Are solid state hard drives an eco-friendly option?

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Despite the amount of technological barriers still to overcome, leaps in reliability and battery life may make them a better environmental option for computer storage, if only slightly.

The question as to whether those drives are a more environmentally friendly option comes with the news that Dell is now offering such storage drives in their consumer level M1330 and M1530 laptops.

Solid-state drives, so-called “SSDs”, are an alternative to plate-spinning hard disk drives, aka “HDDs”. The latter are the part of your computer that you may want to throw out the window from a rather great height after it crashes and you lose all your life's work. SSDs are said to be more mechanically reliable – so the claim, which, personally, I still do not believer and the reason for that will become further down in this article – because there are fewer moving parts and also SSDs are more energy efficient, typically adding about 20 minutes more battery life to your laptop compared to HDDs. It is also reckoned that SSDs are generally speedier, though operating systems have yet to take full advantage of them.

The technology for the solid state hard drives is still very much in its infancy and would appear to be experiencing growing pains.

Price also is especially prohibitive.

Dell's new 128GB SSD upgrade will put you back $450, which is no small chunk of of money by any measure, meaning that it will double, in some cases the cost of the laptop to start with.

Drive capacity is another issue.

Dell's laptop hard disk options, presently, have a maximum of 320GB. Solid state drives, so far, only go up to 128GB, which may not be enough for some users.

Solid state drives have not as yet been touted as an environmentally friendly alternative and option to the traditional hard disk drives. There are many companies, however, that are already marketing the performance, efficiency, and reliability aspects of the solid state devices.

From the price point they still are rather out of the range of most budgets and whether or not they are the environmentally friendly option, realiability is being claime dto be higher but this this has to be proven to me. If USB flash drives are anything to go by then they are not. So far I have managed to completely and irretrievably crashed three ordinary USB drives within the last couple of months and furthermore had one hardware encrypted one go bad on me.

Not a very good result, methinks, and this certainly does not inspire much confidence in me as to solid-state hard drives for computers. One day, maybe, they will be ready but it does not seem to be the case as yet. As far as I am concerned manufacturers can claim all they want about reliability of solid state drives being better than those of the old kind of hard drive. When I can see one of those in action working for 5 to 10 years without problems then, and only then, will I believe that they are better than standard hard disk drives.

So, for the time being, as far as I am concerned, regardless of their possibility of drawing less power and such they are, in my opinion, not as yet ready to replace the normal HDDs. How many does one want to have replace in the lifetime of a PC or laptop?

As I said, one day, maybe, but not presently, and this is not just because of price. Reliability is the issue here.

© M Smith (Veshengro), August 2008