<SOLVED> Will a Linux "Live" USB Drive Wear Out? If so, When?

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<SOLVED> Will a Linux "Live" USB Drive Wear Out? If so, When?

Post by Unsaturated » Fri May 18, 2018 11:35 am

I made an online suggestion that a person contemplating using LInux should run Linux Mint from a USB drive first, like I did, in order to see if that's something they want to do, before making serious changes to their system.

Their response was that the USB drive would "run out". Never thought of this before. Did some research and found out that USB drives can apparently "run out" after a certain number of read/write cycles. New information to me. Posting here to confirm this (or not) and get some sense of how long (operational hours) before a USB drive running Linux Mint will wear out.
Last edited by Unsaturated on Mon May 21, 2018 1:57 am, edited 1 time in total.

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michael louwe
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Re: Will a Linux "Live" USB Drive Wear Out? If so, When?

Post by michael louwe » Fri May 18, 2018 12:07 pm

No, because there is read-only operations during a Live session, ie no write operations.
....... The process of creating a Live LM USB Flash-drive is a write-once-only operation, eg by using Rufus, Etcher, Unetbootin, Universal USB Installer, USB Image Writer, dd command, etc.

It is not advisable to do a full install of LM on a USB Flash-drive and run it daily. It will wear out soon enough, even if optimized for SSD or Nand Flash, especially on a small capacity USB Flash-drive, eg 16GB. ... https://askubuntu.com/questions/295701/ ... 776#295776 (see Felipe's reply)

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Re: Will a Linux "Live" USB Drive Wear Out? If so, When?

Post by JerryF » Fri May 18, 2018 12:33 pm

Unsaturated wrote:
Fri May 18, 2018 11:35 am
I made an online suggestion that a person contemplating using LInux should run Linux Mint from a USB drive first, like I did, in order to see if that's something they want to do, before making serious changes to their system.

Their response was that the USB drive would "run out". Never thought of this before. Did some research and found out that USB drives can apparently "run out" after a certain number of read/write cycles. New information to me. Posting here to confirm this (or not) and get some sense of how long (operational hours) before a USB drive running Linux Mint will wear out.
No one can give you an answer to this because each brand of USB flash is different. Plus there are things in life called variables. As an example: if two of the exact same brand were to be used in the exact same way, one of them could last 2 years, the other one 4 years.

Any electronic piece of equipment will eventually wear out. On average, a Live USB flash drive without persistence will last longer than one with persistence.
IF your problem has been solved, please edit your original post and add [SOLVED] to the beginning of the Subject Line. It helps other members.

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Re: Will a Linux "Live" USB Drive Wear Out? If so, When?

Post by Mute Ant » Fri May 18, 2018 1:33 pm

With a few guesses you can make an estimate of USB flash write endurance...
o It's a 16GB stick.
o Lifetime-write is 500 times the drive capacity.
o Mint writes at a mean rate of 1MB/s
o You use the stick for 4 hours a day.
-----> 1.5 years.
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Re: Will a Linux "Live" USB Drive Wear Out? If so, When?

Post by vansloneker » Fri May 18, 2018 2:18 pm

For several years now I am using a 16GB Kingston USB3 stick for portable use and as a tool. Recently did a new install of Mint18.3. I do not use it daily though. It has survived at least a dozen of clone restores. It is easy to create a full disk image of a stick to restore it in case of calamities. Nowadays 16/32GB USB sticks aren't very expensive. Should the stick after extensive use maybe finally fail, get a new and clone your image on it.
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Re: Will a Linux "Live" USB Drive Wear Out? If so, When?

Post by phd21 » Fri May 18, 2018 3:06 pm

Hi Unsaturated,

I just read your post and the good replies to it. Here are my thoughts on this as well.

All drives will eventually wear out whether they are hard drives (mechanical or SSD) or USB sticks. How often you use them is what usually determines that. Most drives have a reported Mean Time Between Failure (mtbf) attribute number and the higher the better. I also use the manufacturer's warranty as a good indicator of how well made and how long a drive will last. If the drive's warranty is 5 years, then you can reasonably expect the drive to last that long. So, get a good drive with a good warranty.

I think it is a good idea to have a fully installed Linux Mint to a USB stick of 16gb or larger (a portable Linux Mint system, and for ICE) on a USB stick which is durable, fast, and has a good warranty, especially if you are going to use it frequently or daily. "Patriot" USB sticks, and some others work well for this, and now there are USB sticks that are actually SSDrives which should be super fast and more durable than previous USB sticks; some are even waterproof, magnetic proof, shock proof, temperature proof, x-ray proof, etc...
AmazonSmile: Samsung 32GB BAR (METAL) USB 3.0 Flash Drive (MUF-32BA/AM): Computers & Accessories $12 us
https://smile.amazon.com/Samsung-METAL- ... +usb+stick

AmazonSmile: Samsung BAR Plus 128GB - 300MB/s USB 3.1 Flash Drive Champagne Silver (MUF-128BE3/AM) $45us
https://smile.amazon.com/Samsung-BAR-Pl ... +usb+stick

Amazon.com: patriot usb stick: Electronics
https://smile.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_no ... +usb+stick

SSD- AmazonSmile: Corsair Flash Voyager GTX 128GB USB 3.1 Premium Flash Drive $83us 5 yr warranty
https://smile.amazon.com/Corsair-Flash- ... b_title_ce

SSD - AmazonSmile: VisionTek 512GB USB 3.0 Pocket Solid State Drive - 900844: Electronics 2yr warranty $295us
https://smile.amazon.com/VisionTek-512G ... +SSD+stick
For installing Linux Mint, or short-term testing of it, using any working USB stick should do fine.

I have two Patriot "Rage" USB sticks that are pretty old (over 5yrs) and used extensively, and now the 8gb one is not reliable anymore, but the 16gb is still doing alright. These have been much faster than my other standard typical USB stick drives.

Hope this helps ...
Phd21: Mint KDE 17.3 & 18.3, 64-bit Awesome OS, Ancient Dell OptiPlex 780 Core2Duo E8400 3GHz,4gb Ram,256gb SDD, Video: Intel 4 Graphics, DVD Lightscribe. Why I use KDE?:https://opensource.com/life/15/4/9-reasons-to-use-kde

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Re: Will a Linux "Live" USB Drive Wear Out? If so, When?

Post by Hoser Rob » Sat May 19, 2018 8:18 am

Usually when people recommend running Linux from a USB stick, assuming that distro will do that, they don't mean to run it exclusively. They mean for testing purposes before permanently installing it on the HD. I'd keep a Windows partition until you're damn sure you don't want that.

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Re: Will a Linux "Live" USB Drive Wear Out? If so, When?

Post by shawnhcorey » Sat May 19, 2018 8:50 am

Yes, it can "run out" since Linux writes to /var and occasionally /etc. But USBs are clever enough to mark spent blocks as bad. That means, with time the size of the USB will shrink. Will a USB last as long as a SSD? Yes. And if it doesn't, it's cheaper to replace. ;)
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Re: Will a Linux "Live" USB Drive Wear Out? If so, When?

Post by I2k4 » Sat May 19, 2018 9:14 am

Google is your friend for learning about mechanical wear on storage hardware, including thumb drives. Seems beside the point for any particular installation of Mint - since Ubuntu 10.04 and then Mint 15.x I always pretested Mint and occasionally other Linux with a persistent live install before considering changing the dual Win 7 / Mint boot on the hard drive. It's by far the best way to check a new version against all the peculiarities of a particular PC and the particular peripherals it connects to prior to a regular full install - no amount of online blog or chat reading is reliable for that. But live installs all simply go wonky - in various unpredictable ways (slowdown, failure to recognize the hard drive, failure ot boot - after a few months and require reinstallation or moving on to another version, regardless that the thumb drive itself is in fine working order. I've found a few "tricks" for keeping them going, minimizing upkeep and compensating for the performance hit in using external storage, but nothing keeps thumb drive installs "live" for all that long.

(By contrast, full install dual boots have been reliable and only need to be changed when the point releases stop supporting the current versions of the software I use. I installed M17.0 (Qiana) 32bit based on Ubuntu 14.04 when it came out, the point releases have installed perfectly through M17.3, and haven't had any reason to replace it. Meanwhile trying out subsequent Mint versions on thumb drives, mainly preparing for 64bit transition, live USBs have the usual problem of conking out without explanation sooner than later.)
TRUST BUT VERIFY any advice from anybody, including me. Ubuntu / Mint user since 10.04 LTS. M17.3 Cinnamon (Dell 1520). Dual booting M17.3 XFCE / W7 (Acer netbook) and M18.3 Cinnamon / W7 (Lenovo desktop). Testing M19.x 64bit on live USB.

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Re: Will a Linux "Live" USB Drive Wear Out? If so, When?

Post by mikerr » Sat May 19, 2018 12:30 pm

A pure LIVE USB drive is read-only - so won't be subject to wear due to writes.

A much better use of a Live USB is one with some persistence, which amongst other things means it will save and auto connect to wifi networks on each boot,
keep all your firefox addons, and let you run a more up to date firefox than 57 included in mint 18.3

I use multibootUSB to create USB sticks with 4GB persistence, works well.

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Re: Will a Linux "Live" USB Drive Wear Out? If so, When?

Post by Arch_Enemy » Sat May 19, 2018 1:45 pm

mikerr wrote:
Sat May 19, 2018 12:30 pm
A pure LIVE USB drive is read-only - so won't be subject to wear due to writes.

A much better use of a Live USB is one with some persistence, which amongst other things means it will save and auto connect to wifi networks on each boot,
keep all your firefox addons, and let you run a more up to date firefox than 57 included in mint 18.3

I use multibootUSB to create USB sticks with 4GB persistence, works well.
What he said. When you boot from an ISO on a USB drive it reads the contents of the drive, and loads most of the OS to a virtual disk in memory. Your tmp and other directories that get written to in the course of your use of the OS are in this virtual disk in RAM. More like a SWAP partition. It only reads from the USB to load the OS and any programs you run while using the OS, keeping them in the virtual drive. The more RAM you have the more of the OS gets loaded into it.

There are no actual writes to the USB running this way. In effect, your children's children's children's children could use this device...if they can get the computers then to even boot from it.

Reading does not effect a USB the same way as writing. If you just use it, shut it off and not wish to save anything. If you use persistance, you are now writing your work to it. You could expect to get 12-15 years out of it, depending how much you write to it.

That takes care of the electrical characteristics. There is, however, the mechanical characteristics, and these kill USB devices faster than electrical. Merely inserting and removing the USB into the port puts a strain on the connection, and a lot more devices are killed this way than from writing to them.

What's interesting is some of the new devices, but the are awful huge to put a read-only file system on them, in order to just boot from them and then turn them off.

On devices like this:

Image

the chip is INSIDE the connector. It is part of the connector. The MTBF for a regular "sliding" style, or one with the connector sticking out the end, is 150,000 insertions, as long as you are careful inserting and removing the device. The MBTF for the above type of device is ~300,000 insertions, since you are not placing any strain on the connections from the USB connector to the chip. It's directly attached. The only problem is, unless you have some older ones hanging around, you're going to be using a 32G+ device to store 2-4G of data; not very cost effective (although the price of a 16/32G device is now less than that of a 4/8G device...)

Just my $0.02 and a grain of salt....:D
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One thing I would suggest, create a partition a ~28G partition as /. Partition the rest as /Home.
When the system fails, reinstall and use the exact same username and all your 'stuff' comes back to you.

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Re: Will a Linux "Live" USB Drive Wear Out? If so, When?

Post by mikerr » Sat May 19, 2018 2:32 pm

Arch_Enemy wrote:
Sat May 19, 2018 1:45 pm
The only problem is, unless you have some older ones hanging around, you're going to be using a 32G+ device to store 2-4G of data;
Yes the Linux system itself might only use up 2-4G but the rest of the USB drive is still usable and mounted as /cdrom (read/write) by default

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Re: Will a Linux "Live" USB Drive Wear Out? If so, When?

Post by Webtest » Sat May 19, 2018 4:55 pm

Esteemed Forum Participants and Lurkers::

I have used Linux Mint Gnome/Mate nearly exclusively from LOCKED LiveMedia systems (SD cards & Kanguru USB drives) for nearly 10 years ... ever since LM-8. My hard drive is in a drawer with a key switch, and it VERY rarely is ever turned on. So far, I have NEVER had any SD card or USB drive fail. (My hard drive has never failed either!). I DO backup EVERYTHING, and so should you. I have never (almost!) used a truly "installed" Linux system. This suits me fine - it might NOT be suitable for you, but read on.

After overcoming some nasty problems with gparted on some versions of Mint, for a few years now I have used gparted to shrink the LM boot partition and add an EXT2 partition to the drive. EXT formatting is required to mark scripts "Executable" so they can be run. Be sure to leave some space (2 MB) between the partitions. I name this partition "0_ME_FIRST" as a hint to open it right away, since it pops up on the desktop as soon as the desktop opens. In this partition I include all of my canned script files, especially my "0_ME_FIRST" script, which does some very important things, such as starting the Firewall (default is OFF), setting the clock time zone, and deleting the "Install Linux" desktop icon. It also does some very useful things, such as installing a few utilities ... for LM-18.3, Adobe Flash and the updated Firefox 59.0.1. I also have various other scripts which are used to load apps from an "app-files" folder. I have done this with Arduino, Python libraries, Unetbootin, Asunder, many others, and a number of apps that I have written for my own use, such as a DSL Usage Meter that monitors usage for my entire household as read from my DSL Modem. After I create or modify my LiveSystem drive, I immediately set the switch to LOCK. I run my email from a separate R/W USB thumbdrive as an "external profile" in Thunderbird. Brasero does NOT work from a LiveMedia system except from LM 10 - so I keep that system handy.

I have a HP dx2400 which has a really nice Multi I/O panel. My boot device is usually the SD Card. Here is an example of my LM17.2 startup file which can be run on any of my computers:

Code: Select all

#!/bin/bash
# File: m17p3-64-ma/0_ME_FIRST/0_ME_FIRST

# Initialization for Linux Mint 17.3 64-bit Mate
# Arthur Du Rea  160629.0818  (c) COPYRIGHT 2016  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
#                170920.1018  (c) COPYRIGHT 2017  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

# 160629.0849  Need to figure out if "sda" is hard drive before deleting
# It deletes the CF card "sda" in the multi-media slot !!!  RESOLVED!
# MOD 170920.1018: Only remove a Hard Drive ... not the CF card!
#                  Detect the miller laptop

#################################################
# AUTOMATICALLY DETECT THE MILLER LAPTOP
# LAPTOP DETECTOR: 
echo
echo "Test for Miller Laptop"
laptop=0
if $(cat /proc/scsi/scsi | grep -lq 'Model: ST9500325AS      Rev: DEM1')
then
  laptop=1
  echo "Running on Laptop"
  echo
  sleep 3
fi
#################################################

# Set the clock to Eastern Time w/ Auto Daylight Time
# This does not take effect instantly ...
echo "Set the clock to local time (not immediate)"
sudo ln -sf /usr/share/zoneinfo/America/New_York /etc/localtime

# Turn OFF the FIRST hard drive (sda) if it was left in the system ...
# Do NOT turn off the USB port (sda) if there is no Hard Drive !!!
# Grep "cat /proc/scsi/scsi" for HDD SCSI 0:0:0:0, 0:0:1:0, or 1:0:1:0
# If any are installed and do not prevent boot, remove them
# This works for the Miller Laptop as well
# The CD drive is at SCSI 1:0:0:0 and will not be found by the test

if $(cat /proc/scsi/scsi | grep -lq 'scsi0.\{13\}Id: 0[0-1]\|scsi1.\{13\}Id: 01')
then
    echo
    echo "Drive sda is:"
    cat /sys/block/sda/device/state
    sudo hdparm -y /dev/sda; sudo sh -c 'echo offline > /sys/block/sda/device/state'
    echo
    echo "Drive sda is:"
    cat /sys/block/sda/device/state
    echo
    sudo sh -c 'echo 1 > /sys/block/sda/device/delete'
    echo 'Drive sda is  -> DELETED <-  if  "No such file or directory"'
    cat /sys/block/sda/device/state
    echo
    sleep 3
fi

# Delete the Linux Installation tool from the Desktop
echo "Delete the Linux Installation Icon from the desktop"
rm --verbose --interactive=never /home/mint/Desktop/ubiquity.desktop
echo

# Turn off the laptop Touchpad:   !! I hate touchpads !!
if [ $laptop -eq 1 ]
    then
        synclient TouchpadOff=1
        echo "Laptop Touchpad is OFF"
fi

# enable the FireWall
sudo ufw enable
echo
sleep 4

# Close the file browser screen and return to the working desktop
caja --quit
################    EOF    ################
I've been running LM 18.3 Mate 64b for quite awhile ... the startup for that is a bit more complicated. If you want to see it, just ask. Also, learning how to use apt-get to download utility 'deb' files to your LiveMedia and 'install' them is usually not too difficult. A lot of my "Webtest" posts involve LiveMedia operation - you can search them.

Blessings in abundance, all the best, & ENJOY!
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BOAT - a hole in the water that you pour money into
LINUX - a hole in your life that you pour TIME into

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Re: Will a Linux "Live" USB Drive Wear Out? If so, When?

Post by Unsaturated » Sun May 20, 2018 1:48 pm

michael louwe wrote:
Fri May 18, 2018 12:07 pm
No, because there is read-only operations during a Live session, ie no write operations.
....... The process of creating a Live LM USB Flash-drive is a write-once-only operation, eg by using Rufus, Etcher, Unetbootin, Universal USB Installer, USB Image Writer, dd command, etc.

It is not advisable to do a full install of LM on a USB Flash-drive and run it daily. It will wear out soon enough, even if optimized for SSD or Nand Flash, especially on a small capacity USB Flash-drive, eg 16GB. ... https://askubuntu.com/questions/295701/ ... 776#295776 (see Felipe's reply)
I greatly appreciate all of the substantive information in this thread. I hope the discussion continues as I am learning a lot.

The heart of my question is answered in the quoted text above, I think, because it differentiates between the typical LM installation that is "write once" and "read only" using more common methods like Rufus (which I used), and a "full install" where I assume the computer treats the USB drive as if it were a typical hard drive with all of the read-write operations that go with it.

My online suggestion (referenced in the OP) had the Rufus/Linux Mint install in mind, and I didn't even know it was possible to do a "full" installation until I posted this thread, so thank you for this new information. So the response I should have given to the person I made the suggestion to is that a Rufus/Linux Mint will have almost no chance of "wearing out", since the whole point is to "toe the water" and get some sense of LM is a good match for the User.
So, unless I'm wrong here somehow, the answer is "No, it won't wear out."

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

However I'm interested in this whole discussion, particularly with regard to the "full" installation on a USB drive.

Could an encrypted Full Installation be done, so that whatever data might be stored there is unreadable?

Are some USB drives better for this purpose, and if so, which ones, and why?

Is there a way to mark this thread "Solved"?

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Re: Will a Linux "Live" USB Drive Wear Out? If so, When?

Post by norm.h » Sun May 20, 2018 2:02 pm

Unsaturated wrote:
Sun May 20, 2018 1:48 pm
Is there a way to mark this thread "Solved"?
See here.......viewtopic.php?f=90&t=267264

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Re: Will a Linux "Live" USB Drive Wear Out? If so, When?

Post by JerryF » Sun May 20, 2018 2:52 pm

Unsaturated wrote:
Sun May 20, 2018 1:48 pm

The heart of my question is answered in the quoted text above, I think, because it differentiates between the typical LM installation that is "write once" and "read only" using more common methods like Rufus (which I used), and a "full install" where I assume the computer treats the USB drive as if it were a typical hard drive with all of the read-write operations that go with it.
That is correct.
Unsaturated wrote:
Sun May 20, 2018 1:48 pm
...
So, unless I'm wrong here somehow, the answer is "No, it won't wear out."
Not really. ALL USB drives will eventually "wear out", no matter how they're set up. They'll just "wear out" at different rates depending how they're used.
Unsaturated wrote:
Sun May 20, 2018 1:48 pm
Could an encrypted Full Installation be done, so that whatever data might be stored there is unreadable?
Yes, it can be done. Whatever becomes unreadable (without logging in with proper credentials) depends on if you encrypt the whole drive or just the Home directory.
IF your problem has been solved, please edit your original post and add [SOLVED] to the beginning of the Subject Line. It helps other members.

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Re: Will a Linux "Live" USB Drive Wear Out? If so, When?

Post by vansloneker » Sun May 20, 2018 3:24 pm

Webtest wrote:
Sat May 19, 2018 4:55 pm
Esteemed Forum Participants and Lurkers::

...
This is very interesting, something new to me. But it also sounds really complicated to me. It seems like your creating the OS in RAM everytime you boot? And running all those scripts, doesn't take a lot of time to get to your workable desktop state?
Unless stated otherwise Mint 18.3-64 XFCE

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Re: Will a Linux "Live" USB Drive Wear Out? If so, When?

Post by Mute Ant » Sun May 20, 2018 5:15 pm

"...creating the OS in RAM..." The CPU can only execute code from RAM anyway. Having a drive I/O measured in GB/s is worth the effort for me. Once a day I have to wait a couple of minutes for a 'toram=filesystem.squashfs persistent' boot.
2018-10-13 Google designs 3-phase feed-forward to improve 2-phased governors with no sense of direction.

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Re: Will a Linux "Live" USB Drive Wear Out? If so, When?

Post by Unsaturated » Tue May 22, 2018 7:10 pm

JerryF wrote:
Sun May 20, 2018 2:52 pm
Unsaturated wrote:
Sun May 20, 2018 1:48 pm
Could an encrypted Full Installation be done, so that whatever data might be stored there is unreadable?
Yes, it can be done. Whatever becomes unreadable (without logging in with proper credentials) depends on if you encrypt the whole drive or just the Home directory.
Are there any tools that would make this easy for a newbie?

I'm interested in drive encryption and I'm interested in Operating Systems that can run on just a USB drive, so the combination of both sounds very interesting to me. However, not so interesting that I'd be willing to dump hours and hours into learning how to do it.

Seems to me that there might even be some "pre-made" linux installations that were crafted specifically to be installed, encrypted, on a USB drive. Tails? Is Tails installed encrypted? Is it a full install, or "boot only"? What's the best words to use to differentiate between a Linux install that actually runs on the USB drive (full install), and one that boots from the USB but actually runs on the host computer?

Hard to ask questions without knowing the right words.

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Re: Will a Linux "Live" USB Drive Wear Out? If so, When?

Post by absque fenestris » Tue May 22, 2018 8:32 pm

Unsaturated wrote:
Tue May 22, 2018 7:10 pm
Are there any tools that would make this easy for a newbie?
When you install Mint on your hard disk, you will be asked - 2nd box to select...

viewtopic.php?f=46&t=269867&sid=d9e4096 ... 6652642027
Linux Mint 18.3 Sylvia (Mate) 32-bit - Acer D250 Netbook (Intel Atom N270, 2 GB RAM, 120 GB SSD)

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