The rising failure of SanDisk (Western Digital) SSDs is not exactly a secret. Earlier this year, users took to Reddit, and several news outlets reported drive failures themselves. They often resulted in a complete loss of data and dead drives.
Now, an Austrian data recovery service, Attingo, believes they’ve discovered the cause. They claim that WD is cutting corners, using incorrect components with bad construction. SanDisk is denying these claims.
A common problem
SanDisk’s SSD issues have become big news during 2023, with many reports of failures. And it’s not just users, either. Websites that have received test units or purchased their own have also reported the same issues, including The Verge and Ars Technica.
Western Digital announced a firmware in May to address these issues, but the reports still kept rolling in. In August, the firmware update was finally released. It did not specifically mention the issues reported by users or the data loss.
Since the firmware was released, I’ve not seen as many reports of drive failures. So, it must be helping at least some people. Data recovery company Attingo, however, says they’re still receiving at least one failed unit a week.
“It’s definitely a hardware problem”
The managing director of Attingo, Markus Häfele, spoke with Future Zone. He says that they “have at least one person every week who brings an external SanDisk hard drive to us because it no longer works”. The company cites hardware issues that firmware cannot fix.
According to Attingo’s statements, SanDisk has been cutting corners, using incorrectly sized components that don’t fit on the PCBs. Substandard solder on these oversized parts is causing them to not connect properly to the boards or work loose during use.
The components used are far too large for the layout intended on the board. As a result, the components are a little higher than the board and the contact with the intended pads is weaker. All it takes is a little something for solder joints to suddenly break.Markus Häfele, Attingo
Attingo believes that SanDisk/Western Digital should recall the affected devices. If, as Attingo believes, it is indeed a hardware issue, then firmware updates won’t resolve the issues. SanDisk, however, doesn’t agree.
In a report on PetaPixel, SanDisk has responded to the claims from Attingo. Not surprisingly, they reject them. They say that they “employ rigorous testing procedures” to maintain high standards of quality control.
The recent statements suggest that hardware components may have been responsible for the firmware issue that impacted certain SanDisk Extreme Pro 1TB, 2TB, and 4TB, SanDisk Extreme 4TB, and WD My Passport SSD 4TB portable SSDs earlier this year. While we are working to gather more information, at this time we do not believe hardware issues played a role in the product concerns that we successfully addressed with the firmware update.Part of the SanDisk statement to PetaPixel
The wording of the statement doesn’t completely deny the fact that hardware issues exist. I mean, that would be difficult to do anyway. Attingo provided plenty of photos in the Future Zone article. SanDisk just doesn’t believe that they are the cause.
The company says that their firmware update released in August fixes the issues. They also say that they’re still gathering information. So, it may not have fixed them completely.
I guess only time will tell. Attingo didn’t say if the drives they’re seeing now were updated to the new firmware. If not, then the hardware issues may be a coincidence. I suppose only time and several class-action lawsuits will tell.
Back up your drives
I’ve been a SanDisk fan for over twenty years. After a couple of competing brand memory cards failed in my Nikon D100 bodies in 2002 – within less than a month of purchase – I switched to SanDisk and never looked back. At least, not until this year.
While I’ve not personally experienced failures with SanDisk/Western Digital devices, their response to the SSD failure controversy has certainly put me off going forward. It will take much more than platitudes and denials to restore public trust in the company.
Prices have plummeted on SSDs in the last couple of years. If some companies are cutting corners to meet profit goals it wouldn’t surprise me. However, I wouldn’t expect that from a company like SanDisk. Especially on products boasting “Pro” in the name.
For now, if you’re using any of these devices, I’d stop. If you rely on them for work, it’s not worth the risk. If you do keep using them, at least back them up often. Don’t use them as your sole storage.