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A new supply shortage is now hitting SSDs and hard drives

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Cryptocurrency miners are already blamed for the shortage of graphics cards in recent years, and the situation has become especially dire during the global pandemic when coupled with supply chain disruptions. If miners have their way, there’s another important PC component that could become scarce. It’s reported that if the new Chia cryptocurrency takes off, the PC industry and gamers may have to grapple with a shortage of storage, as inventory of hard disk drives and solid-state drives could quickly become depleted.

Unlike existing cryptocurrencies, the Chia currency heavily relies on storage space, as it’s based on a “proof of space and time” model. On the other hand, currencies like Bitcoin are based on a “proof of work,” which doesn’t require as much storage.

And, according to Wccftech, Chia was developed by BitTorrent creator Bram Cohen, who wants to rely on storage as a more environmentally friendly model. Cohen’s logic is that drives like SSDs and HDDs consume less energy — compared to more powerful GPUs for Ethereum mining — and are cheaper. This should hopefully make the Chia model more accessible to miners.

However, it’s this accessibility that could result in shortages of vital PC storage components. Miners already banking on scoring big with Chia have reportedly started stockpiling vast numbers of SSDs and HDDs, even before the cryptocurrency is listed. Even though hard disk drives are more optimum for Chia mining — you can get more storage for less as compared to SSDs — casual miners are snapping up stock of both types of drives in anticipation for the Chia launch.

In a post on MyDrivers, SSD manufacturer Jiahe Jinwei in China reported that it had been completely depleted of its 1TB and 2TB NVMe M.2 drives, Wcctech stated. This has prompted the company to take steps that mirror what AMD and Nvidia have taken in the GPU industry. Reportedly, Jiahe Jinwei will prevent miners from buying large numbers of solid-state drives intended for sale to consumers, and they’ll also make drives that are purpose-built for mining, a move that mirrors Nvidia’s mining-specific CMP graphics card.

In addition to making a dedicated GPU for Ethereum mining, Nvidia had also added drivers to some newer consumer graphics cards to make them less suitable for mining in an attempt to thwart cryptocurrency miners from hoarding the GPUs before gamers can buy them. Gamers already have to contend with the shortages of GPUs and CPUs in today’s market, and adding an SSD shortage could significantly drive up the cost of building a rig.

Until Chia launches its cryptocurrency, it’s hard to tell the full extent of the impact on the PC storage market. If predictions pan out, prices for storage could also rapidly increase — that is, if you’re able to locate inventory of drives in the first place. In Hong Kong, Wcctech reported that pricing has so far increased by the equivalent of $26 to $76 for hard drives with capacities of 4TB to 18TB. Storage prices could continue to increase once Chia launches and becomes popular.

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Chuong Nguyen
Silicon Valley-based technology reporter and Giants baseball fan who splits his time between Northern California and Southern…
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