One vs 2 drives on a System76 laptop?

I’m thinking of getting a System76 Oryx Pro laptop with PopOS. I’m debating whether to get 1 internal drive or 2.

  • Is there any big pros or cons of using 1 internal drive vs 2 drives?
  • Is it a big advantage to have the OS on a separate drive from my user files? Or does that not make much difference?

Would they both be SSDs or will it be one SSD and one spin drive?

The Oryx only takes m.2 drives.


Not much of a speed difference with modern SSDs having the OS on a separate one.

You could use the 2nd drive as a backup, an archive you move around to other systems or you could put both drives in a stripe or mirror RAID configuration. Personally i’d just run the one drive unless I needed more space.

1 Like

Both will be SSDs.

I was thinking of only using external drives for backup, but I like your idea of having one of the internal drives also be a backup (especially considering that this laptop provides easy access to internal components). Good idea. And I’ll still backup to external drives cuz I’m kind of paranoid about having lots of backups. A 2tb drive should easily hold the OS and all my user files with room to spare.

I’m on my 3rd System76 Gazelle. I’ve ordered them with a single drive, and added a drive when needed. I have a 2.5" spinning rust drive I bought a while back and ran it in my last Gazelle, but haven’t put it in my new Gazelle, yet. The internal NVMe drive is super fast. The 2.5" drive is a hybrid drive. I can add another NVMe, I think.

IF you’re looking for higher read speeds, you can use something like LVM to add both NVMe drives to a Volume Group and have LVM use RAID1 type mirror for your Logical Volumes. This allows LVM to read half your data from each drive, theoretically doubling your drive throughput on reads. I propose LVM for this solution as it is highly flexible opposed to using mdadm.

Also keep in mind that you want to leave plenty of free space on your flash storage to give it room to perform wear leveling on writes. Fortunately, a side-effect of running Arch is that most of the files on the system are replaced much more often than other Linux distros, so this helps with wear leveling.

Keeping your OS on a separate drive from your data can be an advantage in OS-reinstall and recovery scenarios. Keeping /home on a separate drive allows you to nuke and pave much more easily, if you’re that kind of Linux user. I usually start off with /home on the main partition (LVM logical volume) and wind up moving it elsewhere down the road.

Another advantage of having a separate drive/partition is that you can use LUKs to encrypt it, and still be able to do updates and reboots without needing to enter the encryption key. You only enter the key when you need to actually mount the encrypted drive/partition. For a system that might be remote, this has advantages. If you fully encrypt your system, doing a remote reboot has challenges.


Those are the kinds of things you read and go… wow… why didn’t that occur to me!?

Thank you.

For @m3110w, i’d add that if you plan to dual-boot, run a live distro or leave your laptop in non-secure environments everything must be LUKS encrypted (excl. GRUB) with Secure Boot enabled or one OS can infect the other OS and gain access to your encrypted volume the next time you unlock it.

LinuxNinja knows that, it’s just hard to cover everything without writing a book. :stuck_out_tongue:

For remoting in to a LUKS encrypted drive you could use a Pi-KVM.

1 Like

Good point. I can see myself wanting to play around with various distros. So I think I’ll go with 2 drives and use the smaller one for the OS. Thanks.

1 Like

Anytime a backup drive is in the same physical space and on the same electrical source as the live drive, they can both die at the same time. I once worked on a machine that had matching drives and the owner thought that it would be fool proof to mirror one to the other for a quick recovery if anything goes wrong. That was a good plan until an electrical short fried the electronics on both drives in the same millisecond.


Good point. I’m paranoid about backing up so, as a minimum, I would also back up the drive to at least 2 external drives also. Currently I make daily drive images to a rotating stack of 4 external drives using 2 different backup apps.

Welcome to 2021! Spin drives (Hard drives) are rarely used anymore for anything but backups. Sure a few (very few) low cost systems may still be bought (maybe not) new with 1 SSD or M2 drive and a hard drive, but probably to get rid of old stock, or because they can get tons of them for dirt cheep from manufacturers and wholesale outlets who are also getting rid of old stock.

Huge SSD’s are still not cheep, but huge hard drives are more affordable, as well as a bit more reliable, and therefore are still good for backups.

1 Like

I have to agree, I discovered the trick about a year into distro hopping, and boy is it a time saver!
I have been keeping my /home/user1, user2, user3 each on a separate partition, but not /home itself, as it’s just an empty node with users mounted to it. I don’t distro hop anymore, and that method isn’t perfect when trying different DE’s, because it accumulates a lot of junk, but it still comes in handy to nuke the OS and start over when there’s a major problem I have a hard time finding a solution for. Haven’t done that for a long time either, nor do I have “The many problems” with Arch (a rolling OS) as people say are to be expected. Nothing a few commands, or a day or two wait for an update to fix it.

I remember days and even weeks of reinstalling various versions of Windows and all software, and then having to change a billion settings in a million apps, because they are not in one neat place, and still risking hardware and software support!

1 Like

I’d always go for two given the choice. However unless its two large ones the urge to upgrade will always be there. If you get one large one you can always add a second, with two small one will need to be taken out to replace it. My mitigation for this is to store all personal files off the machine in a nas (or two).