Why I Hate Solid State Drives

Solid State Hard Drives still have some open issues for replacing the current mechanical drives. Part of the problem lies with the nature of data storage and part of the problem is with the technology. Then there also is a huge cost difference when you get into the large size solid state hard drives verses the mechanical ones.

The solid state technology has been around since the 1960s. They were called auxiliary memory units but were quickly abandoned due to cost and the cheaper drum storage methods. Solid state memory has made quite a few leaps and bounds in the recent developments in flash memory and higher capacity chips.

Without going into major technical explanations, there are two predominate types of memory used for these new type drive replacements. There is DRAM volatile memory or NAND flash non-volatile memory with the NAND flash being the most used. But one of the most important components used with either memory is the controller that actually is a processor that’s the brains and manages the data reads and writes.

There are some very good advantages to the new solid state hard drives. No moving parts means less physical failures and faster startup with no spinning disks. Low power consumption and cooler operating temperatures are also great for laptops. Faster random access, quiet operation, less weight and size are also major positive factors.

The number one disadvantage right now is cost. The other serious disadvantage is the number of rights to the media has a ceiling and even though they have developed a firmware called wears leveling to help extend this number it can still be a problem. The wear leveling can actually slow down the performance over time and has issues with encryption due to the method of writing data.

So the disadvantages are serious on consumer type solid state data storage right now. On larger and special enterprise levels they have be able to reduce the impact of the wear leveling and encryption issues but at a much higher cost. But the higher cost is more acceptable in the enterprise level.

Most consumers were first introduced to these new style drives in 2007 when Dell and a few other Netbook manufacturers offered this type of data storage in 16-20 gigabyte range. It reduced the power consumption and weight of these new smaller form notebooks and speed wasn’t really an issue as much as power consumption and weight.

Performance tests on the latest versions still show that the traditional physical drives are still faster and much cheaper. Since most laptops and desktop computers are very price sensitive, it’s doubtful that you will see many with standard solid state hard drives although several offer that option at an additional charge.

For example Apple’s MacBook Air offers a 64 GB unit for an additional $999. Lenovo and Dell offer laptop models with the option that run $300 to $600 depending on storage size. And most Netbook manufacturers now offer these types of options at different price levels.

Even though the technology in solid state drives is still new, they’re being superseded all the time and a new technology called “MLC” or multi-level cell now means that capacity is effectively doubled whilst cost is kept to a minimum.

One of the big problems with this type of storage is that because you can only store one bit of data with two states (on/off or true/false) in one place at a time, you are suddenly hitting problems with physical capacity. Yes, they can make the grains finer that the data sits on but you start to get problems. It only works with solid state drives, but it works well and it means that you can store double the amount of data.

I doubt you’ll see many desktop models offer solid state hard drives as standard until the performance and price come closer to the traditional hard drives. Laptops get a boost from the lower weight and power consumption and that can make a difference.