From the Canyon Edge -- :-Dustin

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A Lesson Learned the Hard Way about SSDs

Everyone told me, when I started looking at SSD hard drives, "Buy Intel."

But I didn't listen.  And boy, did I pay for it.  Not once, but twice :-(

As of yesterday, my 1+ year saga with Patriot SSDs is finally over.  Stay tuned for the next post, where I'll talk about a few really important lessons learned, in terms of data backup, and some tools I now use to avoid this situation ever again.  Until then, here's a timeline, meticulously reconstructed from my email and system logs.
  • 17 December 2009
    • Paid $406.97 at for a Patriot SSD, expensive but, Merry Christmas to me!
    • Patriot Torqx 2.5-Inch 128 GB SATAII Solid State Drive with 220MB/s Read - PFZ128GS25SSDR
    • Received and installed Ubuntu Lucid a few days later
    • Read/write benchmarks were very close to advertised rates, and I bragged to my Intel-SSD-wielding colleagues
  • 3 March 2010
    • Hard drive simply "disappeared", doh!
    • Neither the BIOS nor kernel could see the hard drive
    • Patriot acknowledged the issue as a firmware bug, and provided a Windows executable to flash the controller on the hard drive
    • Flashing the controller would discard all data on the hard drive, no way to recover
    • There was no Linux alternative for the magic Windows executable
    • I had reasonable backups (within the last week or so), so I started the RMA process
  • 4 March 2010
    • Returned to Patriot via Fedex (at their expense)
  • 24 March 2010
    • Received replacement drive, 3+ weeks later
    • Re-installed Ubuntu Lucid
  • 19 November 2010
    • Another crash; again hard drive just "disappeared"
    • I was traveling at the time, and did not have a current backup :-(
    • I wrote the run-one utility days later (more on that in the next post), and redesigned where and how I store and backup data
  • 21 November 2010
    • Reinstalled Ubuntu Maverick onto an old, spare 5400rpm drive
    • Wow, I had not realized until now how much local hard drive performance directly affects my development productivity!
  • 22 November 2010
    • 2nd RMA filed with Patriot
  • 23 November 2010
    • Since I was traveling when the error occurred, my backups were way out of date, and I stood to lose quite a bit of valuable, irreplaceable data
    • So I shipped the dead drive (and a working 5400rpm drive for the recovered data) to a data recovery facility specializing in SSD/Flash -- A+ Perfect Computers
  • 24 November 2010
    • I paid $245.98 for a 120GB Intel SSD on, which is exactly what I should have done a year earlier :-(
  • 29 November 2010
    • I paid $475 for the recovery, which was explicitly not reimbursed by Patriot
    •  If A+ Perfect Computers can recover my data, I failed to see how/why Patriot could not do the same, at their expense -- very disappointing
    • I received a phone call from a friendly, knowledgeable, Linux-savvy A+ technologist, who emailed me a few of my eCryptfs encrypted files, for my verification
    • This technologist explained how their recovery worked, at a high level, bypassing Patriot's faulty on-board controller/firmware with a working one, for the duration of the recovery
    • Note that I very much appreciated having my private data encrypted, in this case, as I'm quite literally sharing my hard drive with an untrusted 3rd party
      • Ubuntu Encrypted Home for the win!!!
  • 3 December 2010
    • I received the original, broken Patriot hard drive back from A+ Perfect Computers, as well as my 5400rpm drive with a complete copy of the recovered data
    • The recovery appeared to be perfect, up until minutes before the drive disappeared
  • 5 December 2010
    • I received my 120GB Intel SSD and installed Ubuntu Natty
  • 6 December 2010
    • I shipped the broken Patriot hard drive back to the manufacturer for replacement
  • 22 November 2010 - 3 March 2011
    • 24 emails sent or received between myself and Patriot, during which I learned:
      • 128GB Torqx was no longer manufactured
      • 120GB Inferno was the only option for a replacement
      • The Inferno was in short supply, and shipments were delayed by months
  • 10 March 2011
    • 3+ months later, finally received a replacement drive
  • 4 April 2011
    • I sold my factory sealed, brand new Inferno replacement on eBay
This whole saga has cost me several hundred dollars, between the original price I paid for the Torqx, the data recovery fee, and with the huge loss at which I sold the replacement Inferno.

However, I believe my backup scheme today is absolutely better than ever!  And perhaps more importantly, the entire Ubuntu world now has the run-one and run-this-one utilities at its disposal ;-)