SSD Drives: How Long Do They Last?

Category: Hard-Drives

Solid State Drive (SSD) technology has been taking over the mass storage market rapidly. But there's always been uncertainty about the useful lifespan of a solid state drive, as compared to a traditional magnetic drive. Will your SSD conk out suddenly, or will it last for years? Read on...

SSD Drives Keep Going and Going

SSD capacities keep rising, prices keep falling, and SSDs show up in everything from phones to desktop gaming PCs, high-end workstations, servers, and any place where magnetic hard drives have dominated for decades. It’s easy to understand the enthusiasm for SSDs.

An SSD drive is much faster than a magnetic drive; that means faster boot times and more responsiveness in applications, particularly when dealing with large data files. With no moving parts, SSDs are silent and less subject to mechanical failures.

But rumors persist that SSDs won’t last as long as mag drives. Manufacturers provide warranties ranging between 3 and 5 years, but that doesn’t satisfy the skeptical. A warranty won’t replace your irreplaceable photos, videos, music collection, and so on. Everyone wants to know, “How long will an SSD last?”

SSD Lifespan

The uber-geeks at Tech Report decided to answer that question once and for all by writing 100 MB blocks of data to six consumer-grade SSDs until all of the drives died. The torture test started in August 2013 and ended in March 2015. The six drives tested were nothing special, just off-the-shelf consumer SSDs that you can pick up at Best Buy, Tiger Direct, or even Walmart. The line-up included: the Corsair Neutron GTX 240GB, Intel 335 Series 240GB, Samsung 840 Series 250GB, Samsung 840 Pro 256GB, and two Kingston HyperX 3K 240GB.

Megabyte, Gigabyte, Terabyte, Petabyte...

Each of the drives was warranted to last for at least 200 terabytes of data writes. That’s a lot more than the typical home or small business user will write in 3 to 5 years. Usually, manufacturers tend to over-promise on such things, but these SSD drives are surprising everyone.

In addition to standard magnetic drives and solid state drives, there's another option: The Solid State HYBRID Drive, which combines the best features of both styles. See my related article: What is a Solid-State Hybrid Hard Drive?

All of the drives surpassed their official endurance specifications by writing at least 700 hundred of terabytes without issue. Two of the drives exceeded 2 PETAbytes before giving up the ghost. Most SSD users will write less than a few terabytes per year. It’s noteworthy that NONE of the SSDs failed until they were 3.5 times past the manufacturers’ data-writing warranty, which is about 9-15 years’ worth of normal home use.

A petabyte is 1,000 Terabytes, a nearly incomprehensible number normally found only in NSA or NASA IT projects. The first three seasons of the HBO hit, “Game of Thrones,” in 1080p MP4 format, occupies 9,285,418,071 bytes (9.3 GB). One petabyte equals about 107,695 copies of that data set.

So if anyone suggests that SSDs don’t last as long as magnetic drives, point them to this article. If you really want to bury them in excruciating details about the Tech Report testing methodology, SSD data storage techniques, and other geekiness, point them to this page which chronicles the SSD Endurance Test.

Some Notes on SSD Reliability

A research paper published at the Usenix 2016 conference argued that SSD age, not usage, affects reliability. And high-end drives based on SLC technology are no more reliable than less expensive MLC drives. So outside of a "torture test" environment, you should not have to worry about your SSD failing in the first 3 to 5 years.

However, the study also found that the uncorrectable error rate for SSDs is higher than for magnetic drives, which means SSDs are more likely to lose data. So ironically, backing up SSDs is even more important than it is with magnetic disks. So if you are currently backing up *TO* an SSD, you should consider having a backup or your backup, preferably on a traditional magnetic spinning disk.

Here are some signs that your SSD might be starting to fail:

  • A error message indicating that a file cannot be read or written, or that the file system needs to be repaired.
  • Programs freeze up and crash.
  • Errors that occur while booting up, which go away after retrying.
  • Slow performance while accessing large files.

If you notice any such symptoms, check out Crystal Disk Mark for Windows, or Smart Reporter Lite for Mac OS X systems. Both are free apps that can help you diagnose disk problems.

Bottom line, any of the latest crop of consumer SSD drives seems likely to outlive your computer, and will probably last as long or longer than a magnetic drive. But don't use that as an excuse to avoid doing regular backups. See my Backup Articles to learn more about that.

Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

 
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This article was posted by on 4 May 2017


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Most recent comments on "SSD Drives: How Long Do They Last?"

Posted by:

Kenneth Heikkila
04 May 2017

Good to know. I wonder about hybrid drives, are they really the best of both worlds or do they multiply the flaws of each type (HDD and SSD)?


Posted by:

Dwayne Hunt
04 May 2017

This is great news!! I use a 1TB SSD on W10 for my Protools music recording studio system and I was delighted, to say the least, at the speed increase I realized when I installed it. Drive read/write speed is VERY important on that system because Protools operates in a real-time environment. If the system can't keep up with the data stream when writing a track, it creates horrible problems! I previously had used a Hybrid drive and it was somewhat faster than the conventional drive that it replaced. The SSD was considerably faster than the Hybrid. I had some concern in the beginning about longevity of the SSD, so I increased my efforts on backups. But so far, I have not had any problems. I use the SSD for Operating System duties only and not for the music tracks currently, but I am in the process of replacing the recording volumes with SSD's. That should really blow and go.
Thanks, Bob, for the valuable information regarding the reliability tests.
Dwayne Hunt


Posted by:

Charley
04 May 2017

So since the average life of a hard drive is about 4 years, then it sounds like SSD drives last at least that long, but with some caveats.

And as you always remind us, BACK UP YOUR STUFF.


Posted by:

Robert A.
04 May 2017

The way the trend seems to be going, within five years, the traditional hard disc drive (HDD) should be fairly well phased out and replaced by SSDs, in most, if not all, new computers. I'm curious to see if SSDs will replace HDDs in the aftermarket back-up drive segment, like the Western Digital My Book series of back-up drives, among others. It's interesting that within our lifetime, HDDs may join the VHS and cassette tapes, film cameras and incandescent light bulbs on the scrap heap of technology history.


Posted by:

Sarah L
04 May 2017

I have lost so many files over the years to HDD that failed in not a good way. I bought SSD as soon as I heard of them, for the lower destructive failure rate. So far so good. We saved one HDD as part of my multiple back up scheme. Plus the SSD was larger as to how much it held. HDD are cheap, yes, but irretrievable data loss is not fun.


Posted by:

Therrito
04 May 2017

Great article, Bob!
I currently have a 10,000 RPM 74G Western Digital Raptor as my C: drive. It was my C: drive in my old PC and it's still running strong after 14 years. But I do worry that some time soon it may fail so I have been recently looking into SSD drives. I do plan to get one (soon-ish) but I an currently unemployed and jobs are hard to find in my town. Hopefully I can get a new SSD to replace my old Raptor some time this summer.


Posted by:

MmeMoxie
05 May 2017

@Therrito - I have a couple of 40GB Western Digital HDD for well over 10 years myself. Now, they are my backups when I really need a HDD, so they haven't been in constant use but they work when I need them. I prefer to buy Western Digital. Yes, I have had a couple that crapped out on me, but overall I have had some great successes with a Western Digital in the past 20 years.

I got a WD 80GB HDD at a great price, brand new. It just quit on me in 90 days. It was under warranty by WD, called them, gave them the code and viola! - They shipped a new one out to me. Now that's a good company that honors their warranties.

I have contemplated getting an SSD, but they are still too pricey for me. Yes, they have come down quite a bit, but for the size that I want the prices are still high. But it is good to know that they are solid, no pun intended. I just wonder why they tend to lose data? Probably why the magnetic HDDs just lose it all. Hearing the noise of a dying HDD is "fun" though - NOT!!! }:O)


Posted by:

Jack
05 May 2017

I wonder how much heat affects both types of drives.
Would an external drive (presumably running cooler) last much longer than an internal drive? And does heat affect a SSD more, or less, than a HDD?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Heat is the enemy of all electronics. I'd guess it would affect an SSD more than HDD, since it has a higher density of electronic components.


Posted by:

Fran Warner
05 May 2017

Just a query Bob....
Have you any idea why, when I click on the links in your articles, all I get is a little yellow star? I have to right click and choose "Open in a new tab" to be able to access them.

Thanks for all your great and helpful articles.
Always look forward to seeing our name in my inbox.
Fran


Posted by:

Dave
05 May 2017

I wish he had reminded us again about those "free" pen drives you get at store openings and such. THROW THEM AWAY!
Loaded with malware!


Posted by:

RandiO
07 May 2017

Mr. Rankin, your statement that the first 3 seasons of Game of Thrones occupying 9.3GB is highly questionable. Each season being about that size (7-10GB) @1080p *.mp4 is more inline with what is currently being offered at that big torrent site.


Posted by:

Joe R.
08 May 2017

Please be aware that not all SSD's, or computers sold with them, are equal. I bought a laptop for my wife with a small SSD, thinking it would have faster boot times, as mentioned above. VERY disappointing. As memory filled up, it became slower to the point of torture. Thought I would just upgrade it, looked it up & found it was "not upgradable".


Posted by:

William Junger
15 May 2017

I clone my C: partition every week, alternating between 2 "clone" drives. That seems like it might be a "more than average" useage. (1) Is that too much to entrust to an SSD, and (2) Should I clone to at least one HDD? Thanks.


Posted by:

William Junger
15 May 2017

I clone my C: partition every week, alternating between 2 "clone" drives. That seems like it might be a "more than average" useage. (1) Is that too much to entrust to an SSD, and (2) Should I clone to at least one HDD? Thanks.


Posted by:

Alur
16 May 2017

I'm glad the new crop of SSDs are holding up. I wasn't an early adopter, but I did buy ahead of most of the market. I know it's anecdotal, but out of six that I bought in 2010-2012, 3 died within 2 years. I always had backups, so I didn't lose anything but money those high-priced SSDs cost at that tim. I'm ready to upgrade to higher
capacity SSDs. You're article gives me confidence to do so.


Posted by:

Larry
16 May 2017

Is it possible to "write-over", an SSD to strengthen the charge in memory on a bit-by-bit basis to extend the life of the SSD?

A useful test, it seems to me, would be to re-run the endurance test on failed devices after restoring the original content to see if the time before failure shows a decrease in performance.


Posted by:

Lane Romel
31 May 2017

I use SSD's for Linus system drives. I get about 18 months reliably before they wear out. From my experience SSD's are great for scratch drives and video editing etc. But for long term storage SSD's for me are not nearly reliable enough. I use enterprise grade hard drives and get a minimum of 5 years per drive, I also use raid, and backups


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