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Chinese Cryptocurrency Miners Selling Used SSDs, But There’s A Catch

October 4, 2021

Chia cryptocurrency logoThe plunging price of the cryptocurrency Chia has flooded the international market with used hard drives and solid state drives, according to a recent report from VNExpress International.

The article cites a Facebook group with more than 5,000 Chia traders. The group’s administrator notes a large number of posts advertising hard drives and solid-state drives for sale — and in some cases, the posts neglected to mention the storage media’s previous use in mining operations.

China’s cryptocurrency transaction ban may flood some online retailers with used hardware.

On Sept. 24, 2021, China’s government effectively outlawed cryptocurrency transactions, which decimated the value of other cryptocoins overnight. While some analysts expect some markets to recover, coins with a relatively small number of investors — like Chia — may see extended losses.

That might have an unexpected effect on the consumer electronics market. Cryptocurrency miners use powerful hardware to verify network transactions. In return, they receive a small portion of the cryptocurrency. Until recently, the practice has been common in China. However, mining is only profitable when the value of the underlying currency can justify the necessary energy costs and hardware expenses of the operation.

When the value of a cryptocurrency plummets, miners may decide to sell their used hardware to recoup their losses. That’s an issue: Cryptocurrency mining consumes a tremendous amount of resources and puts extreme stress on storage media.

Cryptocurrency mining can reduce storage media lifespan.

Hard drives use mechanical components to read and write data, and these components eventually fail. When hard drives are accessed constantly, their operating lifespan can plummet; add in the excessive heat from the graphics processing units used in most mining operations, and you’ve got a recipe for a premature hard drive failure.

Solid-state drives (SSDs) don’t use the same process to store data, but they’re also susceptible to short-term damage. An SSD has a limited number of write cycles; past a certain point, the device’s components become less reliable.

SSD manufacturers estimate drive lifespan with total terabytes written (TBW). The average for modern consumer drives is around 300 TBW. Past this point, the drive may still operate reliably — but the warranty expires, and the drive will gradually lose its ability to store data safely.

By one estimate, Chia mining operations can reduce SSD lifespan to less than 80 days. For comparison, consumer storage media is typically rated for 3-5 years of regular usage; many storage devices last much longer.

For more information, read our article about used storage media reliability.

Use caution when purchasing storage media online.

Needless to say, storage media from a cryptocurrency mining operation is unreliable. Unfortunately, if sellers don’t disclose the drive’s history, consumers might assume that they’re purchasing brand-new devices.

To limit your risks, keep these tips in mind:

  • Purchase hard drives from well-known, reputable sources. We recommend purchasing storage media directly from manufacturers and electronics sellers. Never purchase HDDs or SSDs from auction websites or other consumer-to-consumer sources.
  • Return any device that shows signs of use. While second-hand storage media can be inexpensive, it’s not reliable — and unreliable storage is effectively worthless.
  • Keep backups of all important files. All storage devices can fail unexpectedly, even if they’re brand new. We recommend keeping at least two backups, including one offsite backup.

If you’ve lost data due to hardware failure, accidental file deletion, or for any other reason, can help. Call 1-800-237-4200 or fill out our case submission form for a free quote.