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My question might be silly, but I planning to install my server to a USB drive. The USB is way slower than a HDD/SSD, so will it influence the performance of the OS? Or the OS is mainly running in RAM?

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    Yes it will affect performance because of the read/write speed bottlenecks. – Thomas Ward May 16 '17 at 20:43
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    Of course it will be slow. Really slow to be honest, unless you have a fast USB 3.0 device. Yes, Ubuntu caches disk reads in RAM, if there is otherwise unused space available, but it still has to be read at least once. Writes can't be cached, so they will still slow everything down. About how much RAM are we talking btw, and what read/write speeds does your USB drive achieve? It should also be noted that USB sticks use flash cells, which wear out with every write cycle. – Byte Commander May 16 '17 at 20:49
  • You can create a live CD for experimentation. While a live CD will be much slower than a USB drive for I/O, you will be able to hear the disk spin up when the OS reads or writes to it. This will give you an idea of when I/O becomes a bottleneck. (Some USBs also have an LED that indicates I/O activity, so this would work better for testing if you have one.) – rlee827 May 17 '17 at 2:16
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  • It works well to run Ubuntu and Ubuntu family operating systems via USB. Particularly the USB 3 interface is fast enough.

    In most USB 3 pendrives the memory cells are limiiting the speed, so it is a good idea to get a pendrive with specified and high speed, or even better use a fast SSD in an external USB 3 and/or eSATA box. An SSD has memory cells with longer lifetime (can manage more write cycles, before it wears out).

  • See the following links and links from them for more details.

    help.ubuntu.com/community/Installation/FromUSBStick#Notes_about_speed

    Try Ubuntu (Kubuntu, Lubuntu, Xubuntu, ...) before installing it

    Pendrive lifetime

  • With a server, well there will probably be a lot of write cycles ....

    If you intend to install a server, I think the lifetime of USB pendrive flash memory will be too short, because you can expect a lot of write cycles. But a HDD or SSD connected via USB 3 will work well.

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The short answer to your question is yes you can do it and yes the OS will likely run slower. However, many people are running TOR strictly from a thumbdrive for security reasons. I wouldn't advise running server apps this way but as a simple desktop/laptop environment, you can achieve acceptable performance doing what you propose.

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