Question Will my USB drive be damaged/killed, if i install operating systems and games on it?

TheFlash1300

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Mar 15, 2022
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Hello. Someone told me if i install an operating system on a USB drive, say, Linux Mint, i shouldn't expect more than 300-400 hours of work before the drive dies. The person told me that a lot of reading can damage the USB drive by causing read disturb errors. The same goes for video games too - too much reading (playing games - reading the game files) will cause read disturb errors, and the USB drive will fail.

However, i don't agree with the person, because I'm aware of the Flash Controller.

To prevent read disturb errors from occurring, the flash controller will count the total number of reads to a block since the last erase. When the count becomes greater than a fixed (pre-programmed) limit, the affected block will be copied over to a new block, erased (the information in it is fully deleted), then released to the block pool. This will renew the original block and make it as good as a new block.

Basically, as far as i know, the cells have 'anti-aging' processes that help them prevent wearing out from too much reading. This means that it doesn't matter how much reading occurs, the drive will never be damaged from reading, because reading can't damage it.

So, who is right - me or the person? Will my USB drive be killed, if i install live or full Linux distros, Windows editions, and video games?

NOTE: I'm asking about reading, not writing. I know writing causes damage and wears out the drive - but what about reading only?
 

dwd999

Honorable
Hello. Someone told me if i install an operating system on a USB drive, say, Linux Mint, i shouldn't expect more than 300-400 hours of work before the drive dies. The person told me that a lot of reading can damage the USB drive by causing read disturb errors. The same goes for video games too - too much reading (playing games - reading the game files) will cause read disturb errors, and the USB drive will fail.

However, i don't agree with the person, because I'm aware of the Flash Controller.

To prevent read disturb errors from occurring, the flash controller will count the total number of reads to a block since the last erase. When the count becomes greater than a fixed (pre-programmed) limit, the affected block will be copied over to a new block, erased (the information in it is fully deleted), then released to the block pool. This will renew the original block and make it as good as a new block.

Basically, as far as i know, the cells have 'anti-aging' processes that help them prevent wearing out from too much reading. This means that it doesn't matter how much reading occurs, the drive will never be damaged from reading, because reading can't damage it.

So, who is right - me or the person? Will my USB drive be killed, if i install live or full Linux distros, Windows editions, and video games?

NOTE: I'm asking about reading, not writing. I know writing causes damage and wears out the drive - but what about reading only?
If anything it would depend on how much heat your usb activity creates. If you overheat it enough it might be damaged but unless the manufacturer specifies a maximum life span it might not fail. More importantly given how slow usb drives are you would want to install as little as possible on them. BTW who are these "someones" you are talking too? Is this elementary, middle, or high school lunch room gossip?
 
Reactions: KyaraM
Hello. Someone told me if i install an operating system on a USB drive, say, Linux Mint, i shouldn't expect more than 300-400 hours of work before the drive dies. The person told me that a lot of reading can damage the USB drive by causing read disturb errors. The same goes for video games too - too much reading (playing games - reading the game files) will cause read disturb errors, and the USB drive will fail.

However, i don't agree with the person, because I'm aware of the Flash Controller.

To prevent read disturb errors from occurring, the flash controller will count the total number of reads to a block since the last erase. When the count becomes greater than a fixed (pre-programmed) limit, the affected block will be copied over to a new block, erased (the information in it is fully deleted), then released to the block pool. This will renew the original block and make it as good as a new block.

Basically, as far as i know, the cells have 'anti-aging' processes that help them prevent wearing out from too much reading. This means that it doesn't matter how much reading occurs, the drive will never be damaged from reading, because reading can't damage it.

So, who is right - me or the person? Will my USB drive be killed, if i install live or full Linux distros, Windows editions, and video games?

NOTE: I'm asking about reading, not writing. I know writing causes damage and wears out the drive - but what about reading only?
Reading has near zero impact on durability, it's writing that stresses them most and there's a theoretical number of writes limit. Modern USB storage devices have some protection but still less than full size SSDs. I have some 5 -10 year old USB storage ranging from 4 - 16 with Linux Mint + utilities that are way past those supposed limits that work just fine still.
Even latest ones are still slower than built in SSDs so games installed on them may lag from time to time so they are not best for games. Windows do a lot of writing so they can shorten USB's life considerably, Linux much less so.
Since SSDs got much cheaper I'm switching to them + USB3.1 adapters as a good deal appears, they are in most cases faster and more durable. Only negative side is size difference. As of lately, M.2 NVME SSDs also got price reduction with much higher performance and in sizes close to larger USB drives.
 

TheFlash1300

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Mar 15, 2022
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if all you are doing is reading the data, it can't hurt it.

I guess over time drive might wear out, but not from action of reading info off it.
Alright.
BTW who are these "someones" you are talking too? Is this elementary, middle, or high school lunch room gossip?
It's random people's opinions on the internet...
Modern USB storage devices have some protection but still less than full size SSDs.
What makes the protection less effective than the protection in SSDs? Don't USB drives have the same type of flash controller as SSDs?
What you WILL get is disturbingly slow functionality.
I have used Kali Linux on a USB drive, and it wasn't slow - it was just fine.
As with most of your questions - Why are you wanting to do this?
Various experimental purposes...
 
Alright.

It's random people's opinions on the internet...

What makes the protection less effective than the protection in SSDs? Don't USB drives have the same type of flash controller as SSDs?

I have used Kali Linux on a USB drive, and it wasn't slow - it was just fine.

Various experimental purposes...
No, USB flash drives do not have same controllers as SSDs nor same memory chips.
As for performance, there's so much variety that it's illusory to talk about them in general. Starting with USB type, firmware. eventual cache and memory chips.
 
Reactions: KyaraM

Colif

Win 11 Master
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Jun 12, 2015
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with so many fake USB around, I hope it is the size it says it is. If its larger than 1tb I would question its reality.
Same applies for external ssd as well, many of them are just SD Cards pretending to be bigger.
 

Colif

Win 11 Master
Moderator
Jun 12, 2015
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Funny how they all look the same, just big enough to put an sd card in.
they now shipping 16tb models, I guess we will see 32tb models soon. Might as well go silly... I am waiting for the 256tb portable ssd for 100. Just cause a real 100tb ssd costs 50k now... details.
 

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