SSHD: The Future of Hard Drives?

Category: Hard-Drives

Solid-state hybrid drives (SSHDs) are emerging as the future of mass storage. Combining the blazing speed of flash memory with the low cost of traditional magnetic media, SSHDs provide significant performance improvements that ordinary laptop and desktop users can afford. Here's what you should know about this new tech that can rev up your old computer...

What is a Solid-State Hybrid Hard Drive?

I've written before about solid-state hard drives, also known as SSDs. Unlike a traditional hard drive which uses spinning magnetic platters, an SSD drive has no moving parts. And they're fast. See my related article SSD Hard Drives Offer Blazing Speed for some facts and figures on SSD drives.

The "problem" with SSD technology is that it's more expensive per gigabyte than a standard hard drive. So enter the hybrid. Solid-state hybrid drives combine magnetic mass storage with the speed of solid-state memory, plus a little software magic, to strike a beautiful compromise. A case in point is the evolution of Seagate’s hybrid drive product line.

Solid State Hybrid Hard Drives

Seagate’s Momentus series of 2.5-inch SSHDs for laptops was rebranded; it’s now called simply Seagate SSHD. A 3.5-inch form factor for desktops has also been added. Both versions come with 8GB of flash memory. The laptop version offers capacities of 500GB or 1TB, while the desktop versions range from 1TB to 4TB. The laptop version is a slim 7mm thick, while the desktop version is a standard 9.75mm.

Neither requires any special software drivers. Simply put, that means they appear just like any other hard drive, in terms of installation and usage. And they'll work in both PC and Mac computers.

Both drives support the latest SATA 3 (6Gbps) standard and are compatible with earlier SATA standards. Seagate’s SSHD technology automatically moves frequently-accessed (“hot”) data from magnetic (platter) storage to the flash memory portion, to optimize performance. Seagate has eliminated 7200 rpm spin rates in its laptop drives, which now spin at 5400 rpm. The desktop SSHD spins at 7200 rpm. The company claims a five-fold performance advantage versus standard HDD technology for its laptop SSHD and a four-fold boost for the desktop version. Overall system responsiveness improves by 20% or more, according to PCMark benchmarking.

SSHD Advantage: Speed and Price

How fast is that? Windows 8 boots in less than 10 seconds, reportedly, with an SSHD under the hood. The secret sauce is in Seagate’s Adaptive Memory software, that's baked into the SSHD. It identifies the most frequently-used files and moves them to the flash memory. This translates to quicker boot times, faster loading of applications, and makes the entire system feel more responsive.

The pricing of the new SSHDs is attractive. A 500GB pure SSD drive will carry a price tag of about $300. By contrast, the Seagate 1TB SSHD for desktops (ST1000DX001) sells for just $80 (with free shipping) on Amazon. You can also find them at Staples, B&H and other vendors. The 2TB model is $115, and the 4TB model is $181, so there's a good economy of scale if you need a larger amount of disk storage.

I bought the Seagate 1TB SSHD a few weeks ago, and replaced a pair of aging 500GB drives in one of my desktop PCs. I didn't measure the before and after times, but startup is definitely faster, and applications start faster as well.

Future SSHDs will feature larger flash memory components, and should offer even better performance. SSHDs are a compromise between cost and performance. But they are a very good compromise, delivering nearly the performance of pure-solid-state drives at a fraction of the cost. As the cost of flash memory falls, the edge enjoyed by SSHDs will shrink. But for the next few years, a SSHD should remain one of the best values around, and a compelling reason to upgrade your old-school HDD. Aside from adding more RAM memory, swapping in an SSHD is one of the more cost-effective ways to increase the performance of an older system.

Have you used a computer with an SSD or SSHD hard drive? Post your comment or question below...

 
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This article was posted by on 12 Jun 2014


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Most recent comments on "SSHD: The Future of Hard Drives?"

Posted by:

WES
12 Jun 2014

With these drives are we not back to using more power from the laptop batteries which the pure solid state drives got us around somewhat?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Probably, but there are always tradeofffs. Do you want to save battery, or have more disk storage for less money? Depending on your usage and budget, you'll make the choice that's right for you.


Posted by:

Wayne
12 Jun 2014

I built a new home computer system last year. Thinking that SSHD would be the way to go speeding up start-up time on my machine. I bought an OCZ 125 unit and loaded my operating system software. Worked great, for a week. Had the blue screen of death on start-up. I thought I may be the one in a thousand consumer to get a bad piece of hardware. Being the sucker for punishment I am, I returned the OCZ 125 and bought a 250 OCZ SSHD. Reloaded my software and away I went...fo another two weeks. I was again visited by the blue screen of death on start-up. I returned the SSHD to the store were I purchased it and bought (2) Seagate HDs for my system. I have not had a problem since. The store where I purchased the SSHD units said OCZ was having some chip problems with their units. I still think SSHD is the future but the price needs to drop and reliability needs to improve.


Posted by:

Doclocke
12 Jun 2014

I would love to install one of the Seagate drives in my Dell Vostro 420 desktop with Win7 Pro, but I have read article after article that claims I would not be able to use my Rebit backups to re-install what is now on the factory hard drive.

Has anyone else had experience with installing a new drive, and then attempting to install a clone of your system? If so, I'd like to know how much success you had.


Posted by:

Drew
12 Jun 2014

The only problems I've had with SSDs is there is no warning when they go bad; they simply quit working. With the traditional hard drive there is usually extra noise or noticeable slow down, generally some clue that you better back up and replace. Both the SSDs I've had issues with just failed w/o warning. My current builds use the SSDs for the OS and programs, but I do not keep data on them. (I know backups are necessary, but daily is a bit excessive.)


Posted by:

Karl Gregg
12 Jun 2014

My Toshiba laptop of 4 years got an upgrade. I installed a 220 Gb SSD and upped RAM to 8Gb. It is 64 bit running on an i3 @ 2.13 GHz.
Win 7 is complete under 30 seconds. All functions are great. Major software is Win 7, Office 2010, Adobe InDesign CS4, Libre Office and Picasa.
I still have 170 Gb free on the 220Gb drive.


Posted by:

Richard
12 Jun 2014

Ok, maybe not today but these memristor thingies look good.
http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-06-11/with-the-machine-hp-may-have-invented-a-new-kind-of-computer


Posted by:

Stuart Berg
12 Jun 2014

Why isn't anyone concerned about the limited number of SSD writes that can be made to the same bits? Eventually, all SSDs will fail because of these write failures which occur after thousands, NOT millions, of writes to the same bits. Time will tell.


Posted by:

Brian S.
12 Jun 2014

Richard, I think I like THIS Machine better:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z_sgIkMkgyQ


Posted by:

Misterfish
12 Jun 2014

Answer for Doclocke:- I had a tired (slow) HDD in my PC. I bought a Crucial SSD 120 and cloned my old drive onto it, using the AOEMI partition software (free download) to ensure the old drive stuff would fit on the new drive.
Note that I left the old HDD in the PC for extra storage - the SSD became my system drive.
I then updated XP to Win 7 using Laplink PC Mover (paid for) but in retrospect that was a mistake. Many old installed programs were for XP only. All my data was on the old drive anyway, Firefox was synched and Thunderbird saved using Mozbackup.
It would have been quicker to simply load Win 7 to the SSD, re-route the shortcuts to the old HDD and re-install the programs that wouldn't work on Win7 - plus those programs I use a lot - to the SSD to take advantage of its faster loading.
I was disappointed that the SSD has not made start-up noticeably quicker, but many programs on the SSD load faster.
By the way, the Win 7 I bought on eBay; it was an OEM disc and COA that had not been installed on a Dell destined for Ubuntu, at a third of the new price. Installed and registered easily.
So Doclocke, go to it, but have a spare computer beside you to search the web for answers to any problems you encounter.


Posted by:

Tony
12 Jun 2014

Thanks Bob ...timely reminder for me though I'm a little leery in view of Wayne's and Drew's experience. Interesting link posted by Richard BTW.


Posted by:

CardMagik
12 Jun 2014

Built 2 computers last year with 120GB Samsung SSDs - one crashed after 6 months - the other is still running after a year with no problems. Upgraded a MacBook with a 500 GB Samsung SSD - wonderful speed up and no problems - also was really easy to transfer everything with Time Machine. At work, have an HP Elitebook with 120 GB SSD - first crashed after 3 months - replacement has been working with no problems for over a year now. All I can say is have frequent backups for SSDs expecting it to crash, buy it from local store (MicroCenter perhaps) with a warranty so you can return it. They seem to crash fairly quickly or run forever. Haven't had any SSHD experience but I am building a computer in September so perhaps I will give it a try though I really love the SSD Speed - others at work without one have a 5 to 10 minute boot-up time - I'm up in 90 seconds (lots of network hooks).


Posted by:

RandiO
13 Jun 2014

Early part of 2012, I replaced my primary desktop WinOS HDD with a 250GB pure-SSD from Patriot. I have had no problems what-so-ever and the increased speed was alarming at first. But I keep thinking that it will not last as long as a good ol' reliable HDD. I have gone thru a bit of trouble so that all my application's data including my personal data are on other HDDs in the system, so that I don't continually read/write to the SSD, which would essentially shorten its lifetime.
@Drew>> In addition to SSDs being S.M.A.R.T capable, I use a program called SSDLifePro for checking the health of my WinOS SSD and it is showing the following:
WorkTime:16426Hours (1year 10months 19days 10 hours)
Powered on: 445 times
Estimated lifetime: 7years 10months 2days (TEC @2022/04/10)
Data Reads: 17.6TB
Data Writes: 11.6TB
@Doclocke>> You can use an "Imaging" program such as Acronis TrueImage to transfer your data HDD>>SSD or HDD>>SSHD. WesternDigital and other HDD manufacturers provide such utilities FREE of charge, even if you don't buy one of their products.


Posted by:

Steve Bohne
13 Jun 2014

I have an older Gateway laptop, a T1650, that came loaded with Vista. It was s l o o o o w! A friend of mine said, "Don't sell it, put Windows7 and a SSD in it!" I'm glad I listened. I use that as a C drive and put all of my data on a 500GB external. It is now so fast I use it as my main computer!


Posted by:

Mike Webb
13 Jun 2014

I have my own question related to Drew's, Stuart's and RandiO's comments.

I haven't followed the progress of solid state memory technology, but I do remember Stuart's observation going clean back to the solid state stuff involved in USB thumb drives, and those aren't in constant use like SSD's or SSHD's are. What is the state of technology that protects the data on SSD/SSHD's from unexpected loss that is historically less likely to happen (at least without warning) with a mechanical drive? The idea of an SSHD tubing on me all of a sudden is not one I relish.


Posted by:

Zorth911
15 Jun 2014

I installed a Samsung model 830 120gb SSD drive to a Win 7 sysytem I built. This was after installing an OCZ SSD that failed after 2 months (glad I had a warranty). Anyway, the Samsung is optimized for SSD use (no hibernation, indexing is turned off, etc.) I regularly boot up in less than 10 seconds and with nearly 2 years of heavy usage, it is still going strong. Anyway, as the memory cells wear out, data is moved to other available cells. So ideally, even if you need 60 gb for storage or system use, getting a larger drive, gives it more cells to write to before it ever wears out. I believe I read that most SSD drives can handle up to 40 gb of data written per day for several years!


Posted by:

RandiO
17 Jun 2014

SlashGear.com has posted the following article:
Endurance Experiment puts SSD drives to the test
Pasted from http://www.slashgear.com/ssd-endurance-experiment-puts-drives-to-the-test-16333874


Posted by:

MmeMoxie
19 Jun 2014

A bit late, on commenting on this article. I have been reading several articles on the SSDs versus the SSHDs. My conclusion is that, I think, I want to invest in the SSHDs. The cost factor is cheaper and I think, from what I have read, the Hard Drive will work better, in the long run.

In all honesty, I still have some smaller 40GB WD Hard Drives, that are working just fine and have been since, the early 2000s. Not bad, for an older Hard Drive, in my opinion. Plus, these Hard Drives were being run 24/7. I have been doing that for years!!! My monitors last a long time, as well. But, again, I get monitors that are warrantied for 3 years, including the main panel. :)


Posted by:

Andrew
22 Jun 2014

I have to say that I am underwhelmed by SSD's in general. I bought a Samsung EVO, and although it is a little bit faster, nowhere near what my expectations were based on all that I have read. I really think they are too expensive for what they are for the performance you get. Won't be getting another one in the future


Posted by:

Jonathan
22 Jun 2014

I get curious about defragging with an animal like this, due to the fact that you're merging a drive type that should never be defragged vs a drive type should always be defragged. The result I'm only guessing is that due to the SSD component of this drive you can't defrag. Anyone want to chime in on this?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Good question... I did a bit of research, and the concensus seems to be that defragging an SSHD won't harm anything, but probably won't help either. The solid state portion of the SSHD acts as a cache, so defragging may cause the drive to "forget" what important files should be stored in the cache to boost performance. I've seen references on Seagate and HP websites which indicate that defragging an SSHD drive is not necessary, at least not on a regular schedule. I've decided to turn off the auto-defrag on my Windows 7 machine, and I'll plan to check the drive once every 3 months to see if any defragging is required.


Posted by:

Jim
18 Aug 2015

How to tell if I have an SSD or an HDD?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Run Device Manager (click Start and type devmgmt.msc). Click on "Disk drives" and you'll see the name of your drive. Then Google it for info.


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