Persistent computer hardware myths
17 Jan 2016

1. Don’t buy SSDs because they’ll wear out if you write too much

OK, yeah. They’ll wear out. But you’ll probably throw them out first.

SSDs have a finite write lifespan, sure. But unless you’re running a database server with a heavy write workload, it’s not going to wear out for at least 10 years.

All SSDs track their lifespan. They are perfectly capable of warning you when they’re wearing out through the SMART system. They won’t just forget everything; they can degrade gracefully.

Sudden death is definitely a common way for SSDs fail – but this is true of spinning disks as well. The cause is not the FLASH media wearing out; it’s the usual problems with any electronic device failing suddenly. Spinning disks certainly fail suddenly and for a litany of mechanical reasons that SSDs aren’t vulnerable to.

I’ve got 10-year-old SSDs (which have been running for all 10 years) which still show > 90% lifetime remaining.

It’s just not an issue.

The worst instance of this that I’ve heard is “don’t buy an SSD because it will wear out. Buy a regular hard drive instead.”. Talk about throwing the baby out with the bathwater. You’re going to have a slow computer just so it won’t wear out in what, 10 years? Just buy another one!

(A spinning disk won’t last that long, anyway.)

2. Disk encryption is slow

This wasn’t true when encryption was done in software, and now that it’s 100% hardware accelerated (on both phones and regular computers), it’s a complete non-issue. Hard drives (even SSDs) are really slow compared with CPUs. The bottleneck is the drive, not the encryption software.

Practically everything written to an iPhone is encrypted – even the really old ones — and you don’t see complaints about slow writes on them.

3. Faster CPUs are worth paying for

At best, you’ll get 10% performance increase from a 10% clock speed bump. But computer performance is a ‘weakest link’ type of affair; it’s no good having a 100GHz CPU if you’re bottlenecking on memory or I/O. This is why I’m so gung-ho about buying SSDs; a spinning hard drive is practically always the bottleneck these days.

You’re paying, what, $300 for a 5% clock speed increase, which won’t amount to anything in reality? Buy an SSD first and more RAM second. Once you’ve got a Samsung 950 SSD, at least 16GB of RAM and a massive GPU, then maybe consider a CPU bump. But probably just save your money for the next revision of hardware in a year.

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