Not surprisingly, those “30 terabyte” SSDs you can buy at Walmart and AliExpress are all a scam

Aug 30, 2022

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

Not surprisingly, those “30 terabyte” SSDs you can buy at Walmart and AliExpress are all a scam

Aug 30, 2022

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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It’s probably not that much of a surprise to most of us who actually use large storage drives but there seems to be a big trend lately, a whole flurry of drives popping up on sites like AliExpress and even Walmart claiming some pretty insane capacities at an even more insane price. We’ve seen this before with microSD cards from generic brands that claim to be 1TB when they’re not even close, but I haven’t seen it quite this blatant before.

The 1TB microSD card scam is kind of believable because 1TB microSD cards do actually exist and we’ve reviewed samples from SanDisk and Silicon Power here on DIYP. But a 30TB portable SSD? This capacity doesn’t even exist from the big brands yet. How about 60TB? Yeah, I’ve seen those for sale, too. And if the capacity alone wasn’t enough to stick a honking big red flag right in front of your face, what if I told you some of those “60TB” ones were less than $15?

None of these are what they claim to be. But don’t take my word for it, take the word of cybersecurity researcher Ray Redacted, who bought one in order to see exactly what was inside it and what capacity it really was.

His journey begins with simply ordering the drive. And when it arrived, a label on the outside of the box did indeed claim 30TB. It also claimed to be an M.2 SSD with USB 3.1 connectivity. Inside the box was a portable enclosure with a Type-C socket along with a Type-A to Type-C cable and two adapters that appear to be for OTG use with smartphones.

Before connecting it to his computer, he set about trying to see what was inside the enclosure. There were no screws or obvious way to open it, but he eventually managed to pull it open using a razor blade and slide it out.

What he saw inside is definitely not M.2, but what appears to be a dual microSD card reader with a couple of microSD cards literally hot-glued into place.

When provided with power, the LED light came on…

Plugging it into the computer did indeed reveal a pair of 15TB drives. Or at least, that’s what it told the operating system it contained. His son noticed that the device only appeared to work with USB 2.0, meaning that the USB 3.1 claim was also nonsense (if we didn’t know this already).

A fellow Twitter user pointed out that US retailer Walmart had apparently fallen for this scam, too, and was actively selling these drives on their website. The listing since appears to have been taken down.

So how are these drives not 30TB when they claim to be 30TB? Well, it’s pretty much the same as the old 1TB microSD card scam, as Ray explains…

In short, it’s nothing more than a couple of very low capacity (in the MBs, not even GBs) microSD cards using a cheap USB 2.0 hub chip that’s been programmed to misreport the capacity of those microSD cards back to the computer. But as Ray notes, it does it in a very clever way, as if you attempt to write something to the device that’s larger than the size of the card you’re writing to, it simply overwrites the data it’s already written, making it look like the file has transferred completely. If you try to copy it back, though… Nope, not gonna happen. The data just isn’t there.

If you’re looking for cheap large storage and you’re not sure if a deal is a scam or not, just have a read through Ray’s entire Twitter thread. Lots of people came out to show a number of other devices that similarly scam the customer. As Ray begins his opening post, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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One response to “Not surprisingly, those “30 terabyte” SSDs you can buy at Walmart and AliExpress are all a scam”

  1. Ecliptic Photo Avatar
    Ecliptic Photo

    Harddrives are so important in keeping your data safe. Blows my mind when people go cheap with it and get no name brands. 😬