I am considering purchasing the Origin PC EON 11-S Pro laptop. It will be mounted to my wheelchair, so a solid-state drive (Intel 520 Series) will be used to eliminate any data loss due to low level physical shock. Although the device will be with me most of the time, I would like to drive to be encrypted for numerous reasons. However, I am concerned that an improper software-based encryption scheme may damage or otherwise degrade the performance of the (rather expensive) SSD to unacceptable levels.

Is TrueCrypt a reasonable solution with this particular model of SSD? Would bit locker be a more stable solution? This related question and answer is a bit broader than what I'm asking, but it was still helpful.

Note: I am aware that this particular SSD automatically implements hardware-based encryption, however I'm uncertain whether the laptop's BIOS supports setting the ATA password or "drive password". Additionally, concerns have been raised as to whether this method is as secure as a software-based solution.

  • The Intel 520 drive relies on data compression and de-duplicaton the achieve high performance. If you encrypt the data with TrueCrypt it is no longer possible to compress or dedup it. This will significantly hurt the performance of that specific model SSD. – Mr Alpha May 10 '12 at 10:44
  • I'm hoping AES-NI helps to make up for that limitation. We shall see. – Sean W. May 10 '12 at 11:46
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    AES-NI only speeds up the encryption. It will do nothing to help with the SSD dealing with the encrypted data. – Mr Alpha May 10 '12 at 11:53
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    Sean, high performance of SSD drives does not rely solely on data compression. Many SSD models use compression, including the OCZ Vertex 2 and 3 drives I'm currently using in my work and the (brand unknown) 256gb SSD in my Sony laptop dating two years back. OCZ Vertex 4 does away with compression thanks to a new controller (Everest). But Intel 520 uses the same SandForce controller as older OCZ drives, although driven by in-house firmware. AES-NI, otoh, simply eliminates a possible bottleneck on the CPU side. Bottom line: your perceived performance will most probably be more than satisfying. – minya May 10 '12 at 12:22

I have a Intel solid 520 series 120 GB. I tried to fully encrypt with TrueCrypt and believe me: It's a bad choice. It will mess up your boot and your information.

TrueCrypt full encryption is not working on this model of SSD. PGP full encryption is not working on this SSD either.

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In my experience (about two years of active use, including on the road), SSDs and TrueCrypt are a better match, speed-wise, than regular HDDs and TrueCrypt. Under my workloads (gaming, software development, virtualization) the encrypted SSDs have performed quite well with no stability issues whatsoever.

In you case, it will cost nothing (except for some time) to test whether TrueCrypt is a good fit: full-disk encryption done with TrueCrypt is reversible, so you can encrypt the drive, test-drive for performance, then decide whether you like the result or not. If not, go back to unencrypted state or try BitLocker. Also, becase SSDs outperform average laptop HDDs even on massive block writes, the time penalty for the test would be minimal.

One other thing to consider is AES-NI, the instruction set many recent Intel processors support. If your laptop's CPU supports AES-NI, this will speed-up AES encryption with TrueCrypt about twenty-fold (provided that the disk drive itself isn't a bottleneck).

The only thing to worry about, again from experience, is the SSD firmware/controller issues which may or may not occur on your system. But that would probably be covered by warranty and does not depend on the type of encryption used.

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  • The CPU will indeed support AES-NI. Do you know if any of the SSDs you've you have worked with used data compression and de-duplicaton? See the question comment by Mr Alpha. – Sean W. May 10 '12 at 11:48

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