Stop for a second to think about how many irreplaceable files like photos, videos or even documents are on your computer's hard drive. What would happen if they all vanished in a heartbeat? What priceless information would you lose?
We all know it's possible; in fact, I'm sure it's happened to you or someone you know. That's why companies are working on technology for hard drives that can take more of a pounding and don't wear out as quickly. One of those technologies you can buy now is called the "solid-state drive," or SSD.
I've talked about SSDs before and how they're faster, more energy efficient and more reliable than conventional magnetic hard drives. Click here for the full breakdown of why you want an SSD in your next computer.
However, some computer experts are sounding a warning about SSDs because it turns out that they can lose your data for a surprising reason. So, is this a deal breaker?
As a bit of background, SSDs store data in flash memory cells. The electrical charge on the cell indicates whether it's a 0 or 1 in binary code. The beauty of this is that SSDs only need to use energy when they're updating a cell, which is much more efficient than magnetic hard drives that have to constantly keep a magnetic disk spinning.
However, over time the charge on an SSD's cells will fade. So, if an SSD is left too long without power, eventually the data stored on it will disappear. How long is too long?
Most consumer SSDs are rated for two years of storage without power. However, that's only if the drive is stored at the recommended temperature, which is usually in the mid 70s. You can check your manual to see the recommended temperature for your drive.
For every 9 degrees over the recommended temperature the hard drive gets, it cuts the storage life in half. So, if you were to leave your laptop in your car, in Phoenix, in summer, during the day when your car's interior temperature can hit 130 to 160 degrees, you could lose your data in a matter of days.
Of course, I should also point out that leaving your laptop, or smartphone, or tablet in those conditions will also ruin your gadget's battery in short order. In other words, if you live in a hot place, don't leave your gadgets in the car. And if you're going to be on vacation and you've turned off your air conditioner, maybe leave your computer in sleep mode instead of unplugging it.
Now, getting this particular set of circumstances to happen isn't very likely, and I have yet to hear of anyone actually losing their data this way. So I'm still a fan of SSDs because of their many good points.
However, it's a good reminder that anything can wipe out your computer's data at any time. That's why you need to be making regular backups to a secure, remote location.