Solid State Drives – how good are they at storing your data?

Red garbage can v.2 - Unsplash -  Aleks Dorohovich
Although SSDs feature ‘garbage collection’, this isn’t always well implemented.
Photo courtesy of Aleks Dorohovich, Unsplash

Solid State Drives – just how good are they at storing your data compared with conventional hard drives?

Good reasons for using Solid State Drives (SSDs) include faster access and no noise. They are also more robust, lighter and less power-hungry than hard drives.

But they do have their drawbacks. As well as being more expensive and limited in capacity, when compared with hard drives, they also have a more limited life. The number of times you can read and write to flash memory chips, which is what SSDs are based on, is strictly limited.

Basically, each cell in flash memory can only be written to and erased a limited number of times. The result is that the drive gets progressively clogged up, eventually requiring the services of a software application to ‘clean it’ using a TRIM program. By the way, TRIM is not an acronym but actually refers to a “trimming” process Newer SSDs have TRIM software built in.

SSDs are nice and light in your camera or smartphone, but they are far from ideal for storing data as they do wear out. Performance can also drop as their memory cells get filled up. Although SSDs feature ‘garbage collection’, this isn’t always well implemented, so the free space isn’t always collected into entirely free cells, hence the need to TRIM.

Hard drives wear out too, because of the physical nature of their recording methods. But, as Computer Forensics’ Brian Eardley-Wilmot says: “Although the data storage market is changing, because of the growth of cloud computing and the proliferation of mobile devices, the day hasn’t arrived yet when it is preferable to store your data on a solid state drive rather than a hard drive.

“The hard drive is still king when it comes to safe data storage and backup – just make sure your backup is in a different place or room to where your computer is.”

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