Windows 10: Should use usb expansion drives as system disks or not?

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  1.    06 Feb 2017 #1

    Should use usb expansion drives as system disks or not?

    Going to build a new machine I look around for a hdd for it.

    Everywhere they're selling 'expansion' drives and 'backup' and 'portable' drives and their prices are good and reputable manufacturers, I think.

    All USB devices.

    It is easy enough to set up my computer to boot from a USB drive, I think? Usually? My board is an Asus H170. I could check that on an Asus forum or by going have a look through Bios. But I'm just talking generally, 'state of the art' sort of thing. Is this what is usually happening now?

    Your system disk is an external 'portable' and, ultimate in security, you just take it away when you're not there?

    Or should I definitely shop for a more 'normal' sata drive to use for a system disk?

    Or should I avail myself of these well priced drives and remove them from their containers to access the sata connection inside and use them as system disks in that way?

    I ask here because I run win10 and I'd like to know, of course, if there's any peculiarities with win10 that might have a bearing on this.

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  2. Caledon Ken's Avatar
    Posts : 9,783
    Windows 10 Pro x64 Build 1803
       06 Feb 2017 #2

    My ten cents.

    If your are going to build a system buy an SSD. Depending on what you are going to install in the way of programs a 120GB to 250GB is all you need.

    Then buy yourself a storage drive, a place for data. If you want to buy a USB drive and tear it apart so be it but where I live I can buy an HDD cheaper without enclosure. (And I don't have to deal with goo and heat dissipating substances.) Beside you know exactly the specs of the HDD when you buy it OEM.

    If you want your data secure use Bitlocker.

    Yes you can boot from a USB but long term running your system on a USB device will cause you very serious health issues. There is absolutely no sense in buying a "today" motherboard with a very modern CPU and then tying a USB boat anchor as a system drive.

    Other will have their opinions.
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  3.    06 Feb 2017 #3

    Well that's the kind of answer I want. There's something there. What it is it you're saying? I think USB data rate, is that it?

    HDD cheaper? Yep, well if I can find them I'll buy them.
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  4.    07 Feb 2017 #4

    Even USB3/3.1 is way slower that SATA so much longer boot and program opening times are to be expected. If you are going to build a new machine, make sure you have SSD for OS drive.
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  5. Caledon Ken's Avatar
    Posts : 9,783
    Windows 10 Pro x64 Build 1803
       07 Feb 2017 #5

    Yes and agreeing with CountMike. USB is soooooooooo slow.

    Check out data transfer rates of USB 3.1 and Sata III on Google. Really no comparison. Get M.2 to smoke Sata but that is another story.

    If you have a PC download Ubuntu onto a key and boot from there. I know it's not Windows but you will get the feel. Don't install Ubuntu just test. Don't want to mess up one of your machines.

    When looking at HDD there are the premium drives, the good drives and the cheaper drives. Each has its purpose. WD Blacks are premium and cost more where for a data storage drive a WD Blue works nicely. I avoid WD Greens but that is just me, I started paying a carbon tax in Canada so that is my justification.
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  6. Bree's Avatar
    Posts : 8,584
    10 Home x64 (1803) (10 Pro on 2nd pc)
       07 Feb 2017 #6

    Caledon Ken said: View Post
    If you want to buy a USB drive and tear it apart so be it but where I live I can buy an HDD cheaper without enclosure.
    Round my way 2.5" 1TB drives can be found slightly cheaper as a USB drive than as a bare drive (strange but true). But as I read the OP, the question was could you install and run the OS on an external USB drive.

    As others have said, USB3 speeds are much slower than SATA so it wouldn't be a good idea. Apart from that, Windows setup won't let you install to an external USB drive and you can't boot from one, not as it is formatted by the manufacturer. It's possible to wipe it and create an active partition to allow that, but it's not straight forward, you can only do that from a command prompt using Diskpart.

    For best performance, the OS should be on an internal drive - an SSD would be the fastest.
      My ComputersSystem Spec

  7.    07 Feb 2017 #7

    If you are building a computer you want to do things right. Part of that is using parts that were designed for the purpose. It is usually possible to install an OS on a USB drive (often difficult) but they were not designed for this and performance will suffer. There can be other issues as well. On top of that drives labeled as "expansion", "backup" and "portable" are often large capacity drives but lacking in performance. That is fine for their intended purpose but not for the OS.

    The operational and performance characteristics of an SSD are a good match for the requirements of a modern OS while those of a conventional drive fall far short. In the past they were used for this purpose because there was no viable alternative. But in 2017 using a conventional drive for the OS is only an economy measure, and one that is becoming more and more difficult to justify. For use as storage drives the limitations of conventional drives are less of an issue and the cost is still considerably less. But that too is changing.
      My ComputerSystem Spec

  8.    07 Feb 2017 #8

    Caledon Ken said: View Post
    My ten cents.

    If your are going to build a system buy an SSD. Depending on what you are going to install in the way of programs a 120GB to 250GB is all you need.
    This seems the definite consensus. SSD. Okay. But is 250GB really enough? Is 120G really enough? Because Windows just expands all the time, doesn't it?

    Everything you install adds things to Program Files and things sneak past you and go into Documents and Downloads even when you're trying to direct all traffic to somewhere else - your data disk.

    I've never got it clear in my head what the 'system' part of a windows install is and what isn't part of it.

    By that I mean firstly what gets overwritten when you make a new install of Windows on top of the existing. This is obviously the first thing I should get straight because this is where I might have stuff about to get destroyed.

    Then after that what will always get created by Windows during its life that you have no control over where it goes. This makes for expansion I can't prevent.

    Then after that what gets expanded by third party stuff always looking for that place to install itself or write data to. This makes for expansion I can sometimes prevent by directing elsewhere.

    All complicated by a vague fear - i.e. I have nothing concrete to point to - about various things wanting various other things to be where they expect them so's they can interact with them - and that place being the default place, the C: drive, the system disk.

    I know I'm a bit vague. It's a vague fear. Maybe totally unfounded. But there's many things won't install unless something else is there - .Net frequently needed for instance as a first example. And you get Codecs required. And you get .dll libraries and I don't know what else.

    And maybe there's nothing to fear at all but whenever I direct things away from the C: drive onto my E:, for instance, I wonder if I'm creating a problem here.

    daft, eh? l :)

    I'll shop for SSD and for internal hard drive.

    I see a couple of guys have the same experience as myself: drives of the same capacity cheaper as 'portable' or whatever.
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  9.    07 Feb 2017 #9

    250 GB or so is the minimum I recommend for OS drives these days. On my most recent build I used a 512GB, M.2 Pci-express SSD. Love having no power or data cable to it.

    I have a 2TB stoarage drive in this computer. Its a 7200 RPM seagate which moves nearly 200MB a second.
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  10.    08 Feb 2017 #10

    Don't use an external USB drive due to poor performance compared to an internal drive. For maximum security, you could install an internal HDD/SSD via a SATA connection but install it in a removable disk caddy which you can then remove and store securely.
      My ComputersSystem Spec

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