - one has Win 7, but I use the Sandisk 120GB SSD - just as fast as the usb drives since they are solid state, just bigger capacity. If you do get a big drive like that, which you could put one in as a replacement for your crashed hard drive, NEVER defrag the SDD's because although they're faster, they don't have the write/rewrite life of a regular hard drive. Plus it is unnecessary since data is retrieved direct from the point on the SDD where it is... hard disc drives lay the data down sequentially for the most part so defragging is needed for that. If you do get a SDD as the drive replacement, just search for SDD optimizations you can do that will make it faster and extend the life of them.

    Even in my main tower AMD 8 core beast with 32gb of ram and Win 7 pro, I have a Sandisk SDD as the main C drive and its fast as hell.

    Looks like the 240gb ones are less than what I paid for my 120gb one 2 years ago - Sandisk SDD

    The only time I've used usb drives as the boot drive is on my litecoin mining rigs that use a small version of linux.
    Aaron Murakami





    You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete. ― Richard Buckminster Fuller

  5. #5
    Senior Member Branch Gordon's Avatar
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    Indianapolis, IN
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    I'm typing on a Lubuntu machine actually right now. Fanless, pulls about 600mA at 12V. Running virtualbox with Win7 for the CBAIII software, as I couldn't get it running on Wine.

    Very fast OS for sure.

    Running off a USB stick though for a permanent solution is gonna wear out the stick pretty fast.

  6. #6
    I recently bought a laptop and replaced the hhd with a 240 gb Kingston hyperX fury solid state drive. It is definitely a new dimension in computer speed. Is like having a computer with warp drive. Lol.
    Last edited by AlvaroHN; 03-08-2015 at 06:23 PM.

  7. #7
    Guess this wasn't too far off topic for the forum. Appreciate the comments and advice. After a couple days experience with this I found one very large drawback. While USB sticks are fast they apparently don't do random read write operations well at all at least from the little I read. What it boils down to is while a spreadsheet is fast, firefox is slow as dirt. Never noticed this with my bitcoin mining rig, which also ran off a USB as well because all it pretty much did was number crunching. Also as Branch pointed out the USB probably won't last very long. So, yes it works but its not yet ready for prime time. Will say with 2 days experience I think that Lubuntu is a winner linux distro. They have a great computer store called Microcenter out this way, not sure if it is a chain or not, so looks like I will be off to there tommorow to pick up a solid state drive.

  8. #8
    Just threw in a Crucial 120GB SSD and installed Ubuntu whole process probably took less than 15 minutes. 70 bucks and really I don't know whyI'd need 60GB let alone 120. 2 screws in the back panel and pop out the old and in with the new as Aaron mentioned. The salesman at Microcenter said while Sandisk is the name for USB drives you want to to look for Crucial or Samsung for SSDs, maybe just what they want to sell but he also looked up on the internet some setting on Ubuntu (Trim I think he called it) to see if it would work properly with an SSD, it does. If there is a Microcenter around where you live they are probably to computers what Radioshack was 40 years ago to electronics.

    Didn't bother to encrypt anything by default, being disorganized figured I might just lose the password but is a straightforward option. I do think if you wanted real security the way is encryption + an external drive w operating sysytem+data that you remove when not in use so no physical connection between operating system/data and computer. You can do this with a USB drive but it is not a day to day solution. Imagine if you wanted to be nuts there you could run a chksum or whatever its called to see if anything had been written to the disk since last start-up.

    Man this thing is fast!! So now I just see how the stability is for lubuntu going forward and hope I don't end up in printer driver purgatory, don't worry I won't update the thread about this Thanks for the help, mission successful, Ciao -Paul

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