SSD Hard Drives

SSD Hard Drive Reliability

For the first time ever, I had a computer come in for repair that had a faulty SSD Hard Drive. They consist a fast Memory, and a controller. So this makes SSD Hard Drives super fast, and importantly to this conversation, super reliable.

USB Ports

USB Ports

There are currently 3 types of USB Port. USB 2.0 & USB 3.0, both known as USB Type A, and then there is the newer USB C Type connector which is smaller.

4CH IR Gyro Helicopter

Christmas Present Ideas #2

4CH IR Gyro Helicopter


Have loads of fun with this 4 channel remote control helicopter. Outstanding performance with stable flight and magnificent hovering capabilities; all courtesy of the on-board gyroscope and a total of 4 motors! Dip, turn, spin or hover just like you see in the movies and if the batteries run out simply recharge through the quick connect lead from the remote controller. Equipped with a full metal frame chassis, it is very durable and shockproof. Excellent for beginners and first time flyers.


  • Built in Gyro
  • Infrared remote control
  • Weight: 310g
  • Requires 6 x AA batteries not included
  • Flight time: 5-7 minutes
  • Charge time: 40-50 minutes
  • Suitable for ages 14+
  • Dimensions: 230(L) x 130(W) x 105(H)mm
HD Car Event Recorder

Christmas Present Ideas #1

HD Car Event Recorder with LCD & GPS


Mounts to the car windscreen to record vision, audio, GPS coordinates and speed to a MicroSD memory card (available separately), which can be played back later to prove what happened in a car accident. The camera cycle records until the G-sensor is triggered during excessive braking, acceleration or collision. You can also manually trigger the recording if you see an incident ahead. Use the 2.4″ colour screen to help align the camera or to playback any recordings. Connect to a PC with Internet connection to see the car location on GoogleMaps during the playback. Other features include HDMI output to playback on a large TV, two bright LEDs to improve night time recording, and Li-ion battery to extend the recording should the power be disconnected.


  • GPS
  • G-sensor
  • 5MP HD Sensor – HD 720P (1280 x 720) @ 30fps
  • Cycled Recording
  • Approx. 25mins per 1 GB
  • 2 brights LEDS for low light recording
  • Video format: H.264/AVI or MP4
  • 95 degree wide angle lens
  • Microphone
  • Supports Micro SDHC cards up to 32GB (MicroSD only)
  • Playback software is compatible with 32-bit Win XP/Vista/7 only
  • Battery Run Time: 30 minutes


Connect your iPhone, iPad or iPod to your TV

Have you ever wanted to connect your iPhone or iPad to your TV?

One of our suppliers has a nifty Composite AV Cable that allows you to Charge, Sync, and watch Movies from your iPhone or iPod.

  • Can be used with any TV, Monitor, or Projector with Composite Video connections
  • USB Connector for Charging and Data Sync
  • Cable length 1.5m
  • Compatible with iPod Classic, iPod Nano, iPod Touch, iPhone and iPad
  • Apple approved cable

RRP is $59.95

Awesome New Case from Fractal Design – Define R4

The Fractal Design Define R4 is the latest in the Define Series of computer cases offering minimalistic and stunning Scandinavian design fused with maximum sound reduction, configurability and functionality.

The Define R4 side and front door panels are fitted with dense, sound-absorbing material making it a benchmark for noise reduction. Moreover, the Define R4 accommodates up to 8 HDDs, all modern graphics card sizes, and multiple ventilation options – including two standard Silent Series R2 hydraulic bearing fans – to keep internal components at optimal temperatures.

For ultimate functionality, the Define R4 features a front interface with USB 3.0 and an integrated three-speed fan controller behind the front panel door.

The Fractal Design Define R4 is available for $199.

What’s the difference between SSD & Standard Hard Drives?

Until recently, that average PC buyer had next to no choice when choosing what type of primary storage they got with their laptop, netbook, or desktop. If you bought a netbook or ultraportable, you more than likely had a Solid-State Drive (SSD) installed as the boot drive. Every other Desktop or Laptop would have had a standard Hard Disk Drive (HDD). Now however, you have may have the option of configuring your system with either an HDD, SSD, or in some instances both. But how to choose? Let me explain the differences between SSDs and HDDs, and detail the advantages and disadvantage of both to help you come to your decision.

What is a HDD and what is a SSD? The traditional spinning hard drive (HDD) is the standard storage you traditionally find in a computer. Hard drives are essentially platters that have a magnetic coating. It is this coating that stores your data, whether that data consists of documents, photos, or your digital music collection. A read/write head on a movable arm accesses the data while the platters are spinning in a hard drive enclosure.

A SSD does much the same thing functionally (saving your data while the system is off, booting your system, etc.) as a HDD, but instead of a magnetic coating on top of platters, the data is stored on flash memory chips that retain the data even when there is no power present. This memory can either be permanently installed on the system’s motherboard (like on some small laptops and netbooks), on a PCI/PCIe card (in some high-end workstations), or in a box that’s sized, shaped, and wired to slot in for a laptop or desktop’s hard drive (common on everything else). These flash memory chips differ from the flash memory in USB thumb drives in the type and speed of the memory. Flash memory in SSDs however, is faster and more reliable than the flash memory in USB thumb drives. Because of this, SSDs are more expensive than USB thumb drives for the same capacities.


SSDs and HDDs both do much the same job. They house your Operating System, store your applications and your data. But each type of storage has its own unique set of features. The questions are, what’s the difference, and why would a use one over the other?

Price: To be frank, SSDs are really expensive in terms of dollars per GB. For the same capacity and form factor you will pay up to 5 times as much. Since HDDs are older, more established technologies, they will remain the less expensive option for the foreseeable future.

Maximum and Common Capacity: SSDs are available in sizes up to 1TB. But those are very rare and super expensive. You’re more likely to find sizes from 80GB to 300GB as primary drives in systems, although having said that, you’d be less likely to find an 80GB HDD in a PC these days, as 120GB is considered a “base” size for a system in 2011.

Speed: This is where SSDs excel. A SSD equipped PC will boot much quicker than one with a HDD. A HDD requires time to speed up and reach operating specs, and will continue to be slower than a SSD during normal operation. A PC or Laptop with a SSD boots faster, launches programs faster, and has higher overall performance.

Fragmentation: Because of the nature of a HDD, HDD’s work best with larger files that are laid down in contiguous blocks. That way, the drive head can start and end its read in one continuous motion. When hard drives start to fill up, large files can become scattered around the disk platter, which is otherwise known as fragmentation. While read/write algorithms have improved where the effect in minimised, the fact of the matter is that HDDs can become fragmented, while SSDs don’t care where the data is stored on its chips, since there’s no physical read head. ***Note. If you’re using an SSD, you should not be defragmenting the drive to avoid excessive wear and tear. In fact, Windows 7 is smart enough to disable defrag for SSD drives.

Durability: A SSD has no moving parts, so it is more likely to keep your data safe in the event that you drop your laptop or your system is shaken or knocked while it’s operating. Most HDDs park their read/write heads when the system is off, but they are moving over the drive platter at high speeds when they are in operation. But even parking brakes have limits. If you’re rough on your equipment, a SSD is recommended.

Availability: Even with the flooding in Thailand in late 2011 (a major HDD manufacturing center), HDDs are more plentiful than SSDs. Look at the product lists for any Hard Drive manufacturer, and you’ll see many more HDD models than SSDs. For PCs and Laptops, HDDs won’t be going away, at least for the next couple of years anyway. You’ll also see many more HDD choices than SSDs from different manufacturers for the same capacities.

Form Factors: Because HDDs rely on spinning platters, there is a limit to how small they can be manufactured. There was a push to make smaller 1.8-inch spinning hard drives, but that stalled at around 320GB, since the MP3 player and smartphone manufacturers have decided to use flash memory for their primary storage. SSDs have no such limitations, so they can continue to shrink as time goes on. SSDs are available in 2.5-inch laptop drive size, but that’s only for convenience because they can be made smaller. As laptops become slimmer and tablets take over as primary web surfing platforms, we should start to see the adoption of SSDs increase rapidly.

Noise: Even the quietest HDD will emit a bit of noise when it is in use from the drive spinning or the read arm moving back and forth. Faster hard drives will make more noise than slower ones. SSDs make virtually no noise at all, since they have no moving parts.

Overall: HDDs win on price, capacity, and availability. SSDs work best if speed, ruggedness, noise, or fragmentation (technically part of speed) are important factors to you. If it weren’t for the price and capacity issues, SSDs would be the winner hands down.

As far as longevity goes, while it is true that SSDs wear out over time (each cell in a flash memory bank has a limited number of times it can be written and erased), thanks to TRIM technology built into SSDs that dynamically optimises these read/write cycles, you’d be more likely to dispose of the system for obsolescence before you start running into read/write errors. The possible exception are high-end multimedia users like video editors who read and write data constantly, but those users will need the larger capacities of hard drives anyway. Hard drives will eventually wear out from constant use as well, since they use physical recording methods.

The Right Storage for You

So, does an SSD or HDD (or a hybrid of the two) fit your needs? Let’s take a look:


Multimedia hoarders and heavy downloaders: Video and Music collectors need space to store their files, and you can only get this space cheaply with HDDs.

Budget buyers: Ditto. Plenty of space for few dollars. SSDs are too expensive for $500 PC buyers.

Graphics Artists: Video and photo editors fill up storage quickly and wear out storage through overuse. Replacing a 1TB HDD will be cheaper than replacing a 500GB SSD.

General users: Unless you can justify a need for speed or ruggedness, most users won’t need expensive SSDs in their system.


On the road: People that shove their laptops into their bags indiscriminately will want the extra security of a SSD. That laptop may not be fully asleep when you violently shut it to catch your next flight. This also includes folks that work in the field, like utility workers and university researchers.

Speed Demons: If you need things done now, spend the extra dollars for quick boot ups and program launches. Supplement with a storage SSD or HDD if you need extra space (see below).

Graphics Arts and Engineering: Yes, I know I said they need HDDs, but the speed of a SSD may make the difference between completing two proposals and completing five for your client. These users are prime candidates for dual-drive systems (see below).

We’re talking primarily about internal drives here, but the same applies to external hard drives. External drives come in both large desktop form factors and compact portable form factors. SSDs are becoming a larger part of the external market as well, The same sorts of logic applies, ie, if your on the road, you will want an external SSD over a HDD if you’re rough on your equipment.

Hybrid Drives and Dual-Drive Systems

Back in the mid 2000?s, some hard drive manufacturers came up with the idea that if you add a few GB of flash memory to a spinning platter type HDD, you’d get a so-called “Hybrid” drive that approaches the performance of a SSD, with only a slight price difference with a HDD. All of it will fit in the same space as a “regular” HDD, plus you’d get the HDD’s overall storage capacity. The flash memory acts as a buffer for frequently used files (like programs or boot files), so your system has the potential for faster boot times and quicker program launching. The flash memory isn’t directly accessible by the end user, so they can’t, for example, install an Operating System on the flash memory chips. In practice, these hybrid drives are still more expensive and more complex than simple hard drives. They work best for people on the move who need large storage, but need fast boot times too. Since they’re an in-between product, they don’t necessarily replace dedicated HDDs or SSDs.

In a “Dual-Drive” system, the system manufacturer will install a small SSD primary drive (C:) for the Operating System and programs, while adding a larger storage drive (D: or E:) for your data files. While in theory this works well, in practice, manufacturers can go too small on the SSD. Windows itself takes up a lot of space on the primary hard drive, and some apps can’t be installed on the D: or E: drive. Some capacities like 20GB or 32GB may be too small. 80GB is a practical size for the C: drive, with 120GB being even better. You will of course need physical space inside the PC or laptop to hold two (or more) drives.

Last but not least, a SSD and a HDD can be combined on systems with technologies like Intel’s Smart Response Technology. SRT uses the SSD invisibly to help the system boot faster and launch apps faster. Like a hybrid drive, the SSD is not directly accessible by the end user; rather, it acts as a cache for files the system needs often (you’ll only see one drive, not two). Smart Response Technology requires true SSDs, like those in 2.5-inch form factors, but those drives can be as small as 8GB to 20GB and still provide performance boosts. Since the operating system isn’t being installed to the SSD directly, you avoid the drive space problems of the dual-drive configuration mentioned above. On the other hand, your PC will require space for two drives, a requirement that may exclude some small form factor desktops and laptops. You’ll also need the SSD and your system’s motherboard to support Intel SRT for this scenario to work. All in all it’s an interesting workaround.

It’s unclear whether SSDs will totally replace traditional spinning hard drives, especially with shared cloud storage waiting in the wings. The price of SSDs is coming down, but still not enough to totally replace the TB of data that some users require. Cloud storage is an option but it isn’t free either. Home NAS drives and cloud storage on the Internet will alleviate some storage concerns, but local storage won’t go away until we have wireless Internet everywhere, including planes and in the outback.

Should You Backup your Smart Phone?

Smartphone-backupThe short answer is yes!

Here’s why: Smartphones are increasingly replacing normal mobile phones. A smartphone is a phone with PC-like capabilities.

What’s great about having a smartphone is that they enable you to perform many tasks that previously would have required a full-sized computer. While a lot of these applications are “cloud based” which means that most or all of the data is stored on central servers (that you don’t need to worry about backing up except if the cloud provider closes down or you discontinue your subscription to a paid service!) there is still quite a lot of important information that may only be stored on your smartphone.

As with all backups, this information builds little by little over time and sadly you may not recognise how important it is until it’s too late. Some of the information that could be at risk on your phone includes:

  • Photos and videos
  • Emails
  • Address books
  • Calendar entries
  • Documents, spreadsheets, presentations
  • To-do lists
  • Notes

So how do you backup your smartphone? Generally you back it up by joining it to a full sized computer periodically.

If your smartphone is an Apple iPhone, iTunes by default will do a backup of your device whenever it’s attached to your computer. It will also keep a number of backups. For these people it’s important to plug in your device regularly to back it up. Soon a new version of the iPhone Operating System is likely to provide the facility to backup directly to the cloud.

Blackberry devices have a similar computer-based backup and restore facility through “Blackberry Desktop Manager”. Again you need to connect your blackberry to your computer to complete the backup so it’s key that you do this regularly.

For other smartphones such as those running Android, you have to work a bit harder! While talked about for some time there is not yet an officially endorsed way to do a full backup of an Android device. This is likely to improve with time, but for now there are some third-party utilities that you can purchase which will backup most of the information on your Android. Just visit the Android Market and search for backup then try a few free/trial apps before you commit to purchasing one which works best for your device and needs.

How To Enable or Disable “AutoRun” for removable media

AutoRun can be enabled or disabled for all Removable media types, such as a Floppy or Zip disk, and USB Flash Drives. This is useful to know because removable media can easily be infected with viruses and spyware that is configured to install when removable media is inserted into the PC. Windows systems are configured to enable CD Notification, other removable media are by default disabled, but if for some reason they aren’t, then it is a good idea to disable them.

The System Properties User Interface only exposes the CD Enable or Disable option. The setting reflected in this dialog makes an entry in the System Registry. It is in this same location that other media types are configured.


1. Modifying the Registry is not for the inexperienced user. Anyone will tell you to, be VERY careful.

2. The modifications shown below use Hexadecimal not Decimal numbers. If you are unfamiliar with the Registry or Hexadecimal, looking into these topics prior to making these modifications is advisable.

To Modify the following Registry Settings, Use “Regedit” and navigate to the following Key:









The default value for the setting is 95 0 0 0. Change the first byte to 91. Restart the computer to make the new setting take effect. You may have to right-click on the floppy and choose AutoPlay from the menu to see the AutoPlay behavior.

Back It Up or You Will Lose It

backupBacking up your data is a bit like going to the Dentist or Doctor for a checkup, or checking the air pressure in your car tires.

It should be done regularly, but because of forgetfulness, the unpleasantness, or just plain laziness, you put it off and before you know it, the hard drive fails and all your files, emails, music, and photos are gone for good.

Given that the consequences are so dire, why don’t we all back up more often?

Most people don’t back up their hard drives. The reason? Most people don’t know how. I am constantly being asked, “how do I do a backup?”

So what are the best ways to back up your data cheaply and easily.

The most common means of backing up data is to use a second hard drive connected to your computer, either internally or externally. Hard drives can deliver huge data storage capacities, from less than 100GB to more than a terabyte (TB), and at a very low cost per-gigabyte. When buying a second drive, it is a good idea to opt for one that is at least twice the capacity of your current hard drive, as this will give you room to grow.

A second hard drive has the capacity to allow you to create a “mirror image” of your primary hard drive, making an exact copy of the entire drive. That way, if your primary hard drive fails, you can easily restore your computer with all your current data, software and updates.

You can add an additional internal hard drive, which involves opening your computer and installing it. With an internal hard drive, you can also set it up it in a RAID configuration that maintains an automatically mirrored copy of your primary hard drive in Real Time. Note that RAID wasn’t designed with the average consumer in mind, so setting it up is not particularly intuitive, and can’t be setup after the fact. It needs to be done at the time of OS installation. If RAID isn’t an option because you don’t want to reinstall the OS, I suggest the use of a fantastic little program called Mirror Folder. It simulates RAID without the need for a RAID capable motherboard, drivers and reinstall of the OS.

If all that sounds to hard, then using an external hard drive connected via USB, FireWire or if available external Serial ATA (eSATA) interface may be easier. eSATA supports fast transfer speeds equal to those of internal SATA hard drives.

Another reason external hard drives may be a better option is that they are portable. That means you can transport your backup files by simply unplugging your external hard drive and taking it to another location.

To get the most from an external hard drive, you’ll also need to use backup software. Many external hard drives are supplied with a backup solution that allows you to schedule automatic backups, and Windows XP, Vista, and 7, have simple backup software built right into the OS. If neither of these options float your boat, you can download free backup software, or buy a commercial one. My favourite backup solution is SyncBack (free and paid for versions) and even the aforementioned Mirror Folder.

Whatever you use, look for software that lets you schedule your backups. If your data is sensitive, then data encryption is another feature to look for.

Backing up to CDs or DVDs is another option, but mainly for those who want to safeguard just particular files and folders, and not the entire hard drive. That’s because optical discs have much smaller capacities. A CD can store only 650MB, a DVD stores 4.7GB, and a double-layer DVD stores 8.5GB.

The benefit to backing up to optical discs is that every PC these days has a disc burner. The discs themselves are readable by just about any PC, they are very inexpensive when bought by the spindle, and if properly stored and of sufficient quality, an optical disc should last at least 50 years. The big downside though, apart from the limited capacity, is that you can’t schedule optical burners to automatically back up your files, and like an external hard drive, you’ll still need software to make the backup process as painless as possible.

Thanks to always-on broadband, backing up your data to an online storage is now a viable option. Online storage often enables you to access your data from any PC that connects to the Internet. Online storage services also offer automated or scheduled backup for “set and forget” ease of use, and unlike backing up to another drive or optical discs, your files are stored on a remote server and not in your home. This means that you don’t have to worry about theft, fire or natural disasters, your data is safe and will still exist in cyberspace.

But there are limitations due to issues with bandwidth and maximum upload speeds as determined by your Internet service provider and plan. Backing up files online will take longer than copying files to a second hard drive, and depending on the speed of your service and the data allowance you have, this method could end up costing a lot more than purchasing an external hard drive or using optical discs, especially since some ISP’s, count uploads towards your monthly quota. Online services can’t create a full-drive mirror image, like you can with an external drive, so they’re best for backing up files such as digital photos, music, and other documents.

Carbonite is my choice for online storage services. It will back up your files behind the scenes. After you install the program onto your Windows PC, Carbonite can back up all the data on your hard drive or you can specify which folders, subfolders, and files you want to store. As long as your computer is on and connected to the internet, Carbonite will continuously monitor and back up your data. Whenever you create a new file or modify an existing one, Carbonite records the changes. The only files it won’t back up automatically are Windows system files, although you can force Carbonite to save them but it is advisable not to because they could cause problems when restored.

To indicate which files have been backed up, Carbonite adds coloured icons on the file or folder icons in Windows. A green dot indicates that the item has been backed up, while a yellow one means that a backup is in progress. Your files are encrypted and stored securely on remote servers. When you need to restore your files, just launch the program, and Carbonite guides you through the process, or if you are restoring files onto a new machine, just download the application, and Carbonite will take care of the process. Carbonite offers a free 15 day trial, and the service costs US$49.95 per year or US$89.95 for two years, with unlimited storage.

USB flash drives are perhaps the most familiar and newest players on the ad-hoc backup circuit. Although a small-capacity 128MB drive won’t have the capacity to backup anything substantial, newer flash drives with higher capacities of between 2GB and 32GB provide significant storage space.

USB flash drives are extremely portable which makes them great for backing up files to take with you. You can use the same software for backing up to other media, but you can also use the backup tools built into Windows or Mac OS X.

Due to their small size, however, these drives are easy to lose. If you’re going to back up sensitive materials to one, make sure it offers data encryption.

Finally, whichever medium or device you choose to backup to, remember they can all fail and fail badly. So it is always wise to have multiple backups in multiple locations.