back to article Review: Crucial M500 960GB SSD

When Intel entered the personal computer solid-state drive market it was with the stated aim of making SSDs something more than an expensive luxury. It implied it would drive prices down to a point where SSDs would become a viable alternative to the standard rattling old mechanical disk drive. But even the blue-hued chip giant …

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JDX
Gold badge

blimey

I have been toying with getting a SSD as second drive but now I might as well get a big SSD to replace my current spinny drive entirely.

Question: does fragmentation still exist on SSDs or is it entirely a relic of the mechanics of spinny disks?

(also I want to get a silver RAIN comment in but not sure if anyone will get the reference)

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Happy

Re: blimey

The latter, fragmentation doesn't really exist on an SSD.

I've been using a 256GB M4 as the only internal drive in my desktop PC and my laptop for a while. I will never go back to spinning rust, it has been relegated to bulk storage for video, music, and photos. The performance difference is just stunning.

GJC

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RE: Fragmentation

Fragmentation doesn't exist (or at least isn't an issue) on solid state, because it's just as quick to retrieve data sequentially from sectors 1, 2, 3, 4, etc as it is sectors 1, 100001, 2, 100002, 3, 100003, etc (for example), due to there being no physical mechanics to move.

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Silver badge

Re: RE: Fragmentation

Fragmentation does still exists, and in fact exists even more in an SSD. If you read sectors 1-100 on an SSD, these may actually be scattered all over the NAND but are mapped by the controller.

The difference is that this doesn't impact on the performance. You should never need to defrag an SSD (in fact doing so is bad for it, as it unnecessarily writes data, lowering the life of the drive).

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Silver badge

Re: blimey

Correct, do not defrag an SSD, it will only contribute to wear. Speaking of which, SSDs don't fail gracefully - cells become unreadable after a finite number of R/W cycles. I'm paranoid, so use a 256GB SSD for my OS, but keep my data on a 2TB rust-bucket. Speed is excellent, and 6MB JPEGs open pretty much instantly even though they're stored on the HDD.

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JDX
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Re: blimey

Chris I thought they became unwriteable first, so could be moved to spare sectors - why a drive has X% spare capacity?

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Happy

@JDX

Thanks, you may well be right, though I thought they were mainly used for wear leveling. I'm happy to remain paranoid where my data is concerned.

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Boffin

Re: RE: Fragmentation

"The difference is that this doesn't impact on the performance. "

True, but the block erase issue is the "new fragmentation", and can impact performance. For the original poster's benefit, SSD's can write data to an 4k "page", but can only erase a block of pages of around 512k. It has to erase blocks because it can only write to erased pages (unlike an HDD that can overwrite existing data). Like an HDD deleting or moving a file or page of data on an SSD only moves the file - it doesn't erase the old data, which still sits around until it is erased by the drives firmware, or the issue of a TRIM command by the OS. If there's sufficient free or erased space when you command a write, then you see no problem, but as soon as the SSD has to start moving pages around and erasing blocks before it can write then it is like swimming in treacle.

If you're lucky with your hardware and OS, and TRIM commands are issued silently and you'll never know (or need to know) what's going on under the bonnet. Also if the SSD's "garbage collection" works adequately then you'd probably never come across the problem. But if you're using the SSD as a system and data drive, then anybody whose activity involves big file copies (like video edits) and takes up a large amount of the SSD capacity may be at risk of this occuring because you run out of free or erased space. TRIM will stop that. The same can happen with a lot of smaller file writes, but most of us won't fill a large drive with small files.

If the garbage collection routines are good then (perversely enough) a few big file writes and deletes will fix the problem, albeit you have to wait for them to complete. Plenty more of this if you search the web, but just a personal suggestion that you don't plan to fill the bulk of the SSD unless you're sure that TRIM will work.

Retrofit SSD's are at particular risk of being installed on systems that may not be TRIM compatible either because the OS doesn't support it, because they've got older hard drive controllers that don't pass the command from the OS, or other hardware incompatibilities.

If all that sounds off-putting, don't let it. My home machine runs off a 230 GB SSD, and it is excellent - things just happen instantly. But I've got a separate HDD for my large FLAC music collection, for videos and such like. Eventually the photo collection may have to migrate to the HDD, but at the moment I have space to spare.

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Fragmentation

Fragmentation does exist to a point - that's why you see different speeds with different sector sizes. The closer you match the cluster size to the page size, the better the performance you have, but the more disk space you waste. If you format your disk with 512-byte clusters, your 4K random reads will be rubbish on a disk with 8K pages. But if you format it with 8K clusters, it'll be spectacular by comparison. So you only get a speed increase from defragmenting an SSD if you cock up partitioning and formatting it in the first place.

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Anonymous Coward

Very nice

I had the Intel 600GB SSD in my Macbook for a while, until it abruptly died - the firmware (already on the latest version) was reporting 8MB instead, and back to the shop it went. Strangely everyone was out of stock, and I got the impression it had been quietly pulled from the market so switched to a 500MB Samsung.

It did make me wonder if the higher capacity SSDs have issues which would require the power and thermal management aspects you pointed out.

Even after that experience, if you have a Laptop as your primary machine and earn more than the minimum wage, a drive like this will easily pay for itself within a year just in time saved. Best investment you can make IMHO.

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Anonymous Coward

I'll give it a pass

my impression is (urban myth?) that when the ssd is gone, it's truly gone. And so is your data (backup? well, most people - have HEARD about it).

In fact, when my laptop hdd has died on me recently (here's to WD quality), I replaced it with an ssd, purposefully too small to be tempted to hoard any large and / or important data on it. So, if the ssd goes, it'll be just a nuisance, not a real loss as the most important data is stored on hdds, and these I back up regularly too. In fact, I've become sort of a backup convert now ;)

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Silver badge

Re: I'll give it a pass

"my impression is (urban myth?) that when the ssd is gone, it's truly gone. "

Depends on the failure mode. In theory if you exhuast the NAND write cycles the data should still be readable. For most non-enterprise applications your chances of using the full number of programme/erase cycles are almost non-existent. But if you've a firmware failure or a hardware meltdown then you could have a brick on your hands, and that's a more likely scenario than exhausting the NAND endurance.

No reason to believe that SSDs are more or less secure than HDDs, or that failures will be more or less graceful.

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Silver badge

Re: I'll give it a pass

The only failures I've experienced on spinning platter drives in the past ten years have been of the total death variety. Usually the spin controller.

Result, zero data, completely screwed. Luckily, in all but one of these cases the drive was part of a RAID.

The one that wasn't was in a laptop which was being used at the time... Just went BSOD, and that was that.

So in that respect an SSD with it's degrading of cells and not centrally crucial, and mechanically based, function like the motor controller, is a far nicer way to find your drive is on the way out.

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Re: I'll give it a pass

My main concern with SSDs is that often the firmware needs to be updated to fix bugs that weren't exposed in the dev. cycle. Most vendors release new drive firmware at some point to address issues, whether degraded performance or something else. Nearly all upgrade notes say to back up the data first, in other words - this may brick your SSD

As for data loss, 99% of SSDs are still relatively small. End result: it doesn't cost that much extra to have a backup kept on a traditional rust based drive. Even if it's just the OS and apps, that backup will save you a lot of time if the SSD goes Tango Uniform.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I'll give it a pass

Of the SSD failures we've seen, all but one were total-data loss. The partial data loss case was a Crucial drive which had been hammered mercilessly. So far Kingston (V+200) and Samsung (830) series drives have not failed on us but the sample size is small.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I'll give it a pass

The Samsung 830 is arguably rock solid. One reason why I've avoided several well-known brands is because of their use of the Sandforce controller. Marvell, hmmm, perhaps. Samsung makes *all* their parts, the NAND chips, the controller, and firmware...

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Silver badge

Definitely getting closer. Capacity (and cost per capacity) has been my only issue with SSD's so far. I'm in the unusual position of having a laptop with two drive bays in it, and it would be a cinch to move one to an SSD but I'm an old-fashioned kind of guy. I still believe that no one component should cost more than the laptop did itself when brand-new, and that anything with a definitive wear effect should last longer than I'll ever need it to (no matter what the theoretical situation). Having seen drives last 20+ years without problems, whether spinning 24/7 or in desktop usage or sitting in a box, I'm still on-edge about SSD's longevity.

And, yes, I know all the mathematics and how long they will last and so on and so forth, and no HDD aren't anywhere near perfect either, but it's a new technology and I'm suspicious of all new technologies until the wrinkles are ironed out.

This, though, makes me actually start looking at them with a serious eye. I'd still probably go for the 500-ish Gb version, though, and I'd have it alongside another "real" harddrive (that only spins up when I load things from it and is otherwise mostly idle) and mirror a boot partition just-in-case, but it's definitely viable. By Christmas, let's hope these things are one-half to two-thirds the price, and then we can all start upgrading properly and en-masse. Hell, the 120Gb version is within the realms of corporate desktop usage (i.e. one in every PC in the place) and that will make even the oldest of computers absolutely FLY.

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Thumb Up

excellent boot time

Last year I upgraded my main Win 7 PC with an SSD for boot/OS and, my word, it was an improvement. I then replaced the ageing HDD on my Ubuntu laptop with a 60gb Crucial - again nice speed increases although you'll need to ensure you 'trim' at intervals or just cron it (I prefer manual intervention, makes me feel more geeky).

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Anonymous Coward

SSDs Rock

SSDs are brilliant.. I have a small low powered laptop bouncing around in the back of the car running Logitech Media Server, MusicIP and Spicefly Sugarcube doing all my music on my long commute. They are super quick and I dont have to worry about hard disk heads every time I go over a pot hole! :)

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Pint

How much data...?

"which works out to be around 40GB of data written every day for five years"

Brings an interesting question to mind - how much data is read/written in this sort of scenario?

-Windows 7 laptop, 4gigs ram.

-Booting up then

- pandora, gmail, facebook, pintrest; for an hour or two

-Shutting down

The laptop the wife uses has a nearly-full disk I'm looking to replace - I occasionally use it as well.

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Re: How much data...?

SSD doesnt have a max number for reads, only for writes. So it just depends on how much you write in the hour or two of usage. I think you could use an SSD for a very long time in your scenario, easily outliving the rest of your machine for usefullness.

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Silver badge
FAIL

Three to four years

No thanks.

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Meh

It's laptops that need the capacity

Desktops don't really need a high capacity SSD because they have at least 2 drive bays - the economics of that are that you buy a small/fast SSD for your boot drive and the largest (still fast) HDD that works out the best bang for buck (probably 3TB Seagates at the moment).

However - and it's surprising the article didn't mention this - almost all laptops only have one drive bay, so if it's your only machine and you don't have a desktop or NAS back at home, then you're going to want to max out the size of the SSD in your laptop.

I'm now quite excited that a) we finally have HDD-sized consumer SSDs and b) they cost under 500 quid. Inevitably, other vendors will release 960GB consumer SSDs, so let the price wars begin! In the meantime, HDDs are actually stalled around the 4TB point and have plateaued their prices too. Now if only OEMs would include SSDs in all their desktops now - it's staggering that this still isn't the case in 2013.

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I really want to like this Crucial drive, but...

I got a Crucial M4 128Gb and it failed on me after about a week, sudden death. Very good customer service from Crucial as it failed within the 50 or so days (not sure what they would have done after that), I got a full refund. And I would like to think that there are many happy M4 users out there and that I was unlucky.

Side story: When the Samsung 840 Pro was announced last September (2012) I was very excited, but it took ages to be available -eventually November/December. I got one for a 3-4 year (or more) Core 2 Duo socket 370 desktop and installed Windows 8 Pro 32bit on it. Result: boot time like a rocket, once past BIOS, Windows 8 takes only a few secs to boot. So I would second other's points about Samsung's apparent reliability (perhaps because they make all their own stuff) and the fact that SSDs run very well on older hardware - my case in point.

Back to point, if I could be convinced that Crucial is as reliable as Samsung then this new Crucial would be very attractive indeed. But I am hesitant from that bad personal experience.

In forums (such as these) one more often tends to hear about the problems than when things go well.

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Bronze badge

Again this is like buying a Tesla when a Vauxhuall would do

Yeah you may get to your Destination faster in a Super hyped-up e-Car, but, don't expect to get vary far in it though. This thing needs to be about a 3/4 of the price and have about 4x the Capacity to be of any relevance to us mere mortals who still have to pay rent, an ever increasing Power Bill and food. really ca~ £500.00(GBP) for something that just scratches the One Terabyte level of storage? One suspects, that One could kit out a NAS with Two Four Terabyte HDDs for that kind of money.

How the Hell anyone could justify this 5h!t is beyond me.

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Re: Again this is like buying a Tesla when a Vauxhuall would do

Just because you're really poor doesn't mean other people don't have a use for it. I spent £200 on my SSD and performance wise it's been by far the biggest single boost I've ever had for a single upgrade.

The SSD in my work machine has already saved my company several grands worth of productivity.

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