SSDs Are Worse for the Planet Than HDDs: Report

SSDs Are Worse for the Planet Than HDDs: Report

Any drive on our list of the Best SSDs would wipe the floor with any HDD in performance and power efficiency metrics. However, HDDs have historically had one saving grace compared to SSDs: their storage density, which leads to an advantage in the $/GB race. Now, according to a new report, the declining HDD market has environmental concerns on its side as well: a study carried out by the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of British Columbia has tried to measure just how exactly SSDs impact the environment. The verdict is that SSDs have twice the environmental impact of an HDD, but it might not be that clear.

According to the study, SSD’s excessive carbon footprint compared to HDDs comes from the manufacturing process itself. The latest SSDs use multiple NAND, DRAM, and controller chips, each manufactured with cutting-edge silicon manufacturing techniques and multi-layer bonding processes, requiring both expensive materials and high electricity usage. So while HDDs have a higher carbon footprint throughout their operational lifetime due to increased energy consumption, SSDs generate the brunt of their emissions before they ever write the first byte.

The study itself did a meta-study (a study analyzing studies’ results) on LCA reports from several manufacturers. According to it, the average SSD has a Storage Embodied Factor (SEF, representing the rate of CO2 emissions relative to the capacity of the storage medium) of 0.16. HDDs, on the other hand, have a SEF of 0.02. The lower the SEF, the lower the environmental impact.

The researchers also mention energy sources for semiconductor manufacturing as being mostly based on high-impact mediums such as coal. Still, the lack of data on this domain (namely, what exact percentage of energy is derived from renewable and non-renewable sources) means that the results have to be taken with a grain of salt. Further studies are definitely needed here.

The study further plotted out what the best storage option would be in certain workload scenarios and concluded that a 1TB HDD would beat a 1TB SSD by emitting 99 kg and 199 kg of CO2 against the SSD’s 184 Kg and 369 Kg (over five and ten years, respectively).

https://www.tomshardware.com/news/ssds-create-more-carbon-emissions-than-hdds-report

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