New Hard Drives Need Electricity or they Lose Your Data


Most computers, for years now, have used hard drives to store data files. Those drives have metal discs that spin around. Drives that use newer technology have no moving parts…

The “drives,” known as SSD or Solid State Drives, are basically banks of memory chips that are designed to impersonate an old hard drive. And, as with many memory chips, when the power is removed, the chips lose information.

It turns out that if no power is applied to a Solid State Drive for a time, the drive can start losing data. Depending on what data is lost, it could be that the entire drive becomes unreadable. The warmer the temperature, the sooner the drive starts losing data. Researches who reported this issue discovered that the loss could start happening in less than a month.

When you “shelve” an old computer and then try to use it again later, you’ll want the computer to still work. So, if you have any computers around that are “temporarily” turned off for weeks or months at a time, consider powering them on in order to preserve their data.

There is a chance that your laptop uses such a drive. Fortunately, you may find that the drives in your laptop will be fine for a longer time since they will be able to sip power from the laptop’s battery – just be sure to leave the battery connected to the laptop and make sure to keep it at least partially charged.

Additionally, as usual, having regular backups is just as important as ever. And, always test your backup system’s ability to restore.

Update: You may not need to be so concerned after all. There is new information that suggests this may not be a problem. PC World published an article about a week ago that reports the data loss danger http://www.pcworld.com/article/2921590/death-and-the-unplugged-ssd-how-much-you-really-need-to-worry-about-ssd-reliability.html . Then, just yesterday, they published http://www.pcworld.com/article/2925173/debunked-your-ssd-wont-lose-data-if-left-unplugged-after-all.html

Same PC World website, different journalists, different information. Both articles provide useful information, even if slightly contradictory.

Researching the subject of SSD data loss I discovered other information that suggests, if power is unexpectedly removed from some SSD drives, the data may be lost and the drive possibly rendered unusable. This is because, at least in some cases, data that is initially written to the SSD is initially stored in DRAM (volatile) before being written to the non-volatile memory. Samsung adds a feature to some drives called PLP – Power Loss Protection – that uses a capacitor to provide enough power to allow the transfer to complete.

In any case, keep backing up your systems and I suggest that you do not use an SSD as your backup media without first thinking about whether or not you feel an HDD might be more reliable for long term storage. They are both good, and, at least for now, the HDDs are much less expensive.


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