Simple version: what filesystem (or more complex setup, perhaps) is best for use on a liveusb system? LiveUSB system with filesystem directly on the drive, not one with compressed system image a-la livecd.

(The Choice of filesystem for GNU/Linux on an SD card question is somewhat relevant, but not completely)

Generally, it seems ext2 is somewhat problematic with regards to data-loss (i.e. sudden power failures / disconnects / etc.), and journaling filesystems (ext3, ext4) are relatively slow (i.e. terribly slow on some $8 thumb drive). Caching (eprd?) seems like a possible option, although likely too problematic and not very useful.


For one squashfs is a good read only choice. Together with unionfs you can also install new software.

On my netbook I decided to go with ext2. The more modern versions perform many more writes which might lead to an early degradation of the drive (see here). In that context - make sure you have no swap on your drive. This might also support choosing a read only filesystem for your main system.

I wouldn't call ext2 problematic - AFAIK it's as save as ext3. It's true journalling speeds some things up - but at the cost of many extra writes.

Oh - and it might be a good idea to put your /var and /tmp dirs onto ramdisks to further reduces writes.

  • That all I know. squashfs is rather inconvenient (hard to update packages) and irrelevant (“… not with compressed filesystem image” as I've noted) and does not solve the problem anyway. Journaling filesystems manage to actually be more slow on cheap thumbdrives. As with ext2, I'm not completely sure of the data loss reasons, but some filesystem failures did occur. – HoverHell May 8 '12 at 11:46
  • Well - if they already occur regullary - I think you should consider getting a new thumbdrive. None of the filesystems should cause problems which cause data loss. Especially consider the link about degradation 100,000 write cycles isn't much for some files on an OS drive. – bdecaf May 8 '12 at 14:05
  • surprisingly, the drive on my eeepc 4g (some SILICONMOTION SM223AC as smartctl reports) still holds, with ext3 and active use (with tweaking, of course) for 4 years. Don't know if write cycles on cheap thumb drives are more of a problem, but the speed certainly is. – HoverHell May 8 '12 at 17:25
  • Besides, expiring cheap thumbdrives seems to mostly be a question of backups. – HoverHell May 8 '12 at 19:00
  • Oh good to know. I have exactly the same device. Maybe I worried too much. – bdecaf May 9 '12 at 8:54

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