SSDs Replacing HDDs Soon? Not A Chance

Reliability up in the air

Drive capacities aside, SSDs have two obvious advantages: speed and reliability. But realistically speaking, the speed factor is hampered by capacity. Allow me to explain:

Pretend that there are two identical machines, one with a 128 GB SSD and one with a 1.5 GB SSD. Say also that there was a collection of movies that equated to roughly 1 TB of data. Because you're unable to fit all those movies onto the 128 GB SSD, they would have to be burned onto DVD-R discs and stacked and stored. Keep in mind that both systems are limited to the drives they have--one SSD and one HDD. To watch the movie you want, you may have to scour through your stack of DVDs to look for the ones you want. This takes time and gets factored in to overall "access time." With the 1.5 TB drive, everything is at your finger tips for access, movies or otherwise.

Naturally you can also add a big HDD to accompany the smaller but faster SSD to improve total performance. But this just lends credence to the fact that HDDs will remain around.

In terms of reliability, there's been much debate about just how reliable SSDs are. There's a stigma over SSDs: that memory sectors will fail over time with repeated erases and writes. On average, SSDs are rated at roughly 100,000 write cycles per memory sector. Manufacturers claim that this roughly gives an average SSD a 1,000,000 hour MTBF rating.

Some users are concerned with using SSDs as their main operating system drive, which is what they should be used for anyway. Unlike archival drives, system drives take the highest level of beating. Even so, I reckon that the typical SSD has a lower failure rate than HDDs due to the lack of moving parts. There's a substantial increase in the chance of failure for HDDs due to the myriad of mechanical parts. Having many memory sectors fail over a long time is a lot less damaging than is a single head crash. In most cases, a catastrophic head crash--where the read/write head actually breaks off the actuator--your HDD is completely hosed. Even with a 50 percent sector failure in an SSD, the chances of recovering data is far higher.

Where SSDs will succeed first is in the mobile market, where reliability and stability are heavy factors. But until prices become more mainstream, expect to see SSD laptops remain at the upper echelon of premium-priced configurations. For the desktop, the HDD will remain the king of storage for several more years.

Those who were looking forward to 2009 or even 2010 to be the year of SSDs, you'll just have to wait longer.

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  • animal_chin
    I dont see why you would pic the Transcend 16gb drive when there are 8 64gb ssds on newegg selling between $100 and $200. Infact the G.Skill 64gb drive for $139 got very good rviews
  • Anonymous
    I think that by 2010 most semi-performance desktops will have a SSD as their primary hard drive with a large capacity HDD (I'm gonna guess 2.5 - 3 Tb) for storage. 256Gb is a HUGE ammount of space for an OS and programs and workspace (games, un-compressed media, etc.) and it's on your main drive that you want all your performance (loading times). It's all space vs. speed.
  • TheGreatGrapeApe
    Not a fan of the idea that the utter annihilation of the opposition is required for 2009 to be the year of the SSD.

    They still made and had demand for (still do) CRTs long after it was the 'year of the LCD'.

    C'mon, the year of the SSD is when they start making sense as a primary drive for many enthusiasts, not as a dump/data bulk drive for joe know-nuttin' who would buy a 4KRPM drive if he could to save $5 on his DELL build. The point at which people start thinking of getting an SSD as their primary drive (even if they have an HDD as their data drive), that's the year of the SSD. Heck the netbooks have started the opposite end of the trend along with devices like ipods/iphone, flash equipped smart devices, the era of the SSD is well under way.

    And with the number of SDHC HD camcorders increasing and the demand for 32GB and 64GB cards increasing (*fixed M/GB typo), don't be surprised if slow (relative to others, 40MB/s isn't THAT slow) SSDs don't also start showing up to take the role of those large capacity external HDDs that usually already choke at 30MB/s due to the usual USB interface they are connected to. I suspect 2009 will be the last year for the HDD camcorders and the flash drives are the only thing left in 2010. SSDs replacing HDDs anytime soon? They already have. Just not all of them.

    That HDDs relegate themselves to large storage roles makes it no less the year of the SSD than the continued presence of RJ-45/ethernet inhibits it being the era of wireless.
  • Rob_L
    you also have to bear in mind that laptops have just taken over as the main PC type that people are buying... people care less about the capacity of the drives in their laptops. And drive capacity in most laptops is still relatively low anyway!

    Don't forget there are plenty of people out there still using PCs with drives of 20GB or even less anyway, and they're not exactly suffering. For most people 500GB is far more than they want or need.

    And organisations don't want large amounts of data on their laptops either - they want PCs with small disks so that their users are FORCED to store the data in their document management systems or at least their big beefy central servers... which, yes, shockingly enough, will be running on HDDs for some time yet...
  • V3NOM
    one with a 128 GB SSD and one with a 1.5 GB SSD. Say also that there was a collection of movies that equated to roughly 1 TB of data.

    1.5 TB not GB?
  • Anonymous
    It should say "Pretend that there are two identical machines, one with a 128 GB SSD and one with a 1.5 GB HDD".

    And why do you discount using SSD as a system/program drive for fast boot/load times while using the HDD as a "data" drive. I see this as a common theme in the early years especially if MS makes it easy to move all 'write-likely' files to a seperate volume (ie: registry, log files, inf's, cache's...). If the SSD is getting little work in the 'write-cycle' mode it will last a very long time.
  • chriscusano
    Honestly, how many people use 1 terrabyte worth of storage? I'm using about 40 GB out of over 980 GB.....not everyone stores tons of music and movies on their pc's. So I don't think dvd 'access time' is really a fair measurement for those who don't watch movies on their computers. I believe the real issues that need to be addressed and benchmarked and would make an awesome article would be:

    1) The reliability issue of using an SSD for OS & programs for 5+ years at heavy usage

    2) Price comparison between different SSDs, velicoraptors, and different raid and scsi configurations

    3) SSD speed vs running cheap raid 0 striping configurations (I use 2 Hitatchi HDT725032vla's 320 gb for under $50 a piece on a 780i nforce board and I'm pretty satisfied) and more expensive raid setups such as with scsis, velicorpaters, and cheetahs

    4) The difference between the two main types of ssds

    I think this would make a great article.

    If a reliable ssd of ~64 GB for under $200 could be had and would beat out raid configurations of similar prices, then I believe it would prove worthwhile. So the question really remains, for program and OS usage, can we use SSDs for superior performance at reasonable prices. We can even consider store temp folders and the paging file off on another HDD. And of course, if you need your movies, you put them on one of these massive 1-1.5 TB HDDs for under $150. Thanks and I'd love to see something like this!

  • MarkG
    "Honestly, how many people use 1 terrabyte worth of storage?"

    I was going to build myself a NAS server to offload all my data onto rather than having it on various hard drives, tapes and optical disks, but pretty soon realised that 3TB of RAID just wasn't enough to be worthwhile. At 4-8GB per DVD, and 13GB per DV tape, a terabyte vanishes pretty damn fast.

    Sure, not everyone needs that much storage, but once you have the ability to put so much of your digital data onto one system -- and, more importantly, never having to delete anything -- you start to wonder how you ever lived without it. And with video sizes ever increasing, 10TB won't seem so large by the time it hits the market; I've been looking at the new low-end Red camera, which burns through about 100GB per hour.
  • V3NOM
    look. the point of SSD's is not really for enthusiasts or people looking to have 1 TB of fast hard drive... think 1 SSD has the performance of like thousadns of dollars worth of enterprise RAID hard drives! for servers, the fast access and lower power usage/heat is VERY VERY VERY CHEAP. in a few years like most things it will become mainsteam though :)
  • giovanni86
  • giovanni86
    Damn caps lock did not see that..... sorry.
  • montyuk
    videos, music, audio books, more videos, dvd/cd iso images, picture collection, program installers archive and just ya bog standard office documents.

    currently over 600gb of stuff on my 1tb drive (with another as a backup), and theres always new stuff to put on them which i add to pretty much every day.

    i somehow think hdd's will be around for a little while yet, until ssd come down in price and increase in capacity on at least a level with hdd or close to it the hdd will win.

    just need the pcie ssd boards to go mainstream now.
  • tm4031
    Reliability isn't a given, actually. I had one SuperTalent 128 GB SSD fail within the first 48 hours, and a second one fail within the first 6 months. Good about replacement, but that is an awful fail rate for a product billed as more reliable than standard HDs.
  • snotling
    This tuan guy realy lives on a strange planet... Remember the mac Article everyone?
  • adamsaulnier
    Is it just me or do I hear someone beating a dead horse?

    It seems like every time I read an article here on Toms Hardware its about some fellow rebelling against having an SSD in their computer system because of its performance, or capacity, or current state of technology. SSD's right now have a niche market, meaning netbook systems and other devices that are limited in size but want to carry on-board storage. Nothing more. Although I agree that this technology does need more time to mature, it eventually will become the norm (example, price cost of DVD's compared to initial price point of thumb/flash drives).

    My point: I like reading about SSD's. I don't like reading about how Joe Blow won't convert to the next best thing because the technology is in its infancy. Find something else that no one else has discussed related to SSD's, you'll draw a bigger crowd.
  • tuannguyen
    snotlingThis tuan guy realy lives on a strange planet... Remember the mac Article everyone?

    Really? So you think SSDs will kill the HDDs in 2009 huh?

    I'd love to see that too. But that's not going to be happening.

    The point of my article is to refute some of the claims made online on various other publications that state that SSDs are putting the final nail on the HDD's coffin.

    It may do that, but it isn't going to be anytime soon. HDDs will continue to be vastly more affordable and larger than SSDs for a long time to come. The point is, if you want the best of both, use an SSD for boot and HDD for storage. That's what I said. But that just proves the point that HDDs are not being replaced.

    How is this concept other world-like?
  • malveaux

    On my main PC drive, it's only 160gigs (RAID0). I never fill it. Ever. I run Vista x64 Ultimate. I keep 4 or 5 games installed. I record with Fraps often. I have my apps installed. I download a lot of things. But you know what? I move things off my primary drive to other places if I'm keeping it long term. I have external drives for that. I have several 1tb eSATA drives. I filled a few already. I filled them with DVDs. I use them with my HTPC. I like having two little boxes serve up hundreds of DVDs rather than having binders of discs everywhere.

    SSD would be fine for me. Again, I don't store it all on my big capacity drives. My primary system could go to a 128g SSD and it wouldn't affect me other than speed things up. For those of us using RAID, we can get a few 64g SSD's and RAID them for retarded performance. And those SSD's are not expensive so much, in the $70~120 ranges right now.

    I agree with the author of this article that SSD will not `dominate' the market soon. But, it is going to be IN the market fast, just like how Bluray is all over the place and consumers ARE buying it, even though DVD is still the largest portion of that market. SSD is already in pre-made systems. It's getting out there. Folk are buying them online. But I don't agree with the author's slow snail pace on how fast the SSD will take over. I think it'll be only the next year before you easily see double capacity and less price. You have to think about the tech and how fast our tech advances. HDD's haven't changed in over a decade. Same tech. SSD's have been around for decades too, just not in this consumer form. The SSD is now going to advance rapidly. Announcements of the 512g's are already there. That's half a tb. People already buy 320, 500, etc drives. An SSD in that range will dominate if the price comes down--which it will, as the manufacturing goes up, the price will come down considerably.

    And as for me, as the prices come down on the big ones, I'm more excited to see the price come down on the little ones. Because I'll RAID 4 of those things for disgusting performance. 4 little 32g or 64g drives in RAID0. I don't need a single 500+g drive even on my primary machine. So SSD will be fine for me, and fine for a lot of other people. We can still store long term stuff on older tech platter drives.

    The author needs to think outside of the box more.

    Very best,
  • malveaux
    This whole article is too negative towards SSD. The tech WILL be in people's houses sooner than 2010. It will not 100% replace HDD's by then. That is true. But this article makes it sound like NO ONE will own SSD in 2010. That's just silly. There will be a lot of SSD out there just next year, let alone two years from now. TWO YEARS. And I'm certain we will see lots of people will SSD and HDD in the same system over those next two years.

    Tech is not a black & white issue. It's one SSD -or- HDD. It's both, there will be a few years of cross coverage. This article lightly touched on it and hinted towards it being used that way. But then focuses on saying, "But SSD will not dominate! Not for a long time!" Get off the box. No one expects the SSD to utterly 100% replace HDD's. You didn't even consider or talk about the business vs. consumer side of things.

    So much left out. Can't take it seriously, other than someone whining about the internet on Tom's.

    Very best,
  • ekidhardt
    I don't think anyone is expecting a sudden, violent exchange from HD's to SSD's--but the migration has already begun--not necessarily for space, but for performance.

    I am configuring a new server for my company, and the OS will rest on a 32 gig SSD.

    Your title "SSDs Replacing HDDs Soon? Not A Chance : Poor capacities"

    Is not accurate. I can tell you first hand that my company will be using SSD's over standard HD's at every possible juncture that SSD's are feasible.

    The migration has ALREADY begun--and any IT guy worth his salt will be migrating from HD's to SSD's the moment it is a good option.

    Here is the near future: HD's for backup, SSD's for daily operation.
  • dmylrea
    I agree with most comments here. I use SSD's just in my notebooks and netbooks, mostly for performance. I don't need Terabytes there. Plus, early 2009 will give us 512GB SSD's from Toshiba and Samsung. Prices will be high, but so are high-end 15K SAS drives used in servers. Performance comes at a cost. I don't think it's a matter of SSD's replacing HDD's, but like one previous poster said, a marriage of them. In bigger notebooks that can handle two drives, use a smaller SSD as the OS drive for lightning fast speed, and a big HDD for data (music, photos, etc.)

    I think 2009 will be the year that SSD's make a definite impact on the storage market.