Improve Raspberry Pi performance with USB stick

As you know I’ve been testing the boundaries of the basic hardware that makes up the Raspberry Pi. In my recent post I overclocked my Pi to 1GHz with some great results. Although under mathematical bench marks a considerable power gain was noted, I felt this didn’t make a huge improvement to the overall speed of the RPi as a web server.

Also running Raspbian off an SD card did start to highlight the flaws in having an OS operate from one; mine became corrupt and this site went offline as a result, bad times. I’m guessing it’s down to the many movements of small data. It didn’t take long for MySQL databases to start corrupting, then the system stopped log entries, and stopped booting altogether. My immediate thought was that maybe the overclocking had caused poor writes and instability.

Cutting a long story short (and if you’ve read this far well done) I moved the OS partition to a USB stick, and left only the boot instruction on the SD card. It’s a simple process and I’ll write up a short tutorial when I’ve got some more time! I’ve finally written the tutorial – read it here! The long and short is, stability improved, and the RPi is a hell of a lot quicker for it!

I’m disabling caching for the weekend to see how the RPi handles the 30 odd visit the site gets a day, let me know by leaving a comment your experience of the speed of the site overall.


Web Developer living in Manchester, working for Studio Skylab ( Views and thoughts are my own.

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11 Responses

  1. Jesper says:

    Hey, it loads really fast – I’m amazed that this is running on a RaspberryPI!

    Please do write that tutorial though – I would love to try it out – Thanks!


    • Ste W says:

      Hi Jesper!

      I’m working on this tutorial at the moment, so it won’t be too long now! I’ve found the Sandisk flash drives to be pretty good, although after doing a bit of research Corsair ones have fast write and access speeds too. Get one ready for the tutorial! I really think the guys over at the Raspberry Pi foundation should make a hardware change and allow booting from USB.

  2. Thomas says:

    USB is not reliable on the version 1 of the board either…

    • Ste W says:

      Hi Thomas, i’ve found it to be OK with the right USB flash drive, I tested a couple of unbranded ones which were shockingly slow and unreliable, but the sandisk I tried, followed by the Corsair Voyager GT was extremely quick and reliable. Its a USB 3 stick but works fine on a 2.0 port

  3. RCH says:

    Stumbled upon your site after looking for ways to increase the performance of my own RPi. How’s that tutorial coming? 🙂

    • Ste W says:

      It’s been neglected, but it will be live this weekend! Had so many people asking about this, so I really need to get my arse into gear and get it done!

  4. Lunatic4ever says:

    Saw this post and tried it with the same Corsair USB stick… Major performance improvement. Before I used the recommende Sandisk Class4 SD card. Is now only used for booting.

  5. Tariq Khan says:

    Very interested in this tutorial… any closer to getting it done?

  6. ernesteban says:

    Is it necessary to actually put the whole OS on the USB stick, or is it enough to just put /var/www/ and the database on there? I’m anxious because I’m setting up a Pi to host an OwnCloud server and from what I’ve read; the performance is not very nice so I’m exhausting every possibility to optimise that.

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