Should I Buy a Used SSD?


Over the past decade, SSDs have become the number one storage solution for gamers. 

With blazing-fast data transfer capabilities, gamers can spend more time playing and less time looking at loading screens. 

Able to shift data 20 times faster, M.2 NVMe SSDs, and other SSDs, are the only option for the serious PC gamer. 

Now, with the introduction of PCIe 4, future SSDs could reach speeds 30-40 times faster than a traditional Hard drive or double the speed of PCIe 3 M.2 SSD. Decreasing loading times that used to be 40 seconds long to just 1 second. 

It sounds like a perfect gaming future that harks back to the instant loading times of consoles like the Sega Genesis and the SNES.

But there is a fly struggling for life in the ointment. 

SSDs are expensive. 

Could there be a way to get the super fast loading times, without the wallet bashing payout? Could you buy a used SSD and get more speedy storage for less money? 

Of course you could buy a used SSD. Take a look on eBay: it’s full of them. But the question is… 

Should I buy a used SSD? No, you should not buy a used SSD. You will save very little money buying a used SSD over a new SSD. The difference in price is usually less than 5-10%. Plus, buying a used SSD has all the negatives of buying a used Drive including data from previous owners and an unknown history. And entrusting your data to a used SSD is never a good idea. 

In this article:

  • Your question: “Should I buy a used SSD”, will be answered in more depth
  • We’ll look at alternatives to used SSDs
  • Finally, you’ll get a conclusion and a look at what you can do next

Now you’re ready to dive into the first section, let’s get started!

But first, a quick note… 

As I’m from Wales in the UK, I sometimes talk about prices in UK pounds. 

The reason for this is simple:

I wanted to be as authentic as possible by using my own experience of buying used PC parts here in the UK.

UK prices can be easily converted to US dollars. 

The price in US dollars and UK pounds are pretty much the same cost after taking into account UK VAT Tax. So £100 is roughly equal to $100.

Why you should not buy a used SSD

M.2 drives are doing on motherboards, Usually close to the PCIe slots.

SSDs degrade

SSDs seem perfect on the surface for buying used: They have no moving parts like their Hard drive brothers.

But SSDs suffer from another problem…

See, SSDs use a type of memory chip called “non-volatile” Memory which is very similar to RAM, but different in one key aspect.

Ram uses a “volatile” type of memory chips. This is an overly fancy way of saying that RAM memory chips need a constant supply of electricity to “remember” the data that is in them. Remove the electricity, and the data goes with it.

SSD memory chips, which are non-volatile, don’t need a constant electrical supply to remember their data. Which is handy because when you turn your PC off, and all your data is still stored. 

But this storage without electricity comes at a cost.

Each little cell within the chip, which represents a single 1 or 0 can only have data written to it 3,000 to 100,000 times before the cell “wears out”. Something inherent with non-volatile memory. It slowly moves from a non-volatile state to a volatile state over time with use.

Now that sounds like a lot. And 100,000 writes is a lot. The problem is, each cell’s lifespan is different. So one cell could live for 3000 writes. Another 20,000 writes. And yet another 90,000. You have no way to know.

You could buy an SSD that has had only 1000 writes to each cell on average, or you could buy an SSD that has had 75,000 writes to each cell on average. You never can tell. In the later’s case, 75,000 writes could mean half the SSD is on the brink of dying.

This slow but inevitable death of SSDs is one of the main reasons why I wouldn’t buy a used SSD. You simply don’t know how much life is left in the drive. And you don’t save enough money to warrant that risk. 

NVMe SSDs are easy to break 

SSDs are split up into chips that house data on them. If any of these are damaged, you lose large chunks of storage space and large chunks of your data.

NVMe SSDs are different from normal SSDs. 

Normal SSDs come in little plastic or metal boxes, a little like normal hard drives. 

NVMe drives are like sticks of RAM. 

These NVMe drives are very delicate and, if not handled incorrectly, can fail both electrically and physically. 

This can be because of micro-cracks in the PCB, bending which forces the memory chip’s connections out of the PCB, or electrical static discharge.

Either way, physical and electrical damage can and does affect NVMe drives. 

Buying a used SSD doesn’t save a lot of money 

Samsung offer some of the best SSDs on the market. But you’ll pay more for the privilege of their use.

One of the main reasons why buying a used SSD is pointless is you just don’t save a lot of money. 

In doing my research for this article, I went hunting for a number of Samsung Evo SSDs and Sabrent M.2 SSDs on eBay in hope of finding a bargain.

Unfortunately, a bargain SSD was not to be. Instead, I found used versions of Samsung and Sabrent SSDs and NVMe drives selling for more than their new equivalents. 

A used hard drive could have the previous owner’s data, or worse, left on it. 

I have unfortunately bought used SSDs and NVMe drives in the past, only to find the previous owner hadn’t scrubbed them clean of all their data before sending them to me. 

So, after plugging them into my PC, I had access to their data. 

Of course, you can format a SSD before it’s ever detected by Windows using Boot up formatting tools. So you never have to see other people’s data. 

But what if there was something malicious on the hard drive. What if the previous owner was storing unsavory content on it? What if they’d filled it full of viruses before sending it to you, wittingly or unwittingly? 

The problem is, you have no idea what is on that SSD until you plug it in to your PC. 

And sometimes, as soon as the SSD is powered on, it’s too late to save your PC from unwanted viruses squirming their way into your operating system files. 

The best thing to do is just avoid used SSDs. 

Buying a used SSD… Doesn’t give you peace of mind

M.2 drives are very small, and can be quite fragile.

This is a personal one for me. 

But I just could not put sensitive data on a used SSD and sleep easily at night. 

Especially knowing everything I’ve just talked about. 

I can replace CPUs, motherboards, and graphics cards, but I can’t replace important data. 

Working files for Sony Vegas, Models for 3Ds MAX, and game development resources are just too big to constantly upload to cloud storage. Especially if you have a slow internet connection. Or you if you have a monthly data limit. 

In this case, sudden SSD failure would mean thousands of hours of work vanishing, instantly, never to be seen or worked on again. 

Yes, you could argue that’s what cloud storage is for. 

But cloud storage is expensive. And if you feel like you need cloud storage as a backup for your used SSD, then surely you should have just bought a new SSD for peace of mind? 

Alternatives to buying a used SSD

The only real alternative to buying a used SSD or NVMe drive is to buy new. 

So I’ve found two of the best choices currently available for the gamer on a budget to buy a new SSD:

One option is a normal SSD. The other is an NVMe M.2 drive.

Both are great options. Generally, NVMe drives move data around much faster than normal SSD drives which means Windows will boot quicker and games will load faster.

But you pay for the extra speed.  

Normal SSDs

WD drives offer great value plus great performance. There are better drives, but not at their price.

If you are on a budget, I’d recommend the Western DIgital 500GB SSD, which has tens of thousands of 5-star reviews (Seriously, I’m not kidding).

The Westan Digital offers high performance on the order of 4-6 times faster than a traditional hard drive. They are also very reliable and sold at a budget-build friendly price. 

If you take a look at the link above, you’ll see you can buy a 250GB version for $15 less than the drive I’m recommending. But I’d save up the extra $15 dollars and buy the 500GB version. Especially with game installs getting bigger and bigger. 

NVMe M.2 SSDs

Sabrent M.2 NVMe drives are some of the best on the market. And cheapest.

If you have a bit of spare cash to spend, maybe you saved some cash when buying other used components, I’d recommend buying an NVMe SSD stick to slot into your M.2 socket on your motherboard.

These M.2 drives are often 20 times faster than traditional hard drives and can have Windows, and your games, loading in single digit seconds. 

I’d recommend you buy an NVMe drive from Sabrent as they, as of writing, offer the best bang-for-your-buck performance. 

Check out the Sabrent 500GB NVMe M.2 drive, and it’s 8,000+ 5-star reviews here. It’s what I have in my gaming rig and it’s amazing. 

However, if you’d like to pay a little less, you can buy the 250GB variant for about $30 less. 

And be sure to check that your motherboard has an M.2 slot. Some older model motherboards don’t have an M.2 slot.

If your motherboard doesn’t have a free M.2 slot, it’s not the end of the world. You can buy a cheaply available PCIe card with an M.2 slot built into it.  

But again, check that you have a free PCIe slot. 

Conclusion

I honestly believe that buying a used or refurbished SSD is a risk that is not worth taking. 

They slowly degrade over time giving you less and less space to store games, data, and programs. And you have no idea of the use history of a used SSD. It could be very young but used heavily, or vice-versa.

You have no idea what data has been stored on the device. It could be packed full of viruses and you wouldn’t know it until you boot Windows, and malicious software starts demanding cash off you. 

But most importantly, you just don’t save that much money buying used over new SSDs. We are talking about a 5 difference. If that.  

So, the answer to the question, “Should you buy a used hard drive” is clear: 

You should absolutely Not buy a used SSD or NVMe M.2 drive. 

In fact, I’d go as far as to suggest that you can buy any PC hardware used, except an SSD, NVMe, or Hard drive.  

Instead, you should buy a new SSD. My recommendation are:

An M.2 drive from NVMe SSD from Sabrant if you have an M.2 socket on your motherboard. 

A Wester Digital SSD drive if you don’t have an M.2 socket.

What’s next?

Can I buy other used refurbished parts? Yes. GPUs, CPUs, motherboards, Blu-ray drives, you name it I’ve bought it used and built a system out of it. I’ve never had any failure or problems. 

What about used fans and cases? Yes, you can buy used fans and cases. You can also buy used CPU cooling solutions. 

What about the PSU? I have bought used PSUs in the past and they have worked absolutely fine. However, PSUs degrade over time. Their power output drops by about 5% every year. So, an old PSU will supply less power than a new PSU. That being said, if you buy a very powerful old PSU, it should easily have enough power to power even the most power-hungry modern components.  

I’d like to build my own gaming PC from used parts, how would I do that? Ah, you are in luck, I wrote a “how to create a gaming PC from used parts” a few months back. You can take a look at it here.

Nick Sinclair

Having played games since the golden age of the Commodore 64, Nick finally took the plunge and studied Creative Game Design in university. After 3 years of "Study", Nick co-founded a games company where he soon discovered his true calling: writing about games. 11 years later Nick writes about a tower of topics, but gaming is always stacked neatly at the top.

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