News SSDs Create More Carbon Emissions Than HDDs: Report

Colif

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What about nvme? they can turn selves off completely so I wonder how that goes towards costs.
My PC almost 2 years old, both nvme & hdd same age. nvme is boot drive and yet its been on 3000 less hours in the same time.
So ssd may not be cheaper in long run but nvme might?
 
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Aug 7, 2022
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Measuring CO2 is just dumb. We all breath in oxygen and breath out CO2. It 's part of the natural life cycle. The materials used, manufacturing waste created, energy used, and the ability to recycle are the factors that really matter. I would have liked to see more on that data. My guess would be the HDD would fare better, except for it's lifetime energy use. Chip making is very resource intensive.
 

bigdragon

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If you look past the agonizing debate about environmental impact of one consumer product versus another, you might notice the huge companies in the background dumping toxic chemicals into rivers, pumping smog into the atmosphere, and wasting every type of fuel and energy like there's no tomorrow. But no, ignore that and focus on the fight! HDD underdog against SSD superstar! Get your tickets for this once in a lifetime event that you must watch now, more than ever! Please no videos of the dead cows and fish nearby. Let's get this fight started!
 
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edzieba

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Measuring CO2 is just dumb. We all breath in oxygen and breath out CO2. It 's part of the natural life cycle. The materials used, manufacturing waste created, energy used, and the ability to recycle are the factors that really matter. I would have liked to see more on that data. My guess would be the HDD would fare better, except for it's lifetime energy use. Chip making is very resource intensive.
CO2 is the primary forcing factor on global temperature. Even extreme greenhouse gasses (HFCs and the like) are emitted in such small quantities that they - for now - remain minor factors. In addition, we use "equivalent CO2 emissions" as a climate forcing proxy for those other emitted gasses to make direct comparisons easier (one could use abstract degrees warming per kg emitted per concentration unit square area averaged over the planet, but CO2 equivalent is far easier to work with without any real drawbacks).
Just because CO2 is "natural" is utterly meaningless in regards to its effects. Mass extinction events are natural, deadly famines and floods are natural, neurotoxins are natural. None are particularly fun or desirable. "Natural!" (like "organic!") makes for great marketing for slapping onto breakfast cereals or shampoo bottles, but is meaningless when it comes to any positive or negative impact in and of itself and implies nothing in terms of health or harm.
If you look past the agonizing debate about environmental impact of one consumer product versus another, you might notice the huge companies in the background dumping toxic chemicals into rivers, pumping smog into the atmosphere, and wasting every type of fuel and energy like there's no tomorrow. But no, ignore that and focus on the fight! HDD underdog against SSD superstar! Get your tickets for this once in a lifetime event that you must watch now, more than ever! Please no videos of the dead cows and fish nearby. Let's get this fight started!
If you're intending to spool up another 10-20 datacentres storing a few tens of petabytes each (e.g. Facebook alone is producing 4-5 petabytes per day, and that has to go somewhere, and the be backed up somewhere else, and stored in duplicate at multiple locations to minimise access latency and meet bandwidth demands, etc) every year, each sucking down tens to hundreds of megawatts each, then the emissions from your operations are not insignificant and minimising them more complex than it first appears. And how different technologies result in emissions are also of concern as to how those datacentres are designed.
Using the article's example: if you are already using 100% renewable power for your datacentres, then HDDs may be the greener option despite their higher power consumption due to their lower emissions during manufacture. On the other hand, if you do not have access to reliable renewable power that can meet 100% capacity demand (e.g. lack of installed capacity, lack of local battery buffer capacity, etc) then the reduced total energy demand for SSDs may make the total lifecycle emissions lower overall despite the higher emissions during manufacture.
 

WrongRookie

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That's ridiculous. How on earth can SSD..a drive with no moving parts, uses just 2 watts of power, wears out for a very long time can do more harm to earth than HDD which uses a lot more than that?
 
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SentinelAeon

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Did they measure how much carbon emissions was used during that research ? I cannot belive for what things talented minds are used. Instead of doing this, how about using those people trying to improve the efficiency of solar cells ? Wind turbines ? Hydro power plant ? What exactly is the point of this information ? No one in the world is going to switch back to HDD's because of this information, no one gives a rat's a**. But we all know that sooner or later we will have to switch to sustainable so why not use the talent there, instead of saying what we already know over and over again. Thats my question to green peace for the last 20 years. Please show me how much in percentage you have improved solar cell efficiency in the last 20 years. How many patents do you own that will help the problems we face ? The worst thing is ... green peace and similar organisations are huge. Tons of money is coming their way. Imagine if all that money went to a startup company that would make cheap solar panel + battery + control system combos.
 
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tracker1

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My PC almost 2 years old, both nvme & hdd same age. nvme is boot drive and yet its been on 3000 less hours in the same time.
So ssd may not be cheaper in long run but nvme might?
That also doesn't cover reliability... I've had a single second gen SSD fail in the past decade... I've had over a dozen HDD drives fail in the same timeframe. You know what has less environmental impact... Components that still work.

I've taken generations of SSD into new computers. I've got SSDs I used in servers a decade ago still going strong in little RPi projects as they're more reliable and faster over USB than the SD cards.

I'm not a fan of the trend to solder ram and storage in laptops though. I know it's to segment pricing, but also really limits reuse... Which is the second R in Reduce, Reuse and Recycle... And far better than just recycling.
 
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husker

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Why don't we just cut to the chase: Every major component in a modern PC is worse for the planet than a PC of 10 years ago. And I'm due for an upgrade 😈.
 

bit_user

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What if... the reason co2 is going up is because there's more humans on the planet? 🤯
More humans certainly doesn't help matters, but at least the highest birth rates are in countries with rather low per-capita CO2 emissions.

The science is really quite clear. Politics isn't. If we truly believed in the objective of reducing CO2 emissions and the power of the free market, then we'd use a carbon tax and let the free market optimize our economy to minimize greenhouse gas emissions. If we can use trade tariffs for other reasons, we could certainly tariff goods & services from countries that don't have such carbon pricing.

I think major western countries still need to see more flooding of major coastal metropolises before we enter full freak-out mode and start taking this problem seriously. Too many are still in denial.
 
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bit_user

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Or people could just freeze to death. Ask the Germans how no nuclear power is working out for them.
Japan is actually restarting some of its nuclear power plants, to deal with its current energy crisis.

It was indeed sad to see Germany shut down nukes that were more safely designed than Fukushima, out of somewhat irrational fear exploited by politicians.
 

JTWrenn

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This article seems to have missed the simple point of the paper. It takes 8 times the carbon footprint to make an SSD as it does an HDD per GB. Over 5 years, even with greatly reduced power usage they still find that the SSD creates a total of about double the HDD all because of production costs.

All the rest of it is nitpicking at their numbers which could be adjusted, but even still the problem is clear. We need to come up with ways to lower emissions during production...which has always been the problem but big corps are really good at pushing the crap downhill to end users.
 
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bit_user

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Why don't we just cut to the chase: Every major component in a modern PC is worse for the planet than a PC of 10 years ago. And I'm due for an upgrade 😈.
Not necessarily so. Have you heard of RoHS?

And in spite of the ever-increasing peak power limits of modern CPUs and GPUs, they do perform more useful work per Watt than ever. Especially if you cut back some of the ridiculous turbo power limits.
 
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bit_user

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I cannot belive for what things talented minds are used. Instead of doing this, how about using those people trying to improve the efficiency of solar cells ? Wind turbines ? Hydro power plant ?
I cannot believe you're wasting your talented mind writing that post. Instead of doing that, how about curing cancer?

The simple answer is that improving solar cells, wind turbines, hydro power plant, etc. requires cutting-edge expertise in the fields of materials science, hydrodynamic engineering, etc. Not everyone has the skills to go into those fields, nor make ground-breaking contributions. Energy-efficiency is a simpler, but still important piece of the puzzle. However, I get the feeling this study was published more to raise awareness of carbon inputs, as the article explains that the methodology was somewhat flawed to truly estimate the devices' lifetime carbon footprint.

The worst thing is ... green peace and similar organisations are huge. Tons of money is coming their way. Imagine if all that money went to a startup company that would make cheap solar panel + battery + control system combos.
I'm not going to defend any specific organization, but I support the general practice of advocacy because the main hurdles we face are political. Solar is already cheaper than fossil fuels, so why hasn't it completely dominated energy generation? A lot of that comes down to the political influence wielded by fossil fuel producers, and that influence needs to be countered.
 
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Why_Me

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I cannot believe you're wasting your talented mind writing that post. Instead of doing that, how about curing cancer?

The simple answer is that improving solar cells, wind turbines, hydro power plant, etc. requires cutting-edge expertise in the fields of materials science, hydrodynamic engineering, etc. Not everyone has the skills to go into those fields, nor make ground-breaking contributions. Energy-efficiency is a simpler, but still important piece of the puzzle. However, I get the feeling this study was published more to raise awareness, as the article explains that the methodology was somewhat flawed.


I'm not going to defend any specific organization, but I support the general practice of advocacy because the main hurdles we face are political. Solar is already cheaper than fossil fuels, so why hasn't it completely dominated energy generation? A lot of that comes down to the political influence wielded by fossil fuel producers, and that influence needs to be countered.
Lithium batteries are involved with solar energy and they aren't so environmentally friendly. If fossil fuel producers wielded as much influence as some are lead to believe, you wouldn't see countries go under that have had green energy forced upon them.
 
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The entire approach to calculating is flawed. Because in general the cost $$ per gigabyte on a high capacity HDD storage will be much cheaper than SSD's. typical internal HDD 4 TB goes for $80. Whereas typical 512GB SSD is $50. The HDD is 5 times cheaper per byte. BUT you don't just use one or the other. You typically use the ssd as primary and use a HDD as secondary or even external. Typical user needs only 512GB to 2 T internal. Now replace the SSD's with NVMe and you get even better comparison ratio 2x and even lower wattage. Following this study blindly and thinking I'm greener by using a HDD as my primary storage is just wrong.
 
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cfbcfb

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I can think of the main item that they missed.

I have about 18 unused hard drives, pulled from various systems that I junked. And I tossed who knows how many?

I have around 0 unused SSD's, in fact I have every one all the way back to the first $199 64GB kingston drive that was affordable.

I have no unused ones, because they're all in something, and even that ancient 64GB kingston drive and it's SLC nand is better than a hard drive as a windows boot.

A drive in use for a very long time and which retains its useful characteristic is far, far better for the environment than a big heavy metal drive in a landfill after 4-5 years.
 

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