Report suggests SSDs are more harmful to nature than HDDs

Researchers at the University of British Columbia and Wisconsin-Madison point out that the manufacturing process is responsible for the environmental impact

SSDs offer much higher read and write speeds than HDDs, while HDDs for now have the advantage of larger storage spaces. Every year, SSDs are proving to be essential components when building a PC, or buying a notebook. But do both pieces of hardware have the same environmental impact? A study published by researchers at the University of British Columbia and Wisconsin-Madison suggests SSDs are more harmful to nature than HDDs.

Learn about the environmental impact study between SSDs and HDDs

The report points out that SSDs would have twice the environmental impact than HDDs. O main reason for this would be the SSD manufacturing process, with exacerbated use of NAND, DRAM and controllers. This results in the use of more expensive materials and higher energy consumption. Researchers Swamit Tannu, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Prashant Nair, from the University of British Columbia, comment that although the hard drive has a higher carbon footprint during its operational life, the SSD manufacturing process would overcome this difference.

Study results cannot be interpreted as definitive

The study separated a single workload scenario to draw its conclusions. It was analyzed that a 1TB HDD would emit 99kg of C02 versus 199kg of CO2 emitted by a 1TB SSD. It is important to note that the study analyzed a distribution load at 80% idle and 20% active.

Different workload scenarios need to be taken into consideration before stating that SSDs are more harmful to nature than HDDs

However, as Francisco Pires from Tom’s Hardware points out, the scenario of 80% idle and 20% active does not represent the totality of scenarios where the relationship between environmental impact and hardware needs to be considered. That’s because HDDs generally have up to twice the power consumption while active, compared to SSDs. Which raises some questions about the workload, for example: a 10 GB file would take an average of 4.5 seconds to be copied on an SSD with 2,200 MB/s, while the HD on average would take 10 times longer to copy the same file, resulting in excessively higher power consumption compared to SSD.

In the long run, wouldn’t an HDD with a high workload turn out to be more harmful than an SSD? are questions that need to be explored. Therefore, different scenarios considering workloads and how much energy is consumed during active time need to be taken into consideration before claiming that SSDs are more harmful to nature than HDDs.

Anyway, the high environmental impact during the manufacturing process of an SDD is interesting data to be taken into account during the evolution of technology. As much of the carbon footprint is also associated with the type of energy used in manufacturing and also in the process of extracting the material used in the hardware, the study is an interesting starting point, but it needs to be expanded taking into account other variables before we have a complete definition of the subject. Anyway, both technologies will continue to evolve, which can generate many discussions on the subject.

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Source: Tom’s Hardware, University of British Columbia

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