The SSD can be much better than hdd if faster read and write speeds are all you want, but a new study shows they may not be as green as their slower, less impressive storage brethren.
According to the study, SSDs have a much higher environmental impact than HDDs. This could be one of the last remaining reasons to choose an HDD over an SSD. But is it really as simple as that?
The eternal dilemma of SSD versus HDD is still ongoing. After all, while the best SSDs they crush HDDs in terms of performance, HDDs are still cheaper. Now, a new study shows that the HDD market may have one more weapon in its arsenal.
Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of British Columbia have teamed up to explore the environmental impact of SSDs and HDDs. According to his findingsSSDs are considerably worse for the environment, mainly due to the manufacturing process.
The study looked at other study results to measure the carbon footprint of SSDs. They found that the average SSD has a much higher Storage Embedded Factor (SEF) than an HDD, averaging 0.16 for SSDs and just 0.02 for HDDs. SEF refers to the rate of CO2 emissions in relation to the total storage capacity. This implies that SSDs are, in fact, worse for the environment.
The SSD manufacturing process certainly plays the biggest role in this. Making each part of an SSD, be it NAND chips, DRAM, or controllers, is expensive both in terms of electricity and material. In addition, the researchers mention that the manufacture of semiconductors is mainly based on carbon and other media that have a strong impact on the environment.
On the other hand, the carbon footprint of an SSD over its lifetime should generally be less significant than that of an HDD. Tom’s Hardware did a quick deep dive to see how the two compare. In short, HDDs have twice the power consumption of SSDs while active, and also consume more power while idle. Tom’s Hardware also spotted some inconsistencies in terms of actual power usage, potentially giving hard drives an undeserved advantage.
Since SSDs are much faster than HDDs, the file transfer is much faster, which means that an SSD will spend more time in an idle state compared to an HDD. Tom’s Hardware calculated that a hdd could consume up to 15 times more power than an SSD to copy a 10GB file.
This is in stark contrast to the research team’s findings. The study states that if you want to stay as green as possible, you should choose a 1TB HDD over a 1TB SSD; the reasoning is that the HDD would only emit 99Kg and 199Kg of CO2 over five to 10 years, while the SSD will emit a massive 184Kg and 369Kg.
It seems that exploring this issue may require additional studies to fully confirm the superiority of hdds, but this particular study makes it clear that they are, in fact, the greener option. This could be the last saving grace for our old hard drives. While they have historically been cheaper, with a better dollar per TB ratio, than SSDs, that gap is closing fast. As an example, wikibon claims that by 2026, SSDs will be cheaper than HDDs.
Unfortunately, the complex process of making an SSD is not up to individual consumers to figure it out. However, if you want to make sure you’re being environmentally friendly, you don’t necessarily need to get rid of your SSD. It seems that once it’s done, it can be more environmentally friendly over its lifetime than your average hard drive.