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I have a htpc / homeserver (apache2, mysql for some website testing) and I also use it as a htpc. My current setup is, it is in my bedroom, the OS is installed on a 2 TB drive, but at night the OS starts writing or reading some stuff from the disk. It is quite annoying as it does not spin down completely and makes noise, which irritates me :p.

I was thinking of putting the OS on a usb drive or an SSD. But what would be the best option? Is getting the SSD the best option?

I'd like some pro's and con's. :)

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up vote 1 down vote accepted

No matter how hard you try, you wont be able to eliminate all activities that are preventing HDD from spinning down. There are cron / anacron jobs, auto-updates, heck, even screensaver can trigger HDD. Ive tried this in my netbook, to conserve energy, and its simply not possible without some serious hack and fine-tuning.

So yes, SSD or USB are great solutions for silent operation. My pros and cons:



  • Speed - Its the fastest non volatile storage you can get, period
  • Size - It starts from 32~64GB and all the way to 256GB (or even more)
  • Compatibility - Any motherboard with Sata will handle them


  • Price - They are still very expensive compared to HDD. Prolly overkill to an htpc
  • Install - You have to open you machine, screw it, plug wires, etc etc

USB Stick


  • Price - Very affordable, and you prolly have a few 4~16GB lying around already
  • Plug and Play - Stick it and boot. No wires, no opening your case
  • Portable - Take it to any PC and you have your portable htpc server ;)


  • Size: Usually top USB sticks are 32~64GB. Not that you need more for an htpc
  • Blinking led: Try to find one without led, or it will be annoying. Sandisk's Cruzer Blade may be an option
  • Ancient BIOS may not boot from USB. Well, they may not have Sata either, so not really a con compared to SSD
  • Speed - Even the fastest USB2.0 is no match for an SSD

May I add a 3rd contender?

SD Flash Card


  • Cheapest of all.
  • Pretty decent speed of you get a good class card
  • Put that never-used card reader to some good use ;)
  • Don't use one of your precious USB slots


  • Need a card reader (duh)
  • Not good if you actually use your card reader in your htpc
  • Smallest size of the bunch

Hope that helps!

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I would probably find out what it is that starts using the disk at night, why it does it at night, and how to make it do that some other part of the day, preferably when you're not around. I would look for updatedb.

By default, Ubuntu runs certain tasks at 6:25am every day. This updates some databases, etc, and will cause disks to spin up. If that timing seems correct to you, then you can edit /etc/crontab. You will see a line line this one:

25 6 * * * root test -x /usr/sbin/anacron || ( cd / && run-parts --report /etc/cron.daily )

The first column is the minute of the hour, the next is the hour, then there is day of month, month and day of week. An asterisk means every. For instance, the hour column is set to * for the hourly scripts. So, if you edit it to say, 0 12 * * * blablabla, then it will run then it run every day at noon.

The scripts themselves, are stored in /etc/cron.hourly, cron.daily, etc. You can just add runnable scripts there in order to add features yourself.

I hope that helps. :)

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I haven't got a clue why it sometimes spins up at night, it only runs apache for when Im working and XBMC for when I want to watch a movie, no clue what it would be doing during the night when I am not using either of those :/. Where should I start looking ? – Lucas Kauffman Aug 29 '11 at 8:46
Sorry about the low quality answer. I've added to it. Hope it's more useful to you. – Jo-Erlend Schinstad Aug 30 '11 at 22:08
is it safe to postpone these scripts ? – Lucas Kauffman Aug 30 '11 at 22:44

It's also possible to use some kind of "live" distro to run everything in RAM. The distro can be booted from usb, hdd, PXE, whatever.

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