Personal computing discussed

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BIF
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SSDs and Encryption

Wed Dec 20, 2017 1:26 pm

This topic occasionally comes up and then I never really pursue full understanding. But now that I'm more and more thinking of getting a new laptop, I think this is a good time to dig deeper.

If I load a new laptop up with all SSDs (M.2 and 2.5", or a combination thereof) and I also want to turn on disk encryption (Bitlocker, "other"), what is the realistic impact to the SSDs, their ability to effectively execute TRIM, and their write durability / life expectancy?

It's time for me to get with the times and use encryption. I'd just like to better understand the potential side effects and intangible costs.

Thanks in advance!
 
cphite
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Re: SSDs and Encryption

Wed Dec 20, 2017 1:45 pm

BIF wrote:
This topic occasionally comes up and then I never really pursue full understanding. But now that I'm more and more thinking of getting a new laptop, I think this is a good time to dig deeper.

If I load a new laptop up with all SSDs (M.2 and 2.5", or a combination thereof) and I also want to turn on disk encryption (Bitlocker, "other"), what is the realistic impact to the SSDs, their ability to effectively execute TRIM, and their write durability / life expectancy?

It's time for me to get with the times and use encryption. I'd just like to better understand the potential side effects and intangible costs.

Thanks in advance!


In theory, if the SSD controller is using compression then encryption will shorten the lifespan of the drive because encrypted data is not as compressible, because the data is essentially random. As a result you are writing more data to the drive, since it's not being compressed. How much more depends on the type of data, your usage patterns, etc.

That being said, odds are your SSD is still going to outlast a typical laptop by years, so it's probably not an issue except in very rare cases. In short, encrypt your laptop.
 
BIF
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Re: SSDs and Encryption

Wed Dec 20, 2017 10:42 pm

Thank you for your excellent advice. I'll probably do just that.
 
jihadjoe
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Re: SSDs and Encryption

Wed Dec 20, 2017 11:44 pm

Some SSD controllers are capable of full disk encryption themselves. If your SSD does, then you might want to use its built-in utilities because it might be able to encrypt the drive without driving up write amplification or eating CPU cycles.
 
BIF
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Re: SSDs and Encryption

Thu Dec 21, 2017 4:28 am

I didn't know that! Thank you for the tip.
 
DragonDaddyBear
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Re: SSDs and Encryption

Thu Dec 21, 2017 8:07 am

For your laptop to support Hardware accelerated BitLocker the drive must support Trusted Computing Group (TCG) OPAL standard and have a TPM (Trusted Platform Module). If you meet the BitLocker haware requirements, as in you go to start using BitLocker, then it should all be there. That should not impact the life of the SSD because in this scheme the disk is always self encrypted and you're just managing the keys. In short, if you support BitLocker hardware acceleration then use it because there is almost no penalty. Here is a link showing a test with hardware vs software encryption. It's from Windows 8.1 but still applies to Windows 10.
BitLocker FAQ: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/window ... -questions
OPAL standard: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opal_St ... cification
TCG: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trusted_Computing_Group
wiki TPM: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trusted_Platform_Module

TLDR: If you have the correct drive and hardware you should always use BitLocker. Even if you don't, use it. It won't significantly affect the life of your drive.

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