This forum is in permanent archive mode. Our new active community can be found here.

Computers with flash drives in place of hard drives?

edited April 2007 in Technology
Story is here
It's an interesting idea, but it looks like they're limited to 32 gig hard drives, which would be the major turnoff, it seems. Assuming the flash drive can hold up, of course


  • It's coming. It's more than likely flash-based drives will completely supplant disk-based drives within a few years, especially in portable devices. The failure rate is lower, the potential speed is much higher (sequential read is already faster), and the power consumption is lower. I'm sure they'll get past any gigabyte barriers soon enough.

    Already, computers are beginning to use flash memory for things other than fobs. Vista has a built-in utility that uses a flash module as a cache somewhere between your hard drive and system memory. I'm sure that could be easily set up with any OS (probably has by the time I'm done writing this).

    I would be surprised and disappointed if flash drives did not supplant all but the largest of disk-based drives within 3-5 years.
  • There is one major reason Flash will not replace magnetic storage. Flash has a limited number of writes. Sure, magnetic drives crash, but it's not guaranteed to happen. Some last for a very long time. Usually in a RAID configuration just one will die, and you can use parity to restore it. If you make a RAID of flash drives, and you assume they each have similar amounts of write activity, they will all die at roughly the exact same time, guaranteed. This is bad. If you are in a situation with lots of writing going on, e.g: a database, a flash drive will pretty much just die. Flash is only good for a drive that does not get written very often.

    I do see a future in the hybrid drives. Flash has an edge in reading on magnetic drives because there are no moving parts. If you put flash on SATA instead of USB, it will be faster than your hard drive. If you make a magnetic drive that also has a gig or so of flash, you can use that flash as a cache and gain a significant performance boots. Files that are read very often will be read just once from the disk to the flash. From then on you can read the files from the flash while minimizing flash writes. You'll get almost all the performance benefits of a flash drive without the death clock.
  • Time will tell. A semantic difference may prove you right, but I believe memory-based storage will completely replace mechanical storage eventually, except possibly if certain new hard disk technologies become practical, and hard disks become capable of storing thousands of terabytes. Even then, I'm not sure what kind of content will exist to necessitate such storage for home users; those disks will be more useful for business applications.

    You are counting on the known limitations of the current technology never changing. That's never a good bet with technology. A new, flash-like memory may be invented, which eliminates this problem, or perhaps they'll simply get so much better that it will become a non-issue. For a long time, ghosting and low contrast in LCDs were considered insurmountable because of the limitations of the technology; they just got so much better at making them that the problems went away.

    So, we shall see what time brings.

  • So, we shall see what time brings.
    I never said it couldn't get better. I'm just pointing out the way it is. I would greatly discourage anyone from getting those 32GB flash drives. They are only useful if you mount them as swap space.
  • I've been doing some research into flash for work recently, and I've got to say that the limited number of write won't be a problem for most people. For high grade flash chips you can rewrite them 100,000 times without any trouble at all. You can rewrite you entire drive for a quarter century before you hit the far side of the bathtub curve from that spec. Now, back in the day things were a lot worse and this would have been a big concern, but flash technology has been advancing pretty quickly lately. The high price vs. hard drives is still a big concern, but I'd say that with their superior temperature, pressure, and shock tolerance flash drives will tend to last a lot longer in a laptop than regular hard drives.
Sign In or Register to comment.