SanDisk’s Portable SSDs are Dangerous Enough to Avoid For Now

The SanDisk brand, owned by Western Digital, has apparently been having a hard time maintaining SSD hardware standards for its products.

During the last year, as covered by a report from PetaPixel, the company has gone from one problem to another. Now, their portable SSD devices are causing many people to lose vast reams of personal data.

As Vjeran Pavic of the Verge covered recently, his SanDisk Extreme Pro SSD caused him to lose 3 TB of video because it simply failed out of the blue after only three months of use, well before any reasonable failure time frame.

Even more amusingly, this particular 4TB Extreme Pro was a replacement sent to him by Western Digital because of the previous failure of his earlier Extreme Pro 4TB SSD drive, which also failed too early.

Since these and other incidents, Western Digital has released firmware updates with its 4TB drives, but it’s hard to not be leery. It’s also worth bearing in mind that the 4TB Extreme Pro SSD drives we’re talking about here aren’t cheap at all:

Right now, on Amazon, they’re still selling for $297 a pop. The company obviously hasn’t recalled them from its online retail outlets, so it doesn’t seem to think there’s a big enough problem yet.

Instead, WD/SanDisk has issued a firmware update for its 4TB SSD drives that supposedly fixes their memory wiping problem, but as Ars Tecnica mentioned recently, this update hasn’t fixed the problem; staff with the website have seen two different 2TB Extreme SSDs fail on them recently.

Ostensibly at least, the SanDisk Extreme Pro  SSD is amazingly fast, robust and powerful, with a compact ergonomic design that’s supposed to be shock-resistant. We’ve also previously recommended SanDisk drives here at Shotkit or at least covered the brand’s new releases.

However, any brand can slip up and if those slips become persistent, then it’s a serious problem. This applies especially if we’re talking about multi-hundred-dollar external drives designed to protect vast reams of our most treasured video, text and photographic data.

In PetaPixel’s own reporting on this issue, the site mentions that members of their team have also had their own SanDisk drives fail early in the last year. In one of these cases, the failure happened with a Pro G40 drive barely a month after delivery.

According to PetaPixel, their problems with SanDisk drives have become serious enough that the entire site staff has stopped using them regardless of age or brand model.

If we move out into the wider world and see what many average users say about SanDisk’s drives, it seems that the same problem is very much still the case.

On Reddit, many users have reported all kinds of problems with their drives and as one user noted, WD has recently been selling these drives at suspiciously discounted prices too.

I haven’t noticed these discounts still applying much on SanDisk’s Amazon store, but they might have been the case before their firmware update to “fix” the issue.

This entire issue underscores the absolutely urgent need for any photographer who’s serious about data integrity to multiply and back up their work:

Having your photos and videos, or any digitized creative work, stored on your machine isn’t enough, but neither is having a single other backed-up copy of it on an external drive enough. As the above shows, you never know when hardware failure can visit.

Instead, aside from external drive backups (preferably multiple copies to more than one drive), you should pick a solid, high-speed cloud backup solution and also keep a copy of all your work there.

Taking a well-rated cloud backup option as a final resort will offer maximal protection of your photos and videos even if something truly catastrophic like a burglary or house fire causes you to lose all of your hardware.

It’s also worth noting that data recovery options for damaged drives can be iffy at best.

Software solutions and third-party services for recovering data from a failed drive can often let you extract all of your information, but the process can take days to weeks, be expensive, and comes with no guarantees.

I myself have suffered through at least three hard drive failures across my years of photographic work and managed to recover data in two of those cases, both of which happened with older, magnetic disk HDD drives.

It still took at least a week of painstaking work to pull all my refugee data from its sinking ships.

With SSD drives, data shows that they tend to fail less often than HDD drives, taking aside SanDisk’s recent shenanigans.

However, when SSD does fail, data recovery is notoriously harder to pull off. This is one more reason to also use a cloud backup regardless of your home storage hardware.

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