My Classic Hard Disks Are Spinning Right into the Graveyard

| Particle Debris

As the technology of SSDs develops and capacities grow, the lower capacity drives will become very, very affordable. See for example, this article that launched my new plan. " Watch out, hard disks! Solid state drives will soon store more data."

This is happening in two stages. First, I have seen the community of Mac users steadily replacing the boot drives in their Macs with SSDs (or direct Flash memory). This started first on the MacBook Air and is now common on iMacs. I first did this in 2010 when I paid an extra US$400 to have a 256 GB SSD in my new 27-inch iMac instead of a terrabyte spinning hard disk. Every Mac I've owned since has booted from a solid state drive.

If you're curious, I have leapfrogged Apple's Fusion drives. I've never even thought about using one.

Along the way, however, it has been more cost effective to buy cheap hard disk storage for backups in concert with Apple's Time Machine and other backup tools like Carbon Copy Cloner (CCC). Also, in order to offload the typically small internal SSD in my Macs, it has made sense to put large files, such as virtual machine files, on an external spinning disk and back that up to, you guessed it, another spinning hard disk.

However, even this is changing. Last year, I bought my first SSD as a backup device. It's the Other World Computing Envoy Pro EX. On an experimental basis, I paid about $200 for a 240 GB model that can completely back up my Mac Pro's internal storage. I use Prosoft's Data Backup 3 for that task. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I back up the entire internal storage of the Mac Pro. I use CCC as well, but to a spinning hard disk. And Time Machine backups also go to a low cost USB 3, 3 TB hard disk.

OWC's Envoy Pro EX (240 GB). Smaller than an iPhone.
Weighs 100 grams.

In 2016, I expect that to change. In the not too distant future, I expect to use one of these Envoy EXs as my Time Machine drive. The eventual goal is to get rid of all spinning hard disks in the household except the ones in my Synology RAID unit.

Not only are these USB 3 Envoy Pro EX SSDs very small and light, but they're also bus powered and very quiet. No more power bricks on the floor for desktop hard disks.

I admit, this is a fairly aggressive plan, but it's a good plan. I suspect I'll be able to buy 500 GB of high quality SSD storage in June of 2016 for, perhaps, $250.

And then, with a smile on my face and a chill in my spine, I'll retire my last Time Machine drive as a spinning, magnetic hard disk. I'm sure there will be a feeling of nostalgia, just like I've had for those VHS tapes in the basement. And that'll be the graveyard for my hard disks as well.

Follow along with me in 2016 as I report on my spinless adventures.

Next: The Tech News Debris for the Week of February 8th.

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I want to make a cartoon. A big HD is heading up to the pearly gates. There to greet him are a Floppy Drive, a SCSI Drive, a ZipDrive, and an Optical Drive.

I just need a caption.


3-5 yrs out from now we truly should see the last spinning disk, they won’t keep up with capacity and they’ll find cheaper SSD tech for cold storage.


Mr. Martellaro, what about the issue of SSD write cycle limits of backups of large files (I’m thinking of video) where if so much as one bit/byte is modified, the whole file needs to be backed up ?

Personally I’d rather the boffins focused on increasing the number of write cycles rather than physical size. I’d be happy with SSD innards in a 3.5” drive if the write cycle longevity was vastly increased.

Bret Zeller

This is all wrong. HDDs continue to have advanced options that cannot be replaced by SSDs at this point in time. In fact, HDDs are expected to have the edge in storage capability for at least 15 more years, as they are advancing faster than SSDs (At present, you can buy an 8 terabyte HDD for the price of a 1 TB SSD)

Additionally, for servers and security camera recorders, it is entirely unsuitable to use SSDs. They have strict rewrite limits which are unavoidable with present technology. Additionally still, HDDs are advancing by leaps and bounds, so that they continue to develop significantly more speed, longevity, and storage as time goes by.

The best system (I build PCs), is to use SSDs for the primary storage drive, including the OS, and for high demand software with rapid data interchange, and to use HDD for mass storage (including STEAM games), and backup storage systems.


I replaced the spinning drive in my aging 2007 Macbook Pro and it now runs as well as my 2015 5K iMac (with fusion drive)! It was nearly like buying a new computer. If you’re running an older machine that can run El Captain, I highly recommend the upgrade!

John Martellaro

furbies. Bret.  There was a time, a few years ago, when write cycle limits were an issue.  Nowadays, the limits are so high, it’s not an issue even for Time Machine.  I double checked with OWC, and the tech people there affirmed that these Envoy Pro EX with the Sandforce controllers are fine for use with Time Machine. Meanwhile, I’ll be exploring more SSD issues as I do my tests and conduct the migration in 2016 that I described in the article.

Richard Henerlau

I wonder if they will start replacing the hard drives in the Time Capsules with the SSD HDs…any information on that yet?  I can’t seem to find info on that.

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