Everything you need to know about SSD Support in Ubuntu 14.04

Solid State Drives (SSD) have started dominating the chromebook kind of new generation laptop and Premium laptops. It replaces conventional Hard Disk Drives (HDD) due to advantages of high throughput (fast read/write speed), light weight and small form factor. The cost of SSD is going down gradually so that it is affordable for Desktop system too.

In this background, recently I bought a SSD for my ageing home desktop machine replacing the faulty hard disk. It is Transcend SATA 128GB drive of model SSD340 (TS128GSSD340). I have installed Ubuntu 14.04 on this SSD. Here is the quick look on how far this kind of SSDs are supported in Ubuntu 14.04 kind of Linux distributions. The reason for “kind of” in above sentence is most of this discussion is applicable/useful on any modern Linux distributions and SSD.


Ensure that your BIOS settings for SSD SATA device is set as AHCI mode to get full benefit out of SSD. The installation is straight forward, did not find any issue in detecting and installing the OS on top of it. Good start! Now we have Ubuntu 14.04 installed on SSD.

Collecting information about SSD

Issue following command to get in depth information about your SSD. It is highly useful data comes handy while you configure and fine tune your SSD. Replace the “/dev/sda” with your drive in the following command.

karuppuswamy@Ubuntu-PC:~$ sudo hdparm -I /dev/sda


ATA device, with non-removable media
	Model Number:       TS128GSSD340                            
	Serial Number:      20140410B39474016734
	Firmware Revision:  SVN263  
	Transport:          Serial, ATA8-AST, SATA 1.0a, SATA II Extensions, SATA Rev 2.5, SATA Rev 2.6, SATA Rev 3.0
	Supported: 9 8 7 6 5 
	Likely used: 9
	Logical		max	current
	cylinders	16383	16383
	heads		16	16
	sectors/track	63	63
	CHS current addressable sectors:   16514064
	LBA    user addressable sectors:  250069680
	LBA48  user addressable sectors:  250069680
	Logical  Sector size:                   512 bytes
	Physical Sector size:                   512 bytes
	Logical Sector-0 offset:                  0 bytes
	device size with M = 1024*1024:      122104 MBytes
	device size with M = 1000*1000:      128035 MBytes (128 GB)
	cache/buffer size  = unknown
	Form Factor: less than 1.8 inch
	Nominal Media Rotation Rate: Solid State Device
	LBA, IORDY(can be disabled)
	Queue depth: 32
	Standby timer values: spec'd by Standard, no device specific minimum
	R/W multiple sector transfer: Max = 16	Current = 16
	Advanced power management level: 254
	DMA: mdma0 mdma1 mdma2 udma0 udma1 udma2 udma3 udma4 *udma5 
	     Cycle time: min=120ns recommended=120ns
	PIO: pio0 pio1 pio2 pio3 pio4 
	     Cycle time: no flow control=120ns  IORDY flow control=120ns
	Enabled	Supported:
	   *	SMART feature set
	    	Security Mode feature set
	   *	Power Management feature set
	   *	Write cache
	   *	Look-ahead
	   *	Host Protected Area feature set
	   *	WRITE_BUFFER command
	   *	READ_BUFFER command
	   *	NOP cmd
	   *	Advanced Power Management feature set
	    	SET_MAX security extension
	   *	48-bit Address feature set
	   *	Device Configuration Overlay feature set
	   *	Mandatory FLUSH_CACHE
	   *	SMART error logging
	   *	SMART self-test
	   *	General Purpose Logging feature set
	   *	64-bit World wide name
	   *	{READ,WRITE}_DMA_EXT_GPL commands
	   *	Gen1 signaling speed (1.5Gb/s)
	   *	Gen2 signaling speed (3.0Gb/s)
	   *	Gen3 signaling speed (6.0Gb/s)
	   *	Native Command Queueing (NCQ)
	   *	Host-initiated interface power management
	   *	Phy event counters
	   *	Host automatic Partial to Slumber transitions
	   *	Device automatic Partial to Slumber transitions
	   *	READ_LOG_DMA_EXT equivalent to READ_LOG_EXT
	    	DMA Setup Auto-Activate optimization
	    	Device-initiated interface power management
	   *	Software settings preservation
	    	Device Sleep (DEVSLP)
	   *	SMART Command Transport (SCT) feature set
	   *	SCT Error Recovery Control (AC3)
	   *	SCT Features Control (AC4)
	   *	SCT Data Tables (AC5)
	   *	Data Set Management TRIM supported (limit 2 blocks)
	Master password revision code = 65534
	not	enabled
	not	locked
	not	frozen
	not	expired: security count
		supported: enhanced erase
Logical Unit WWN Device Identifier: 5000000000000000
	NAA		: 5
	IEEE OUI	: 000000
	Unique ID	: 000000000
Checksum: correct
Device Sleep:
	DEVSLP Exit Timeout (DETO): 100 ms (drive)
	Minimum DEVSLP Assertion Time (MDAT): 31 ms (drive)

Transcend 128GB SSD
Transcend 128GB SSD

Health of SSD

S.M.A.R.T is the standard to report health condition of a storage device. You need to install a package called “smartmontools” to get health report of your SSD. Issue the following commands to install and run this tool and know the how healthy your device is.

$ sudo apt-get install smartmontools

$ sudo smartctl -A /dev/sda
smartctl 6.2 2013-07-26 r3841 [x86_64-linux-3.13.0-24-generic] (local build)
Copyright (C) 2002-13, Bruce Allen, Christian Franke, www.smartmontools.org

SMART Attributes Data Structure revision number: 16
Vendor Specific SMART Attributes with Thresholds:
  1 Raw_Read_Error_Rate     0x000a   100   100   000    Old_age   Always       -       0
  2 Throughput_Performance  0x0005   100   100   050    Pre-fail  Offline      -       0
  3 Spin_Up_Time            0x0007   100   100   050    Pre-fail  Always       -       0
  5 Reallocated_Sector_Ct   0x0013   100   100   050    Pre-fail  Always       -       0
  7 Unknown_SSD_Attribute   0x000b   100   100   050    Pre-fail  Always       -       0
  8 Unknown_SSD_Attribute   0x0005   100   100   050    Pre-fail  Offline      -       0
  9 Power_On_Hours          0x0012   100   100   000    Old_age   Always       -       1
 10 Unknown_SSD_Attribute   0x0013   100   100   050    Pre-fail  Always       -       0
 12 Power_Cycle_Count       0x0012   100   100   000    Old_age   Always       -       4
167 Unknown_Attribute       0x0022   100   100   000    Old_age   Always       -       0
168 Unknown_Attribute       0x0012   100   100   000    Old_age   Always       -       0
169 Unknown_Attribute       0x0013   100   100   010    Pre-fail  Always       -       1441792
170 Unknown_Attribute       0x0013   100   100   010    Pre-fail  Always       -       0
173 Unknown_Attribute       0x0012   199   199   000    Old_age   Always       -       4295163905
175 Program_Fail_Count_Chip 0x0013   100   100   010    Pre-fail  Always       -       0
192 Power-Off_Retract_Count 0x0012   100   100   000    Old_age   Always       -       3
194 Temperature_Celsius     0x0022   054   054   030    Old_age   Always       -       46 (Min/Max 43/46)
197 Current_Pending_Sector  0x0012   100   100   000    Old_age   Always       -       0
240 Unknown_SSD_Attribute   0x0013   100   100   050    Pre-fail  Always       -       0

Trim Support

Trim is the way of housekeeping in SSD, which ensures that free blocks are readily available in advance for further write. All modern SSDs support this feature, you can verify with hdparm command we used to collect information of SSD.

$ sudo hdparm -I /dev/sda | grep TRIM
	   *	Data Set Management TRIM supported (limit 2 blocks)

The above command shows that Trim is supported by this SSD.

“fstrim” is the command which does this job. This can be run periodically through a cron job. Here is a way to see this in action. Let’s say you have created a new partition and file system on SSD. In this case /home file system is on SSD. Now I am asking the SSD to trim the deleted file’s blocks.

$ sudo fstrim -v /home
/home: 0 bytes were trimmed

Since we have not deleted any file, it does show 0 bytes trimmed. Now let’s delete a file of size 1.9GB. Then issue fstrim command as shown below, which shows the no. of bytes trimmed around 1.9GB. Till you issue this command, SSD in no way to know that you don’t need this data again. Now this command explicitly instructed SSD to delete the data and keep it ready for further writing (In fact flash memory chips in SSD needs to erase the blocks before every write – which I simply call “keep it ready”).

$ sudo fstrim -v /home
/home: 2113138688 bytes were trimmed

Ubuntu has automated this for you, but with a catch. Yes, it is enabled by default for Intel and Samsung SSDs, which have been well tested and supported. In case your drive supports Trim, you can also try enabling this (Disclaimer: It is your responsibility to keep the data backed up properly, I am not responsible for any lost you claim on this). I have enabled it for my Transcend SSD by appending “–no-model-check” to the fstrim command in the file /etc/cron.weekly/fstrim. Here is how it is in my file.

exec fstrim-all --no-model-check

In case of new SSD, you may need not to run this cron job weekly as per Ubuntu default. You can move this to /etc/cron.monthly/fstrim till you accumulate a lot of files.

There is a way to do this trim operation on the fly. You can do this by adding “discard” flag while mounting the file system. It means that file system can issue this trim instruction to SSD when ever it deletes a file. But it may affect the performance of device. So it is not preferred for a new SSD at least.

File System mount

The default file system mount file shown in my case.

$ sudo vi /etc/fstab

# /etc/fstab: static file system information.
# Use 'blkid' to print the universally unique identifier for a
# device; this may be used with UUID= as a more robust way to name devices
# that works even if disks are added and removed. See fstab(5).
# / was on /dev/sda5 during installation
UUID=3fca70df-d717-4664-8268-3c2048b00ac3 /               ext4    errors=remount-ro 0       1
# /home was on /dev/sda6 during installation
UUID=f7d9be87-6a1c-4b7e-9179-7a3056db9716 /home           ext4    defaults        0       2
# swap was on /dev/sda7 during installation
UUID=4c48ce5f-1204-4bf8-a4e1-6776a17fd8d8 none            swap    sw              0       0

“discard” flag is not set by default during installation. This flag will instruct file system to issue trim command when ever you delete a file, which may lead to slow down of system. Periodical trim should be fine for a desktop system.

Add “noatime” flag to all SSD file systems in /etc/fstab except swap. This flag helps preventing updating file system meta data of “file access time” (which in turn writing to SSD) when ever you access a file in SSD.

Here is the updated /etc/fstab.

$ sudo vi /etc/fstab

# /etc/fstab: static file system information.
# Use 'blkid' to print the universally unique identifier for a
# device; this may be used with UUID= as a more robust way to name devices
# that works even if disks are added and removed. See fstab(5).
# / was on /dev/sda5 during installation
UUID=3fca70df-d717-4664-8268-3c2048b00ac3 /               ext4    noatime,errors=remount-ro 0       1
# /home was on /dev/sda6 during installation
UUID=f7d9be87-6a1c-4b7e-9179-7a3056db9716 /home           ext4    defaults,noatime        0       2
# swap was on /dev/sda7 during installation
UUID=4c48ce5f-1204-4bf8-a4e1-6776a17fd8d8 none            swap    sw              0       0

Browser configuration

Some people prefer to fine tune SSD to optimize the number of writes. Here is how to do it. Firefox caches the pages you have visited which causes a lot of IO to SSD. You can disable it by setting cache limit as 0MB as shown in below. This setting can be reached by Firefox Menu -> Preferences -> Advanced -> Cached Web Content

Swap configurations

Setting the swappiness is highly debated topic in Linux kernel world. In case you plan to disable the swap partition, in stead of disabling the swap partition (or omitting), we can set swappiness as 0 so that swap partition can be used for suspend to disk (Hibernate). By default Hibernation is disabled in Ubuntu. You need to enable it through other hacks.

$ sudo swapon -s
[sudo] password for karuppuswamy: 
Filename				Type		Size	Used	Priority
/dev/sda7                               partition	7811068	0	-1

$ cat /proc/meminfo | grep "^Mem"
MemTotal:        7660780 kB
MemFree:         6387244 kB
$ cat /proc/meminfo | grep "^Swap"
SwapCached:            0 kB
SwapTotal:       7811068 kB
SwapFree:        7811068 kB

Turning the Kernel parameters

The following commands shows the default kernel parameter which may need tuning.

$ sysctl vm.swappiness
vm.swappiness = 60
$ sysctl vm.vfs_cache_pressure
vm.vfs_cache_pressure = 100

The lower (from 100 to 50) value of vfs_cache_pressure configures kerenl to retain filesystem meta data (dentry and inode cache), which means even during memory pressure this cache won’t be released. In case you have enough RAM (in my case it is 8GB), it is fine to reduce it further. This will lead to less frequent SSD access.

Append the following three lines in /etc/sysctl.conf to fine tune the above parameters. You need to reboot the system to make it effective.

# Custom settings
# disable the swapping, still swap partition is necessary for hibernation

IO Scheduler algorithm

Before reading further, here is a quick overview of IO scheduler algorithms.

the Anticipatory scheduler introduces a controlled delay before dispatching the I/O to attempt to aggregate and/or re-order requests improving locality and reducing disk seek operations. This algorithm is intended to optimize systems with small or slow disk subsystems;
the Completely Fair Queuing (CFQ) scheduler maintains a scalable per-process I/O queue and attempts to distribute the available I/O bandwidth equally among all I/O requests;
the Deadline scheduler uses a deadline algorithm to minimize I/O latency for a given I/O request;
the Noop scheduler is a simple FIFO queue, and it assumes performance of the I/O has been or will be optimized at the block device.

By default “deadline” is selected which is good for SSD, leaving it as it is.

$ cat /sys/block/sda/queue/scheduler 
noop [deadline] cfq 

For a 1GB file, copying from HDD to SSD, it took 10.347 seconds as per below test with the above default setting.

$ time cp /media/karuppuswamy/72e998d2-78f0-436c-a067-b1f578c3737c/karuppuswamy/Archives/Linux\ ISOs/ubuntu-14.04-desktop-amd64.iso .

real	0m10.347s
user	0m0.036s
sys	0m2.741s

You can experiment with “noop”, which is supposed to work well for a SATA SSD with AHCI Programming Interface and NCQ support. The command is given below.

$ sudo echo noop > /sys/block/sda/queue/scheduler

I believe this notes is helpful for you. Thanks for reading.

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  1. You shoud also write something about firmware updates (seems that transcend doesn’t support linux in that part, updater is for Windows…

  2. Great article. You should also write something about partition alignament. Just a thought

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