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    • Since I was traveling when the error occurred, my backups were way out of date, and I stood to lose quite a bit of valuable, irreplaceable data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 ;-)



  1. Hi Dustin, many thanks for sharing such a detailed account of your ordeal. I specially like to know about firms like A+ Perfect Computers.

    I'd like to ask, what questions/information did they require for you to very the encrypted files were OK ? I am guessing you at least kept a separate copy of the encryption key, but other than that...?

    Thanks again, and travel safe!

  2. Hi Fabio,

    I was quite happy with my experience with A+ Computers. The tech assigned to my drive contacted me once he got it mounted. He tarred up a subset of my home directory and emailed it to me. I mounted that, and verified that those files were okay. He also sent me a few statistics, on the size of my home, number of files and directories, etc. I was able to compare those to my last backup and verify that his recovery seemed pretty thorough.

    And yes, I kept a separate copy of the encryption key and the tech was never able to see a decrypted copy of any data.


  3. Hi,
    I would be very interested in reading about the technical steps you did to set up you linux for sdd usage. (for example, which file system, disabling the io scheduler for the sdd drive, etc...)

    Good luck with your new drive!

  4. Thank you for sharing your experience. I never gave my hard drive much thought until it failed on me. I had some permanent data loss that was really unfortunate, but I've implemented a Hard Drive Recovery software so I can rest easy. I'm glad the saga is over for you!


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