So, as stated above, I mainly address some people, which may have made some experience with a portable os and various storage-types. As we know, the good old HDD are the most durable types of disks.

Then there are ssd's.

And somewhere after them, we have the memory-sticks, usb-sticks, sd-cards, etc.

Currently I have a linux distro installed on my usb-drive, with full disc encryption. It runs smooth, very fast ( though being an USB-2 port ) and I really enjoy this, i enjoy this that much, that i almost never plug out this already small usb-stick. Ok, it get's a bit warm, but I do not care.

Two weeks ago I bought myself a SD-Card. I plugged it into my lap and I am even more satisfied, because it has no edge being outside at all, it is completely inside the slot. This small advantage is already enough for me to ask:

Should I consider to transfer my os from my USB to the sd-card ? Both have the same size, vendor, and appereantly the same speed-specifications.

Will my usb-drive live longer then the sd-card? Will the sd-card also get warm, like the USB-drive does ? Is the usb-drive more designed to work with many quick read/write-accesses or the sd-card ?

Is there a general recommendation at all ?

  • I'd immediately object to "the good old HDD are the most durable types of disks"... I've read some CDs & DVDs are supposed to be readable for almost a century
    – Xen2050
    Feb 17, 2016 at 11:15
  • You are a specialist. I talk about read-write.
    – icbytes
    Feb 17, 2016 at 11:21
  • DVD-RW's can be rated for 1000+ writes, just like many flash memory based devices (USBs/SDs), and I haven't read that DVD-RW's will last a century, but decades seems easily achievable
    – Xen2050
    Feb 17, 2016 at 11:35
  • Good to know, but I never read about DVD-RW's being able to last, let's say, 5 years, if being used for an os, like HDD's are usually.
    – icbytes
    Feb 17, 2016 at 11:38
  • Related: This fellow has some experience with linux installs to SD cards (Spoiler: Most fail around 1yr, no market benchmark, "impossible to know the number of writes per memory block, and the technology used in the SDCard")
    – Xen2050
    Feb 17, 2016 at 13:35

1 Answer 1


Without knowing your exact USB & SD cards, it's impossible to tell which will "live longer", there are a mind-bogging number of different USB & SD cards, of wildly differing qualities. The manufacturer's warranties may give you some idea of how long they're expected to last, and maybe you're lucky and someone somewhere has done some stress-testing.

And I'm sure they'll both "get warm" but whether that's a problem I couldn't say. If it's not burning your finger or too hot to touch, it's probably relatively normal.

HP has some fairly extensive information in a technical white paper on SD boot: using Secure Digital (SD) card technology for booting HP ProLiant servers

For deploying an OS to an SD card, HP recommends using their HP 32GB SDHC Enterprise Mainstream Flash Media Kit (Part Number 700136-B21) which may cost $100 to $300 US, that advertises:

  • Higher write cycles (up to 100,000 write cycles or 10 times greater than consumer products)
  • Static and dynamic wear leveling
  • Error Correcting Code capability (40bits/1K)
  • Data Retention of 1 year at the life end of the flash

HP notes:

The HP SD and microSD Enterprise Mainstream Flash Media cards are the only SD cards supported by Intelligent Provisioning. All other SD cards will result in an error message.

And also:

Due to specific blocking and performance considerations, microSD solutions will actually wear slower than SD solutions

Some anecdotal evidence, I tried doing a full Linux install (Ubuntu-based) onto a 32GB Lexar USB that looked just like this one: enter image description here It did not go well, took nearly an hour installing, booted once extremely slowly, then crashed permanently with massive filesystem errors.

I also use the same Lexar USB's for booting live ISO's, mainly read-only but with data storage partitions, works great.

More Info:

  • Look, I also had these boot/fs problems with a golden, small SANDISK USB. Now I have a sandisk usb-drive, almost the size of a wireless mouse usb-dongle. This one never crashed, never failed to boot ( as the golden did every 3rd time ) and is a lot faster. Perhaps I can post the entire specifications of sd-card and usb-stick in order to help others, to help me.
    – icbytes
    Feb 17, 2016 at 12:13
  • For now I've gone with just booting live ISO's from USB/SD, and only copy a few files & programs over from a data partition. Makes virtually no writes to the media unless I want to explicitly save something, and if there's enough ram it copies the entire filesystem to ram, reads a few gigs a second, and also very secure - the core OS is read-only.
    – Xen2050
    Feb 17, 2016 at 13:15

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