SSD Drives: How Long Do They Last?
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?”
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.
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.
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...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 4 May 2017
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- SSD Drives: How Long Do They Last? (Posted: 4 May 2017)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved