Massive flooding in Bangkok has severely affected production of hard disk drives, a primary component used in computer storage.
Nearly 25% of the world’s hard disk drives are made in Thailand, but with major fabrication plants currently submerged under several meters of floodwater, major HDD manufacturers are being forced to cut supply, and raise prices on hard drives across the board.
For someone starting to build custom pc, this presents a problem. Only two months ago, I purchased a Western Digital hard drive for $54.99 for a custom PC build: that same drive now sells for $149.99, representing a 170% price increase.
As inventories shrink and producers struggle to keep up, it looks like hard disk drive prices will remain high. The question is: do I eat this price increase, or pass it along to my clients?
Or should I switch to an alternative storage solution instead?
Solid State Drives
Until recently, solid state drives (SSDs) have been too costly to be implemented on a wide scale. SSDs have a high cost-per-storage density; currently around $1.75/GB (cheaper hard disk drives cost around $0.25/GB). But as SSD technology improves and prices continue to fall, more custom pc builders are offering them as a primary storage solution.
The best part about SSDs is that they are fast. Really, really fast. We’re talking around 5x faster than hard disk drives, for typical uses such as booting a computer, launching applications, and copying files. And they keep getting faster, as new advances in storage drive controllers and file systems are taking full advantage of the higher speeds SSDs have to offer.
My second favorite feature of solid state drives is that they are based on flash memory technology, and thus extremely reliable and efficient. Traditional hard disk drives, in contrast, contain sensitive moving parts that are prone to mechanical failure, are noisy, and consume lots of power. SSDs do not suffer from these problems.
Using HDD and SDD Together
At first glance, a big problem with solid state drives is that they are simply too small. For $150, many consumers will go with the 500GB hard disk drive over the 100GB solid state drive. After a basic Windows installation (25 GB) and program data (50GB), a 100 GB SSD just doesn’t have much room left for storing photos, music, and large movie files.
A great solution to this problem is to use both types of storage devices in one computer system, getting the best of both worlds. For storing large volumes of media data (music and movies), a big and cheap HDD works just fine. But critical operating system and application files should be installed on an SSD, to take advantage of the ultra-fast read/write speeds and reliability offered by this new technology.
Closing the Price Gap, and Making the Switch
Despite my love of technology, I’m not the type that goes out and buys the newest tech when it becomes available (I’m looking at you, iPhone fans), and I’ve so far resisted switching to an SSD-based computer system myself.
But SSD technology has advanced past the awkward and expensive first-generation phase, and I’ve used it in a few custom PC builds with impressive results every time. Their speed and efficient operation just can’t be matched by hard disk drives.
Now, with the future of hard drives looking uncertain and prices remaining high, solid state drives are looking better every day. I just may pick one up for myself.