Hard Drive Shopping – Blaugust 29

1093 wc

Casualties of War aka. Information Technology. This SSD and external USB drive both died last year, both less than two years old.

I mentioned my main 2 TB D: drive conked out yesterday morning for mysterious reasons. It’s working again now, but I’m eyeing it suspiciously, because I’ve noticed some odd behavior in my applications and rebooted a couple of times yesterday to straighten it out. I’m not sure it was hard drive related but it could have been. I successfully copied all of my “documents” (which includes documents, music, pictures, and videos) to a safe place, so I won’t lose anything important if the drive dies completely.

Expecting the worst, I went looking to order a replacement yesterday. My experience in the last few years is that hard drives either work perfectly or they are dead as a doornail, and any hint of imminent failure is cause for immediate concern, because there is no coming back from dead as a doornail. There’s no more putting hard drives in freezers, or dropping them to knock the heads loose, or anything like that. Once the system no longer recognizes a drive, you chuck it in the garbage and hope you thought to make backups beforehand.

The failing drive is a 2 TB 7200 rpm Western Digital Black “Performance” drive, purchased in July 2016 for $123. It’s kind of a bummer to think that hard drives only last two years now.

A replacement with the same model of drive from my preferred vendor is currently $115. Also kind of a bummer that hard drive prices haven’t dropped much in two years. I expected my model to have dropped significantly in price, while a model twice as big today would assume the price that I paid two years ago.

At first I thought that was the case. The first search result I came up with for a 2 TB Western Digital drive was listed as $60 in a sale. Hooray! Closer inspection revealed it’s a WD Blue drive, which is the 5400 rpm model. As far as I can tell, the “Blue” and “Black” drives are identical, except the Black one is 33% faster and 92% more expensive, and now billed as a drive “for gamers,” something I don’t remember seeing before.

I haven’t purchased a 5400 rpm drive for a desktop PC in ages. Probably since I first learned that 7200 rpm drives existed. That was, what, the 90s? Early 2000s? If you had asked me before today, I might have even said that they didn’t even make 5400 rpm drives for desktop PCs anymore, so blind was I to their existence. But there it was as the default search result. Casually searching for drives larger than 2 TB seems to indicate that the reasonably-priced ones are often 5400 rpm.

The $60 price for 2 TB was pretty tantalizing, budget-conscious as I am at the moment. Maybe it’s even possible my existing “fast” 2 TB drive will continue to work fine, and I can use the new “slow” one as a backup drive.

So I just went ahead and ordered the 5400 rpm drive. If they’re going to be half the price of 7200 rpm drives from now on, maybe I better start getting used to them. It’s pretty annoying to me when mid-level things (like 7200 rpm drives) are re-branded as top-level premium luxury items “for gamers.”

Still, I don’t really want my games to load slow, either, and 5400 rpm drives are traditionally, well, slow. So I looked at SSD drives, too.

My current C: drive is a dinky 128GB SSD drive which is half-full of nothing but Windows and a few essentials. (I had to replace the previous 256GB SSD that I bought in 2016 when it failed last year. I haven’t had much luck with mass storage in the last few years. A 4 TB external USB drive also failed on me last year.)

I’m not one of those people that picks one or two games to install on an SSD to make them run faster. My philosophy has always been something along the lines of, “Hey, game developers, suck it up and write better code so your games don’t require an SSD.” Of course, that ship already sailed and game developers have resoundingly responded with something along the lines of, “What? We have no idea how to do that. We just use this game engine that loads our assets into memory for us. What’s code anyway?”

I’m exaggerating for comedic effect, but I imagine there are a lot more artists than programmers in big game development studios now.

The point is, I wanted to find an SSD drive big enough to install everything on it, so I didn’t have to swap things in and out, which I would hate. I looked at a 1 TB SSD for all my games and applications, so I could use the spinny drive* exclusively for things like pictures and videos. The 1 TB SSDs are still in the $150-$200 range, which is fantastic considering how much they were five years ago, but more than I can justify spending right now.

So I looked for a more reasonably-priced SSD and found a (coincidentally) Western Digital 500 GB SSD on a slight sale for $95. I’ve never owned a Western Digital SSD before so I have no idea what to expect, but I assume they are all basically the same, and the differences between brands are negligible. (I haven’t noticed any differences between the three previous SSDs I’ve owned-they either work great or they don’t work at all.)

So in the end I ordered a 2 TB 5400 rpm drive for $60 and a 500 GB SSD for $95. 500 GB isn’t quite big enough for me to install every game and application on my current D: drive, so the plan is to install high-priority games and applications on the SSD, and put low-priority applications and all the other storage-intensive stuff like videos on the spinny drive*.

Now that I’ve written all this down, I’m wondering if I’ve made a huge mistake. $150 is more than I wanted to spend, but I’ll rationalize it by saying it’ll be a good learning experience. I imagine it will greatly inform the mass storage needs of my next major computer upgrade, which I’d estimate will occur next year sometime.

* Spinny drive is the highly technical term for a standard HDD with spinning platters. It might not be too much longer before kids don’t know what those are anymore.

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