While the short answer might be a combination of yes, maybe, and no, this points to the conundrum when discussing SSDs in a monolithic sense. The differing needs of consumer-, business-, and enterprise-class SSDs are just one area of differentiation. Their differing configurations and uses are other ways in which the concept of SSD life can be difficult to pin down without breaking things down to qualifiers of class and use.
The reality is that this is really a false pursuit under almost every circumstance, as lifespans of SSDs have often been inaccurately framed and misunderstood. The Tech Report endurance project tests performed in 2014 can provide a useful baseline for a truth about lifespan, as well as context about what that means to actual users.
The project tested the durability of six different SSDs for more than a year. Four of the six reached data writes between 728 terabytes and 1.2 petabytes, which far exceeded the specified lifespan of the drives. The other two went well past 2 petabytes of write data. What does that mean in terms of lifespan?
What’s in a Life?
It’s true that SSD life is finite, due to a limited number of write cycles (i.e. the number of times a piece of data can be stored to it). The latest-generation SSDs are robust enough for anything that most users could throw at them over the course of a reasonable lifespan.
SSDs usually come with a three- to five-year warranty, with an expectation that users will write 20 gigabytes to 40 gigabytes per day in data. In the case of the Tech Report project, that means reaching the 700-terabyte range would require writing 40 gigabytes every day for 17,500 days, or just shy of 50 years.
Manufacturers have always hedged their bets when it has come to expected product life, and SSDs are no different. While the three- to five-year general-warranty period for most SSDs hasn’t changed in the last year, there are some outliers that venture into the 10-year range, but that misses the point.
The crux of it all is that, in very general terms, SSDs for consumers and businesses that use them in laptops and desktops already exceed the general upgrading lifespan of the devices into which they are placed. An important reality is that technology evolution will always find new avenues that make today’s standard or even emerging devices obsolete within a decade.
HDD versus SSD Life
Unlike HDDs that write their data to the earliest free block, an SSD uses a technique called “wear leveling” in order to ensure that each memory block is used before the cycle begins again at the first block. Unless you’re writing tens of gigabytes of data a day every day for several years, you won’t get close to the limit on write cycles. Even reaching that point, the memory would become read-only, so the data would still be accessible.
The reason that HDDs have continued to have such a stranglehold on the market has been historically due to their greater capacity and cheaper price than SSDs. With those in the rearview mirror, SSD life has also become a moot point in most regards.
Ultimately SSDs can last for much longer than a decade, depending on usage patterns and with proper care. Let it suffice to say that SSDs will likely continue to improve on every front as they gain greater market saturation for businesses and enterprises.