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As far as I know, an EMP can cause unrecoverable damage to traditional magnetic HDDs (regardless to whether they are turned on or not) in an instant and is also capable of damaging other microelectronic devices (that don't use magnetic technologies themselves).

What about SSD drives? Will the information on such a drive be lost in case of an EMP event even if the drive is turned off?

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I like this question... But I wonder if it actually belongs on physics...? – AthomSfere Jul 5 '13 at 19:20
Keep in mind, Electricity is an electro-magnetic effect. Any unshielded circuit with power running through it will overload and short to ground (usually in the most destructive way possible) when exposed to a sufficiently EMP, regardless of whether there is a magnet in play, because electricity moving through a channel creates an electro-magnetic field. – Frank Thomas Jul 5 '13 at 19:26
up vote 5 down vote accepted

The traditional Hard Disk is actually more likely to survive an EMP than an SSD:

Per Wikipedia:

The major effect of a large EMP is to induce high currents and voltages in electrical systems, damaging them or disrupting their function. NEMP weapons are designed to maximise such effects, and are capable of destroying susceptible electronic equipment over a wide area. An indirect effect can be electrical fires caused by the high level of overload.

An SSD is purely an electrical system, so these pulses will easily damage the transistors where an HDD would require a strong magnetic field to physically change the pits of the surface of the disk.

I do not believe either is especially difficult to kill with a good EMP, but I would expect the tolerance of the SSD to be lower than an HHD from an EMP.

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Note that the controller circuity of the traditional disk would need to be replaced, to restore the drive to functionality. if it was under power at the time of the EMP, the controller card will have been destroyed. – Frank Thomas Jul 5 '13 at 19:31
@FrankThomas Agreed, I was thinking only of data integrity in the answer, but perhaps this should be expanded. – AthomSfere Jul 5 '13 at 19:53

As others have mentioned, your SSD is susceptible to EMP while under power. unfourtunately, it looks like it is vulnerable, in many cases, while unplugged as well.

per wikipedia, many types of drives use either a battery or Super-capacitor to prevent data corruption when power is lost. This means that most of the time, an SSD will still carry a charge and is susceptible to EMP. if the drive uses a super-capacitor, and has been disconnected long enough to have dissipated its charge, it should be safe however, unless the EMP itself is sufficiently powerful to destroy the media alone (in which case, I would expect the humans of planet earth to fare far worse than the unplugged SSDs.)

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Magnets won't affect SSDs. Flash memory is electric field based. You will need to acquire an isolated electricity source as well. It doesn't matter how EMP proof your computer is if it's plugged into a wall outlet. The particles in the blast waves would surge through the country's power grid and force their way through the electrical wiring in your house (or wherever you happen to be). If your computer is plugged in the electrons will simply travel through your power cord and fry your motherboard, among other things.

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Magnets will not, not EMPs are a little more complicated than rampant magnetic waves... – AthomSfere Jul 5 '13 at 19:20

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