SSD - a cautionary tale

Discussion in 'Digital Darkroom' started by chris_letts, Jun 13, 2012.

  1. A few weeks back, having found that a memory upgrade didn't improve my speed, I decided to install a SSD (Solid State Drive). Wonderful ! a big increase in switch-on time, launch times for software, and lots of other things.
    HOWEVER last night I switched on the PC and ' one of your disks needs to be checked' The PC ran chkdsk but hung after 5% completion. Nothing I could do would make the PC boot up into Windows.
    LUCKILY (well not luck really, I'd like to say extreme foresight) I had kept the old Hard Drive and swapped that back in again - PC now running properly (but slower !). I always keep data on a physically separate drive with backup so no problem there.
    I swapped in the SSD as a second drive and immediately the PC had problems - the drive could not even be opened let alone formatted or used so it obviously was at fault.
    So here's a few things to think about if you're going for a SSD:
    - Keep your old drive handy, and intact so if necessary you can swap it back in again (maybe just leave it in the PC but temporarily disabled/disconnected).
    - I suggest don't run a single SSD as your only drive as you'll easily lose data as well as the OS in case of failure.
    - If you're going to keep your data on SSD, make darn sure you have VERY regular backups.
    Figures I've seen suggest failure rate in first year around 2-3% for SSD, compared to 1-2% for HDD, but that if they make it through the first year, they then overtake HDD for reliability.
    Maybe I'm just unlucky.
     
  2. What you have experienced was not a SSD scenario, but an 'any hardware replacement' scenario.
    SSDs and HDs will both fail, as with any hardware it is just a matter of time. The caution here is to *always* have a backup. You fault here is that it was a fluke.
     
  3. You're right that this situation COULD have arisen with any hardware upgrade, although replacing your system drive probably has the most potential for aggrevation if it fails.
    My main point was indeed to remind people that you cannot just change your configuration (in any way) without taking precautions in case of failure. At the moment lots of people are thinking about replacing their HDD with a SSD - see the various recent posts - so it is very relevant to them.
    Maybe (as I said) I'm unlucky, but in my many years as a IT technician I have installed hundreds of PC's and never once had a HDD fail so quickly.
     
  4. I learned long, long ago, when the dinosaurs were still roaming the Earth, NEVER to be an early adopter when reliability matters. I learned it the hard way with overclocked 386 machines, tape backups, IDE drives, 1.2MB floppies, etc. I now try to lag the bleeding edge by at least a generation. Thanks for helping to blaze the perilous trail for us! ;-D
     
  5. There was a thread on PN a few months back regarding the use of an SSD as a replacement for an HDD. IIRC, the bottom line was that SSD units may have a reduced lifetime when used in a heavy write and rewrite environment. They seem to be OK and very reliable as a means of storing older files as in a "grandfather" backup, but I'd still have some redundancy to CYA.
     
  6. I'm with ya, Sarah, all the way back to the Mesozoic, even though most of my gear and software is fast approching "legacy" status. (Legacy - the politically correct term for "obsolete".) As you said, let the young whippersnappers work out the bugs on the new stuff, and wake me up when v.2.0 hits the street...
     
  7. If you are running Windows 7 or Vista, be sure to take a System Image backup at regular intervals. Then if your Operating System drive fails, simply replace it and restore the system image.
    In addition be sure regularly scheduled automatic file backups run to perserve your data.
    This works whether you use an SSD or conventional hard drive.
     
  8. Thanks Chris - very timely post. I was considering upgrading to an SSD drive as my C: drive on my Windows 7 computer to speed it up. Do you (or anyone for that matter) have a more quantitative idea of how much of a speed increase you experienced (while it was working anyway)? And do you plan to replace it with another SSD? I believe my current main drive is a 7200 RPM SATA drive (although I should check that to be certain).
    Brooks, thanks also...very good advice.
     
  9. I have been running an SSD as my boot drive for nearly a year. No issues, my computer boots faster, runs cooler and I am happy. I regularly clone it to the drive I took out so I have a complete system backup, no trying to get authorization to reinstall software or myriads of updates, tricks and settings I forgot I did for me, it all just works.
    I do a clean disc install about once a year and I store all the DMG's I have installed previously.
     
  10. Sorry, experiencing ONE failure is an anecdote, not data. If SSDs were really this tricky, would ALL large OEMs in the world (see the new Apple notebooks) make the switch to SSDs? If there is one thing they dislike, it's massive returns. SSDs are not new technology anymore, it's well beyond its infancy. Chris' single failure is not by any means proof that SSDs have a higher failure rate than old-fashioned HDDs.
    If you swapped your old HDD for a new one as a system drive, and the new HDD fails - it's the exact same. And about as likely to happen (figures I find show a rather similar AFR% between SSD and HDD). In a lot of years working in the hardware business, I've seen death-on-arrival parts of any kind, including (more than enough) hard drives. It happens, and it can happen with any part.
    That all said, it's absolutely no fun when it happens, and i can sympathise with Chris on this. Backups remain important.
    __
    SSD units may have a reduced lifetime when used in a heavy write and rewrite environment. They seem to be OK and very reliable as a means of storing older files as in a "grandfather" backup​
    Uhm that conclusion is quite wrong. Yes, SSDs have a limited amount of read-write, but for all normal drives enough for 3 years of heavy use with the OS installed on it. To use them for backups is 100% pure waste - backups do not need fast access times, nor fast transferspeeds, you just need acres of space for that. Large, slower, mechanical hard disks are still much better for that. You get a SSD for the OS and the programs, not for data storage. It's too expensive for that.
     
  11. Dennis - the speed increase was primarily in startup time for both Windows and applications. I did not measure this but it was very noticeable - e.g. boot up PC into the logon screen in Windows 7 in about 15-20 seconds. Applications such as WORD started near instantaneously. Also a big increase in speed when displaying thumbnails in explorer etc.
    I should add that my PC is only capable of SATA 2 (it's about 4 years old) and that if yours can run SATA 3 then you'd get almost twice the speed that I can (in theory at least).
    Yes if I get a replacement for the broken SSD under the warranty I'll try again. This time though I'll take my own advice and leave the original HDD in place just in case.
     
  12. Off topic, but a notable alternative are Hybrid drives. These are regular HDs with gobs of flash ram for read cache. I put 2 (mirror) Momentus XT 500g drive (4G of flash) on our exchange server and was stund on how fast it came up and users could access their mailboxes. The 750g drive has 8G of flash.
    http://www.seagate.com/internal-hard-drives/laptop-hard-drives/momentus-xt-hybrid/
    It will not change your write times, but is a reasonable alternative to SSD and a lot easier on the pocket book.
     
  13. On a related note, RAID 0 speeds up read write times dramatically. I've been using it since 2005.
     
  14. RAID 0 is the unsafest way of doing anything and has very limited value and use. It should only ever be used for short term working files where high speeds are needed, like editing copies of video files.
     
  15. My problem was capacity with the 64gb SSD boot drive on my Win 7 64. The operating system took much of it, and today I imaged it onto a new 128 gb SSD. I had run into low disk space problems even though many of my application programs are installed on a second HDD drive. I have a lot of applications, so my low disk space problem may not be typical. Does 64 gb for a boot drive seem obviously undersized to anyone?
     
  16. Even the people flinging SI units for information will not recognize units of "gb" which is neither of "GiB" (gibibyte), "Gib" (gibibit), "GB" (gigabyte), and "Gb" (gigabit).

    Charles, if you meant to ask if 64 GB of disk space is enough for a boot drive, then that depends what is actually installed there. To me, such a boot drive will have only the operating system and piggish software ( any external software package that is >= 40 MB is a pig; such 22 pigs take around 3 GB of space; all external software takes around 5 GB). FreeBSD 8.3 itself takes about 1.5 GB of space, included backup kernels, old files. Yes, then, 64 GB will be enough for me.
     
  17. Charles,
    I have a 120 GB SSD, I have that partitioned to give me a 95 GB boot volume and a 25 GB Photoshop scratch disc.
    My 95 GB boot disc is running Apple OS X 10.7.4, plus all programs, including full Adobe Master Suite, Lightroom, Aperture, etc etc. It has the users on it but not the image libraries or caches, no documents, music, movies etc, just system software and programs. It has 10 GB free though I can free up a further 15-20 GB by cleaning various caches.
    All this is just a lengthy answer to if 64 GB is "enough", for me, who doesn't really care to think about the software too much, no it isn't. With careful software management it could be, but I'd rather just use my computer than worry about managing it.
     
  18. If you are running Windows 7 or Vista, be sure to take a System Image backup at regular intervals. Then if your Operating System drive fails, simply replace it and restore the system image.​
    How long does it take to do an image backup of the main system drive? I ask because when I Googled this, the instructions for doing it were there, but there were some comments to the article which stated that their computer either took many hours or failed at the system backup. If it's going to take 16-24 hours to do this, I would like to know in advance. Are there any gotcha's?
     
  19. Dennis,
    I can only say for Apple computers, I regularly do complete copy backups and they run at 100GB per hour.
     
  20. Thanks Scott. I use Win 7 Home Premium. I guess I'll try it tonight just before retiring. Hopefully it will be done in the morning. I have 189 GB of data on the C: drive, and over 800 GB of free space on the external 1 TB drive. Hopefully it will go OK. At the rate you got on your Mac, it should take less than 2 hours, but who knows on a Win 7 laptop. I'll report back what I find if people want to know. Thanks again.
     
  21. parv, Scott, thanks for the information. I see with mine that the drive wants 12 GB of unallocated space for trash collection, etc. The 128 GB will be enough, but it involves management I haven't had to worry about for years. thanks again.
     
  22. There are faulty SSDs out there, but not much more than faulty HDs. My new setup utilizes a Samsung Typ 830 128G SSD for System+Programs (plus a 2TB HD as data grave, plus a Kingston SSD as program cache), runs absolutely flawless and very fast.
    The previous setup had the above mentioned Kingston SSD-Now V100 64 G for system+programs, and crashed frequently. As in your case, chdksk then started. Unlike in your case, it always managed to bring the system up and running again.
     
  23. it

    it

    A Tale - SSD's have made my life better.
     
  24. A Tale - SSD's have made my life better.

    I just ordered $10000 worth of them at the office. They better make my life better! :)
     
  25. I swapped in the SSD as a second drive and immediately the PC had problems - the drive could not even be opened let alone formatted or used so it obviously was at fault.
    Any hardware component can fail, but I will tell you this I have NEVER seen anything fail as spectacularly as a SSD. I will use a SSD for my boot and program drive but all data will remain on HDDs. The problem with my SSD failure was one minute it was working fine. I rebooted by computer after the power had turned off unexpectedly. SSD was so screwed up the BIOS couldn't even post. The motherboard was stuck even trying to recognize the thing. I disconnected my SSD and booted off of my HDD. Everything worked perfectly.
    I have had one HDD fail. That was YEARS ago. The thing with that failure was it was gradual. It gave me plenty of time to move 99% of my data to a separate drive. The SSD was a joke. Works one minute. 100% failure the next. Anyway you guys have been warned.
     
  26. The tale goes on...
    I took the SSD to work and tested it as thoroughly as I could and found that it would work 100% as a secondary drive (e.g. D: drive for data) but if installed as the system drive C: then the PC always failed to boot.
    I also found that Windows 7 is remarkable unresilient to changes to the drive controller setup. Setup on my home PC is RAID/AHCI, at work just AHCI - I found that you cannot change this once Windows is installed (although there is an alleged registry hack that will do it). In fact if you run a system capture under one setting, then you MUST restore under the same setting or Windows will fail.
    I currently have it sitting in my PC waiting for the courage to use it as a data drive, although as someone else has mentioned I'll probably only use it for temporary data e.g. when doing photo manipulation.
     
  27. "I'll probably only use it for temporary data e.g. when doing photo manipulation."
    That's what I do with the Kingston-SSD Now V100 64G, as it was as unreliable as system drive as is the SSD you describe. The Kingston SSD I've set as Drive Z. So no matter how many card readers, USB sticks, external bluray drvies or whatever I attach to the system now and then, there is never any confusion for W7.
    And tell you what: no problem whatsoever ever since. I transfer the shots from the D800 onto the Kingston SSD (which in parallel is set up as cache for ACR, Bridge and Photoshop). Loading/saving is lightning fast compared to files stored on a standard HD. After editing is finalized, I transfer the .nef and the final .jpg or .tiff to the 2TB HD data grave.
     
  28. I have had one HDD fail. That was YEARS ago. The thing with that failure was it was gradual. It gave me plenty of time to move 99% of my data to a separate drive. The SSD was a joke. Works one minute. 100% failure the next.​

    I've had both sorts of failures with spinning hard drives - the nice gradual "uh oh, I'd better do something" type failure, and the catastrophic one minute it works, the next minute it's dead failure. The latter type once was on a less than one week old drive. I've even had warranty replacement drives for failed drives fail again. I figure anyone that has never experienced a hard drive failure is very fortunate, given the statistics involved.
     
  29. first hard drive failure in my experience is the recent fail of a macbook air 256GB SSD after 18 months in use. the notion that these things are bullet-proof is rubbish, especially with the high temperature operating environments and shrinking form factors. apple charges a fortune to replace, although a 3rd party SSD is more reasonable. fortunately had a recent backup, and restoring data to the new drive was a snap. moral of the story - B&W - backup and warranty. cheers
     
  30. I'm hearing more and more sorry tales of SSD fails and setup problems - much more than I'd expect from HDD.
    I've relegated mine to a data drive holding working copies of photos etc, AND used as cache for NX2, paging file, etc. Set up like that it does increase processing speed and manages to work fine.
     

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