Computer DVR Building

Flash Memory Drives

Copyright 2010 by Stephen Vermeulen
Last updated: 2010 Oct 21
Building an HTPC using the Gigabyte GA-MA78GM-S2H Motherboard

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See also:

General Information

  • 2010-Oct-21: The LaCie MosKeyto is a very small flash drive, but perhaps it could be made thinner. [9410]
  • 2010-May-29: Slashdot discusses formatting SD flash cards to get them to function again. It appears that A-Data may be having quality issues, in fact of all the flash cards (SD or CF) and USB flash drives I have owned the only one that I ever had issues with was an 8Gig USB flash drive from A-Data (this would occasionally lock up while being written to). The SD card association has an SD card formatting utility. [9145]
  • 2010-Apr-11: OCZ is going to take another shot at the fastest SSD drive title with their Vertex 2 d Agility 2 drives. [9072]
  • 2010-Apr-10: Addonics makes an internal USB adapter which you can plug into a standard motherboard 10-pin header to convert it into two type-A female sockets, you can then attach standard thumb drives to these to add internally-attached USB flash storage. Still it would make sense for motherboards to include a couple of these type-A sockets for this sort of thing. StarTech makes a similar adapter, in this one the two drives are mounted vertically. Delock makes a number of these, look for part numbers 41762, 41764, 41761, and 41763. [8997]
  • 2010-Apr-07: A new version of the Z-Drive from OCZ will put up to 8 channels of flash storage on a PCIe card and threatens to deliver read speeds up to 1.4GB/s. [9062]
  • 2010-Mar-11: Kingston has been having some quality issues with their microSD cards. More information on what is going on here. [8979]
  • 2010-Feb-09: A guide to using SSD flash drives with Windows. [8962]
  • 2010-Jan-09: A number of "secure flash drives" that claim NIST certification to the FIPS 140-2 standard have been found to be easily cracked. Turns out that while they may actually use AES 256 bit encryption inside the way the password authentication is done can be trivially bypassed so that any of these drives can be unlocked without the correct password. Schneier discusses it here. NIST is investigating this issue. The known vulnerable drives are:
    • Kingston DataTraveler BlackBox
    • SanDisk Cruzer Enterprise FIPS Edition
    • Verbatim Corporate Secure FIPS Edition
    [8904] [1]
  • 2010-Jan-01: The Vertex 2 PRO from OCZ may be the first SSD to outperform Intel's X25 flash drives. It is going to be based on a new controller by a company called SandForce. [8887]
  • 2009-Nov-22: OCZ is trying to outrun Intel with their new Colossus SSD, this appears to have a RAID-0 set up inside to give it extra speed (also here on Slashdot. [8781]
  • 2009-Nov-06: The new (and expensive) Intel X25-M flash drives have been bench marked with very fast write speeds, but these appear to fall substantially after the drive has been in use for some time. Discussed here on Slashdot. Intel says this is not so. Intel has investigated these claims and found the cause and issued a firmware update that addresses the issue (and also suggests the possibility that these drives are actually even faster internally, but are limiting their speed for marketing reasons). Another round of firmware updates in Oct'09 had some problems. [7585]
  • 2009-Nov-05: Super Talent introduced the first USB 3.0 flash drive in Nov'09. [8712]
  • 2009-Nov-04: Slashdot discusses the reliability of PC flash drives. Seems like the consensus is to stick with the Intel drives. Also cited are some articles: Linus on his Intel SSD (with followup here), and Jeff Atwood on the state of solid state hard drives which mentions the new drives from Crucial which the Stack Overflow team are using. [8703]
  • 2009-Oct-23: A new nickel in magnesium oxide ceramic memory chip could bring us a 50 times storage density increase, bringing flash memory to the 1TB per chip level. [8643]
  • 2009-Sep-03: Another comparison of 2.5 inch form factor SSDs, this time (Aug'09) all the devices have improved controllers and are getting read speeds in the 200MB/s range and even some write speeds in the 200MB/s range. [8450]
  • 2009-Aug-28: An article from PC Perspective on the current SSD drives (as of Aug'09) and why size and controller types matter. Discussed here on Slashdot. [8435]
  • 2009-Aug-08: An article that outlines how flash drives store and erase data and a discussion of recent improvements on Slashdot. [8381]
  • 2009-Aug-04: The OCZ Colossus line of SSDs will reach 1TB (if you have the cash!), still that's significant as it means that very soon SSDs will overtake conventional hard drive in capacity as well as speed. [8360]
  • 2009-Jul-15: The Kingston SSDNow V-Series SSD drives are starting to hit retail (July'09) at some pretty attractive prices. This review on PureOC shows they compare well to the more expensive Patriot Torqx and Intel X-25M drives, but that the Kingston still looses out when writing small files (which may be an issue when doing something like a C++ compile). [8263]
  • 2009-Jul-08: OCZ's next generation of SSD will be their Vertex Turbo drives which are expected to see read speed of 270MB/s and more importantly write speeds of 210MB/s. [8238]
  • 2009-Jun-28: The PhotoFast CR-7100 MicroSDHC adapter will turn a micro SDHC card into a Type 1 CF card. [8202]
  • 2009-Jun-25: Buffalo has made a 16GB flash drive in the super-small 5mm format that has been showing up recently in the Bluetooth module market. Talk about easy-to-loose drives! [8194]
  • 2009-Jun-16: A short user-review of the Samsung PB22 256GB SSD. [8152]
  • 2009-Jun-11: The Agility SSD range of drives from OCZ Technology are expected to bring the flash drive pricing down into the $300 (or less) range. [8118]
  • 2009-May-26: A new form of nanotech memory has been invented, in this a small crystalline iron particle is enclosed in a carbon nanotube. The position of the iron particle within the tube can be changed through a "writing" process. The position of the particle can be "read" by testing the resistance of the tube. Sounds a lot like some ball bearings rolling around, so what happens when the device gets tilted, or worse, shaken? [8042]
  • 2009-May-19: The OCZ Z-Drive is a high speed flash drive on a PCIe bus card. Initial tests are showing write speeds of up to 400MB/s. [7987]
  • 2009-May-14: Slashdot discusses a flash drive roundup that covers 8-16GB drives in the $20-40 price range. There are a couple of drives that standout in the write speed tests, but most have pretty similar read speeds. [7974]
  • 2009-Mar-27: AnandTech takes a critical look at SSD drives in early 2009, including two interesting surprises, that all SSDs will slow down (some very significantly) with use and that performance on small random writes is making most of the drives behave poorly as Windows system drives. [7803]
  • 2009-Mar-06: Disk on Module (DOM) drives are flash drives that are packaged with a standard interface (IDE, SATA or even USB) in a form that allows them to be directly plugged into a motherboard. They appear to be somewhat more expensive that a typical USB thumb drive, but they might be built to take a larger number of write cycles. MSI appears to be using one of these for their Winki instant-on OS. Of course one could probably get about the same effect by just mounting a regular USB thumb drive inside the computer's case an running an adapter cable from its external USB plug to the USB header on the motherboard. Since such an adapter is just a simple 4 wire passive device it would seem pretty trivial to do. [7700]
  • 2009-Jan-27: An ad-hoc review of 21 different USB flash drives (from 1GB to 64GB). This got extended in a second part which looks at the speed difference between FAT32 and NTFS for these drives. Generally FAT32 was a bit faster than NTFS. Note that for transferring files between different computers, especially when they are in different domains, FAT32 is much easier to use. [7390]
  • 2009-Jan-22: The ACard ANS-9010 is a RAM disk that interfaces with your computer via a standard SATA connection. It includes battery protection and has a built in compact flash slot that can be used to quickly save and restore the drive's contents if power must be disconnected for longer periods of time. This can take up to 64GB of DDR2 RAM and turn it into a very fast hard drive. Discussed here on Slashdot. [7476] [1]
  • 2009-Jan-09: Another generation of SD cards is approaching, this time the SDXC cards which will support capacities of up to 2TB. [7420]
  • 2009-Jan-09: Pretec has taken the CompactFlash physical form factor and given it a SATA interface to allow for much faster flash storage. What would be really neat would be to have a SATA interface at one end of the card and the old CF IDE interface at the other end, then you could use the same card in old and new devices. [7418]
  • 2008-Nov-28: Delkin makes an SD to CF Adapter that can convert both SD and SDHC cards into Compact Flash cards for about $20. [7270]
  • 2008-Nov-25: In Nov'08 Samsung introduced an SSD with 200MB/s write speed, which pretty much makes it faster than any mechanical hard drive. [7257]
  • 2008-Nov-06: SanDisk has been working on a new file system driver that will allow Windows to do random writes to SSD devices at up to 100 times faster than the current approach. [7160]
  • 2008-Oct-10: Delkin has produced a Secure Digital to Compact Flash adapter, this appears to be a CF type-1 form factor device and allows SDHC cards to be used by devices that only take compact flash cards. [7000]
  • 2008-Oct-08: Super Talent is going to sell 16, 32 and 64GB SSD modules for mini PCIe netbooks such as the ASUS Eee PCs. At $53, $79 and $149 they are sure to get some use. [6996]
  • 2008-Oct-01: In Oct'08 Corsair introduced the 64GB Flash Voyager USB drive for only $199. [6959]
  • 2008-Sep-14: HotHardware reviews four of the current (Sept'08) SSD hard drives from OCZ, Super Talent and Mtron. With prices now reaching $200 for a 64GB unit (for the lower performance drives) these are becoming more relevant to the regular consumer. [6851]
  • 2008-Aug-15: The OCZ Core Series V2 SSDs will be offering speeds of 170MB/s (read) and 98MB/s (write). These have both a SATA connector and a mini-USB port, but OCZ says the USB port is only for updating the drive's firmware. Seems like a dumb limitation, why not allow the drive to be connected to a computer by this USB port, then you could just slip a protective cover over the SATA port and then you've got "the world's most portable 2.5 inch drive". When USB3 is shipping a USB port on a drive would be a reasonable way of always connecting it, perhaps dropping SATA entirely. [6692]
  • 2008-Aug-11: A DIY SSD adapter that takes 6 SDHC cards and combines them into a 2.5 inch SATA drive. [6661]
  • 2008-Jul-15: A current review (July'08) has found that most SSDs are not saving power when compared to the mechanical drives they replace. Tom's has redone this review and are now finding that some SSD drives are going to save you power. The Tech Report has also done a similar power consumption review. [6481]
  • 2008-Jul-12: A lot of compact flash cards fail to do DMA transfers correctly, one that does work is the Sandisk Extreme III. [6511]
  • 2008-Jun-13: not all USB flash drives are the same (discussed here on Slashdot. If you are looking for a speedy drive, especially if you need to write a lot of small files, then there can be large differences in performance and probably the only way t ofind a fast one is through tests. Kingston has some documentation about what sort of NAND flash RAM technology it uses in its products, which may be significant if you use a flash drive for something that does a lot of writes (like running an operating system off one). They also mention that flash drives can store data for up to 10 years under normal conditions - something that does not receive much attention. This is particularly troubling as prices for SD cards (the most common format for digital cameras) have dropped to the point (in mid-2008, some are going on sale for $10 for a 2GB card) that one could consider just using them on a shoot once and then file in an album basis and not bothering to transfer the contents to hard disk or DVD media. [6333]
  • 2008-May-24: The CS1T and CR2T adapters from Sans Digital turn CF cards into 2.5 inch hard drives and can do RAID 1. [6225] [1]
  • 2008-May-22: An SATA adapter from Century that will convert up to 3 CompactFlash cards into an SSD hard drive. A nice idea, but at $192 without any CF cards it seems a bit expensive - though using this may still be less expensive than buying an off the shelf SSD drive. A video review of this is here. This adapter will do RAID 0 or 1 when two flash cards are installed and will do RAID 5 if three are installed. [5953]
  • 2008-May-07: Super Talent is adding a few new SSD drives, in the 2.5 inch laptop drive form factor, for as low as $299 for a 30GB drive (which is finally a bit less than CompactFlash cards on a $/GB basis). [6062]
  • 2008-Apr-23: Using CompactFlash in an SATA adapter as a replacement for a regular laptop hard drive instead of using a dedicated SSD device. This article gives some speed comparisons based on running Windows XP off a few different compact flash cards, and found that by using a faster compact flash card one could out perform a low end SSD drive. [5100]
  • 2008-Apr-19: A new version of the Compact Flash memory card format is being worked on, for introduction in late 2009 to 2010 time frame. This is to replace the IDE conection with an SATA type connection allowing data rates to hit 375MB/s. The specification (see the CompactFlash Association)for this is due to be published in May'08. [5154]
  • 2008-Apr-16: The DataTraveler BlackBox drive from Kingston features a 256-bit hardware AES encryption processor and has been inspected by NIST in the US and the Communications Security Establishment in Canada. I wonder how long it will be before hackers open one up and find there's a trivial way to defeat this drive's security, like so many of the competing products. At $424 for an 8GB drive it would probably make more sense to buy a conventional drive and an ASUS Eee to run TrueCrypt on it. [5819] [1]
  • 2008-Mar-14: A number of USB flash drives that feature built in "finger print scanners" for access control have been examined and found to be very insecure. Your best bet, if you want security, is to install TrueCrypt. Apparently the Corsair Flash Padlock USB drive (which has a keypad on it through which you enter the passcode) has a physical flaw as well - just disassemble it and short out one jumper to disable the access control and the thing is then wide open. [5273] [1]
  • 2008-Mar-03: ComputerWorld takes a look at 7 secure USB drives, this is discussed here on Slashdot. [5212]
  • 2008-Mar-03: Microsoft's StartKey (which might appear in late 2008) is an attempt to allow users to carry their Windows environment with them from computer to computer on a flash device. Perhaps a better approach would be to boot and run the whole thing from the flash device? [5209] [1]
  • 2008-Feb-28: Corsair's FAQ on flash drive wear leveling, this talks about both dynamic and static block wear leveling. [5184]
  • 2008-Feb-26: USB flash drives built into basic Lego-style bricks. [5164] [1]
  • 2008-Feb-24: Samsung talks about flash reliability in SSD drives, they figure that due to the wear leveling technology a 100K write cycle flash will make it virtually impossible to wear out an SSD drive. For a rough approximation consider that your computer writes continually at a 1MB/s rate, then with an 32GB drive it would take 32K seconds to write once to all the cells. This would then need repeating 100K times, so its 32K x 100K or 3200M seconds, which is about 106 years. If you drop the drive size to only 4GB then you are still looking at 13 years (which is more than a mechanical drive is going to last). Increasing the write rate will also decrease the time, so if you bring it up to the maximum speed that such a drive can sustain, which is around 32MB/s then the ultimate life of a 32GB drive would drop by a factor of 32 to about 3.3 years. So you're not going to be able to wear out one of these drives within a 3 year warranty!

    This sort of calculation also means that if a device like a compact flash drive is used in a computer as a system disk (so it's getting log files updated and the swap partition is on the drive) then so long as the device is large enough and the average write rate is acceptable then it will have a long life - and the easiest way to assure this is to just oversize the drive a bit. So instead of using a 512MB drive for your disk-less server, installing a 2GB unit will make it last 4 times as long. [5148]

  • 2007-Dec-29: A super-fast flash drive that is packaged as a PCIe card from Fusion-io, with up to 320GB of storage on it and speeds in the 600-800Mb/sec range. The entry level version is priced at $2400 for 80GB, that seems rather a high premium seeing that SSD drives of similar size are well under $1K. [3654]
  • 2007-Dec-13: The Mtron Pro 16GB SSD drive is reviewed here and found to be very fast in reads and random operations but still about 20% slower than a mechanical hard drive for writes. [4421]
  • 2007-Nov-20: There is some indication that SanDisk may be introducing a "write-once" type of lower cost flash memory, aimed at the digital photography market. There is probably a large group of photographers (consider the Grandmas of the world) who may prefer to keep their photos this way, rather than the more complex process of transferring them to a computer and backing them up to CD/DVD ROM. Consider the casual photographer who before going digital shot about one roll of film a month (so about 300 photos per year). Let us say that after going digital they now take 10 times as many pictures, so about 3000 photos per year. For further argument lets say that their photos are on average about 3MB each, so that's 3000x3 = 9GB per year. Given that you can currently (Nov'07) buy 2GB SD cards for $25/each that's about $112 per year to just buy new cards whenever they fill up and never reuse them. Note that at about $15 to buy a 24 exposure roll of film and develop and print it, this photographer was already paying about $180 a year, so even at current memory prices, never reusing flash cards actually will make sense. And given that memory prices will drop by another 30-50% in the next year it will make even more sense - even if SanDisk does not introduce this new type of card. In fact, unless SanDisk really prices these low I cannot see much point in using them at all. [4179]
  • 2007-Nov-05: The Need for Speed, an article that reviews various compact flash cards and readers to see which are worth paying more for. They found read speeds of up to 8.4MB/sec. [4023]
  • 2007-Oct-28: Arizona State University has developed a new type of flash-memory like storage, called a programmable metalization cell. This has been licensed to three companies already and they are expecting to see products based on this in about 18 months (so maybe in 2009). [3757]
  • A review of 16 USB flash drives with about 4GB of storage. This shows there are still some large speed differences between the models. [3656]
  • An article on how to calculate the life time of a flash storage device based on its size, wear rating, free space and anticipated write rate. [3655]
  • Sept'07 Sony introduced its 300x compact flash cards, these are capable of writing data at up to 45MB/s [3653]
  • Yet another flash format could be appearing, this time it is to be the one format to rule them all. [3652]
  • A speed test of several SSD drives [3651]
  • Buffalo will be building a 56GB USB attached SSD in a small form factor (about credit card sized) for those who need a portable data drive that is larger than the USB-stick type drives. [3650]
  • Iocell makes the mDrive a rugged USB flash drive that has a very small form factor, this is only slightly wider than the USB port it sticks into. [3649]
  • In June'07 SanDisk announced an increase in size to 64GB for their SSD units (1.8 and 2.5 inch) [3648]
  • Another new memory card standard could be hitting us soon - this time starting at 8GB and planned to go to 2TB - with cards having two interfaces (an MMC and USB) from the start. This article shows what the pin out and format of the cards look like on the S-Diamond card from Pretec, in a way this makes a lot of sense and could pave the way for USB storage interfaces on a lot of other devices (like digicams) that currently use one of the dedicated card slots. [3647]
  • A CF to SATA hard drive adapter, built around the 2.5 inch form factor allows you to make your own flash drive out of a standard CF card. This model is from Addonics. They also have CF to IDE adapters, including this one that holds two CF cards, for a pretty reasonable $29.99. A review of one of these adapters is here. [3646]
  • In Apr'07 SimpleTech announced 256GB and 512GB SSD drives in a 3.5 inch format. [3645]
  • SxS Memory Cards, are ExpressCard interfaced and use PCI-Express bus to achieve 100MB/s (800Mbit/sec) transfer rates, these are being targeted as flash storage for professional camcorder equipment, but they will propably fall through into the consumer spectrum. These are supposed to become available in 2007. [3644]
  • Super Talent will have SATA Flash Drives in 1.8in, 2.5in and 3.5in form factors in sizes up to 128GB in 2007. They also have regular IDE interfaced SSD units. [3643]
  • In Mar'07 Sandisk introduced a 2.5in 32GB SSD for about $350 [3642]
  • Adtron announced (Feb'07) a 160GB SSD and they claim up to 70MB/sec read/write performance. [3641]
  • In Feb'07 Lexar introduced their UDMA CompactFlash cards, rated at 300x speed, in the right reader these can hit write speeds of 45MB/sec [3640]
  • A do it yourself SSD adapter, essentially an IDE to SD flash interface that can hold up to 4 SD cards for a maximum of 8GB capacity in a 2.5 inch drive form factor. Currently quite overpriced. [3639]
  • A-DATA has announced a 128G solid state disk (SSD) drive, put 8 of those together with RAID and you've got a terra-byte SSD solution. [3638]
  • PQI has announced a 64G solid state disk with an SATA connector [3637]
  • Ritek has announced 16GB and 32GB solid state disks starting at US$169, to start shipping in Q2 2007 [3636]
  • SanDisk announced a 32GB solid state disk in a 1.8" drive form factor in Jan'07 [3635]
  • The MR-C11 and MR-C10 flash card readers from Elecom, one even has the ability to dub directly between two different cards [3634]
  • The U3 Smart Drive platform, this provides encryption on removable flash drives. But it sounds like you may have better luck using TrueCrypt instead. [3633]
  • A memory card torture test, reporting write speeds up to about 6MB/sec in some readers and up to 17MB/sec in one reader from Lexar, discussed here on Slashdot. [3632]
  • PQI will be releasing a 64GB SATA 2.5 inch flash drive in Aug'06. [3631]
  • Implementing portable USB-key installed applications [3630]
  • Comtread provides customized USB flash drives (with your logo on the case and even your software or marketing presentation pre-loaded in the drive to be displayed when the customer first uses the drive) [3629]
  • A very small USB flash drive from OCZ, the Mini-KART [3628]
  • Kingston has a secure flash drive that will automatically erase your data after 25 failed password attempts. [3627]
  • In Feb'06 SanDisk increased memory card capacities, yet again. While these cards may not sound like "mass storage" today, consider that a Windows XP with Office can still be comfortably installed on a 10GB disk, so it might well be feasible to run a Windows desktop off a flash card, and now SanDisk has read and write speeds up to 20MB/sec this might well be quite speedy. [3626]

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