Is Upgrading A Linux System To An SSD Worthwhile?

Samsung 860 Series SSDI’ve seen a number of reviews of solid state drives (SSD) versus hard disk drives (HDD) that show substantial benefits with SSDs for boot time, program startup time, and file transfer time, but almost all of them were done on that “other” operating system. Recently, I had the opportunity to experience the benefits of upgrading to an SSD on two Linux systems.

Both systems began with clean installs of Ubuntu MATE 17.10 with full-disk encryption. The first system had an Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 CPU, 8 GB of RAM, and a Western Digital Black 7200 RPM 500 GB SATA II HDD. The second system was running an Intel i7 4770K processor with a Western Digital Black 7200 RPM 500 GB SATA III HDD. It also had 8 GB of RAM.

The Benchmark

For a benchmark, I used systemd-analyze’s “time” function to measure the boot time for each configuration.

The Procedure

First, I got baseline measurements of the boot time of each machine with the HDDs installed using systemd-analyze, then I installed an SSD drive in each machine on SATA 0. The Core 2 Duo machine got a 125 GB Corsair Neutron GTX 550 SSD. The i7 got a 250 GB Samsung 860 EVO SSD.  I did a clean install of Ubuntu MATE 17.10 with full-disk encryption on each SSD, updated all packages, and configured each machine just as they had been when running on HDDs. After all the updates were installed, I used systemd-analyze to get the boot time with the SSDs.

The Results

The first hint of the speed-boost from the SSDs came during the Ubuntu installations. I didn’t measure them, but they seemed to go about twice as fast on the SSDs as they did with the HDDs.

Boot Times

Intel Core 2 Duo E8400, 8 GB RAM, Corsair Neutron gtx 550 SSD
Kernel Userspace Total
HDD 15.611s 71.593s 87.205s
SSD 11.920s 9.038s 20.959s
Intel i7 4770K, 8 GB RAM, Samsung 860 Evo SSD
Kernel Userspace Total
HDD 10.470s 41.567s 52.037s
SSD 9.612s 6.825s 16.488s

The improved boot time on the Intel i7 will save 35.549 seconds per boot, and since it’s booted once a day, will add up to a savings of 3.6 hours per year. The Intel Core 2 Duo running the SSD will save 66.246 seconds per boot, or 6.7 hours per year.

Subjectively, program startup and shutdown times were significantly reduced on both machines. File transfers and application installs were impressively fast. System shutdown was also significantly quicker.

Conclusions

Upgrading a Linux system to an SSD is definitely worthwhile. Considering only the improved boot times, the annual time-savings from an SSD upgrade on a Linux box justifies the cost. The additional time saved by quicker program startup and shutdown, file transfers, application installations, and system updates increase the benefits of making an SSD upgrade. The cost of SSDs has dropped considerably since they were introduced, making now a great time to take the SSD plunge.

(Note that if a machine has less than 8 GB of RAM, it might make more sense to upgrade the RAM first, because RAM will be beneficial for more operations than just file reads and writes.)