396 Are solid state drives bulletproof? NO

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I often recommend upgrading from the old spinning hard disk drive to a solid state drive. A recent computer repair incident indicated that I should make sure everyone is crystal clear on this.

solid state drive


Here’s what I tell people:

The older drives are called spinning disk hard drives. There’s a circular platter inside that spins, and there’s an arm that moves back and forth across it, to physically access the data. Kind of like a record player mechanism. So these drives are slower, and they are also more likely to crash because of all the tiny moving parts.

A solid state drive has NO moving parts – it’s just solid memory. That means it has a couple of advantages. First, it’s less likely to crash. But the big advantage that everyone immediately notices is that it is MUCH faster. We’re talking a full computer restart, and back up and ready, in less than 30 seconds.

I put those two paragraphs in italics, because it’s the exact words I say every time. And I have given that explanation probably hundreds of times over the years.

The important thing to notice is that even though I highly recommend upgrading to a solid state drive, I don’t say “solid state drives never fail or crash”. The words I use are deliberate because I want to portray the situation accurately. The fact is, these newer and faster drives DO fail sometimes, even though it’s not that common.

Recently a long-time client brought his computer to me, because it was not operating properly. The backup wasn’t happening like it was supposed to, because the backup software wasn’t able to read the entire contents of the drive. The solution was to replace the drive – and this was a solid state drive that was just installed less than a year ago. Very unusual, but like I said, it does happen sometimes.

When I explained this diagnosis to the client, he was not happy. And that makes sense – I wouldn’t be happy either, if a fairly new drive was failing already.

But what he said after that surprised me:

“You told me when I had you upgrade it to the solid state drive, that these drives never fail! You said they are bulletproof!”

Well, that’s a whole different story. Since I give the “solid state drive” pitch all the time, I know exactly what words I use. I would never use words like “never fail” or “bulletproof” because I have SEEN them fail, even though it is rare.

But, it was obvious that the way I worded the recommendation, at least for this client, should have been clearer so that he understood the reality that there was a small chance that it could still fail. I mean, if a new drive were guaranteed to never fail, why bother with doing a backup?

Anyway, we worked it out. He’s happy to have a working computer again with a new solid state drive and all his data is safe and being backed up regularly. It’s his business computer, so that’s critical.

So – whether your computer has the old style spinning disk drive, or a newer, faster solid state drive – be aware that they all have a chance to fail. I still highly recommend the solid state drives to all my clients. The most common reaction after that upgrade is, “I can’t believe my computer could be this fast!” which I of course love to hear.

If you have questions about your computer, or the process of upgrading it to a faster drive, just give me a call.

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April 11th, 2022

Regarding computer hard drives, I have yet to find out what to do with hard drives after a computer dies. I mean, how does one destroy the hard drive. I have one sitting on my kitchen table from a computer that was hit with lightning and wouldn’t start. I do not know how to nuke it so it is safe to throw away. Can you help?

Scott Johnson
April 11th, 2022

You can take a drill and drill a few holes through it. Or, what I usually do is take it apart and remove the circular platter(s) that store the data, and scratch them up. For my clients, I tell them they can just leave the computer with me and I’ll destroy the drive and recycle the rest.

April 18th, 2022

The drill works fine. For me, however, it was more rewarding to take out my frustration of having to deal with the situation with a large hammer.