Petter Reinholdtsen

How to fix a Thinkpad X230 with a broken 180 GB SSD disk
17th July 2013

Today I switched to my new laptop. I've previously written about the problems I had with my new Thinkpad X230, which was delivered with an 180 GB Intel SSD disk with Lenovo firmware that did not handle sustained writes. My hardware supplier have been very forthcoming in trying to find a solution, and after first trying with another identical 180 GB disks they decided to send me a 256 GB Samsung SSD disk instead to fix it once and for all. The Samsung disk survived the installation of Debian with encrypted disks (filling the disk with random data during installation killed the first two), and I thus decided to trust it with my data. I have installed it as a Debian Edu Wheezy roaming workstation hooked up with my Debian Edu Squeeze main server at home using Kerberos and LDAP, and will use it as my work station from now on.

As this is a solid state disk with no moving parts, I believe the Debian Wheezy default installation need to be tuned a bit to increase performance and increase life time of the disk. The Linux kernel and user space applications do not yet adjust automatically to such environment. To make it easier for my self, I created a draft Debian package ssd-setup to handle this tuning. The source for the ssd-setup package is available from collab-maint, and it is set up to adjust the setup of the machine by just installing the package. If there is any non-SSD disk in the machine, the package will refuse to install, as I did not try to write any logic to sort file systems in SSD and non-SSD file systems.

I consider the package a draft, as I am a bit unsure how to best set up Debian Wheezy with an SSD. It is adjusted to my use case, where I set up the machine with one large encrypted partition (in addition to /boot), put LVM on top of this and set up partitions on top of this again. See the README file in the package source for the references I used to pick the settings. At the moment these parameters are tuned:

During installation, I cancelled the part where the installer fill the disk with random data, as this would kill the SSD performance for little gain. My goal with the encrypted file system is to ensure those stealing my laptop end up with a brick and not a working computer. I have no hope in keeping the really resourceful people from getting the data on the disk (see XKCD #538 for an explanation why). Thus I concluded that adding the discard option to crypttab is the right thing to do.

I considered using the noop I/O scheduler, as several recommended it for SSD, but others recommended deadline and a benchmark I found indicated that deadline might be better for interactive use.

I also considered using the 'discard' file system option for ext3 and ext4, but read that it would give a performance hit ever time a file is removed, and thought it best to that that slowdown once a day instead of during my work.

My package do not set up tmpfs on /var/run, /var/lock and /tmp, as this is already done by Debian Edu.

I have not yet started on the user space tuning. I expect iceweasel need some tuning, and perhaps other applications too, but have not yet had time to investigate those parts.

The package should work on Ubuntu too, but I have not yet tested it there.

As for the answer to the question in the title of this blog post, as far as I know, the only solution I know about is to replace the disk. It might be possible to flash it with Intel firmware instead of the Lenovo firmware. But I have not tried and did not want to do so without approval from Lenovo as I wanted to keep the warranty on the disk until a solution was found and they wanted the broken disks back.

Tags: debian, english.

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