Booting Raspberry Pi from USB with an SSD drive

Booting Raspberry Pi from USB with an SSD drive
Not all cable and disk combinations work for Raspberry Pi

Well, the Raspberry Pi is now running from a 2.5" SSD disk.

Yes, it's great to be able to boot the thing from a MicroSD, but by booting with a solid disk connected with a USB to SATA adapter cable we can multiply the Raspberry's response speed by up to ten times.

USB booting is possible on Raspberry Pi 2B v1.2, 3A+, 3B, 3B+, 4B, 400 and Zero 2 W, and Raspberry Pi Compute Module 3, 3+ and 4.

Although there are fast, good quality and reasonably priced MicroSD cards, they are not designed for the constant read, write and overwrite of a graphical operating system. If you use it for a web server, even a very modest one, you can't even imagine the strain. This constant activity limits the lifespan of memory cards and, depending on usage, they can die in two or three years.

There's no colour: an SSD is not only faster, more durable and more reliable, it's also more robust. The good thing is that the power from a USB 3.0 port on the Raspberry Pi 4 is enough to power a 2.5" SSD, but to add a second drive, or if you have other things connected, you'll have to use a USB switch with external power.

After two days of use I found that it works without any problems connected to the USB 3.0 port, but if you want to stay calm you can resort to a powered enclosure.

In any case, for 3.5" drives you will need external power.

One of the possible problems you may encounter when using the SSD is excessive CPU consumption, here are two possible solutions. It worked for me to leave an empty MicroSD card inserted. This was the result: 0 round at idle.

Booting Raspberry Pi from USB with an SSD drive

I'm writing this note because when I decided to look for a compatible cable and disk I found hundreds, and I'm not exaggerating, of comments from people who had had connectivity problems with different cables and disks. Well, in case anyone is going through this process and is looking for one, this combination works:

Rapsberry Pi 400.
OS: Raspberry Pi OS 64Bits.
Kingston A400 SSD Internal Solid State Drive 2.5" SATA Rev 3.0, 240GB - SA400S37/240G. USB 3.1 (10 Gbps) to SATA adapter cable for disk drives.

Here's a list of compatible adapter cables that users say work, or don't work, with Pi 4. And if you're looking for the performance of just about any drive, pibenchmarks. com has users uploading their tests and results.

Quick review of the cable.

Booting Raspberry Pi from USB with an SSD drive

It's very short and of medium stiffness, although it can be tamed. The connector gets a bit warm with use.

Booting Raspberry Pi from USB with an SSD drive

The connection to the disk leaves a bit of slack, so it's better not to move it too much so that the slack doesn't end up ruining the connector or the pins.

Booting Raspberry Pi from USB with an SSD drive

The layout of the port forces you to put it face down so you don't have to twist the cable.

Booting Raspberry Pi from USB with an SSD drive

It has a tiny orange activity indicator LED that you can hardly see from the front or back.

As for the disc, everything is fine. It delivers. And they are very cheap now. The 240 GB disk costs around 20 euros. However, if you want to use it for a home web server or some other project that needs 24/7 reading/writing, it can be short in terms of response and lifespan.

If the first time you connect it to the Raspberry it doesn't recognise it, don't panic. Just format it or burn any OS or copy you have and it will appear as a removable drive.

The cable costs more than the drive, about 24 euros. There is a wide variety of adapters of this type, more expensive and much cheaper, but you had to go for one that had enough reliable references that worked with this disk in Raspberry 4.

That it is 3.1 is the least important because the ports are 3.0, it does not matter much that it has TRIM because I have not managed to make it work because it is a major mess and I suspect that there is some compatibility problem.

This was the result of the test with the MicroSD:

Booting Raspberry Pi from USB with an SSD drive

And this one with the SSD:

Booting Raspberry Pi from USB with an SSD drive

As you can see, all the speeds are higher. Some of them even more than ten times.

And as I'm already full of tinkering, I've set up a LAMP server (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) to host a testing environment for the blog. Now I can test and break things locally. What I haven't managed to get phpMyAdmin working yet. Although I've installed it successfully, I can't get permissions for some things and still no DBs listed, nothing that can't be fixed by reinstalling it forty more times.

And hey, they say (speculate) that a Raspberry Pi 5 could arrive next year.

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