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SSD life—how long will they last?

August 05, 2017

SSD life—how long will they last?

As SSDs continue to grow in popularity due to their advantages in speed and size, customers may still have questions about how other performance metrics compare to traditional HDDs. One big question is about drive longevity. It’s true that SSDs only permit a finite amount of writes and rewrites before wearing out—and out of context, that piece of information can strike fear into the heart of a potential buyer. But experts have been putting SSD longevity to the test, and the reality of how well the drives hold up over time can ease the mind of any customer who misreads finite rewriting as meaning that a drive is slated for an early death.

Why – and When – Do SSDs Wear Out?

Seeing how an HDD would wear out is obvious. A spinning plate and various other moving parts, over time, are prone to yielding to friction and mechanical failure. What’s less obvious is how an SSD with no moving parts would wear out.  

Whenever data is erased and rewritten to the flash memory of an SSD, it creates a miniscule amount of wear on the drive. A single instance of one of these cycles is called a program/erase cycle. There are a finite number of these cycles that a drive can go through before it becomes unreliable.

However, endurance tests, which rate drives by writing data constantly to them until failure, have been conducted, and they give a ballpark idea of SSD life. As a whole, tests indicate that even when regularly performing tasks that do a great deal of writing and rewriting, such as video editing, it would probably take a consumer in excess of 13 years to reach the 500TB average tipping point for drive failure.

How Can SSD Longevity Be Increased?

SSD manufacturers have been doing their best to implement technologies that stretch out drive life in light of the finite number of program/erase cycles a drive can handle. Wear-leveling technology, for instance, assures that data blocks are rewritten evenly so that no one area experiences an uneven number of program/erase cycles and fails early.

Warning Signs

Many SSDs also give error messages leading up to the point when so much data has cycled that drives become unstable.

Will an SSD Outlast and HDD?

Whether an individual SSD will outlast an individual HDD is an impossible call to make. Any number of usage factors and factors specific to the architecture of a given drive. However, in laptops and other settings where a drive is exposed to daily external physical abuse, an SSD stands a better chance of long-term survival than an HDD.

A Bright Future

This is an exciting time for data storage technology, and even as drive tests indicate that SSDs can probably surpass a decade of work without wearing out, technology to better drive performance and longevity will no doubt take huge leaps forward in the coming years.

Remember, however, that a customer should always be advised to keep sensitive and important data in more than one place, no matter what the average stats are on an SSD’s performance. No method of data storage lasts forever—at least not yet. Customers investing in SSDs for enterprise use or personal use are making a wise choice, but they will always benefit from backup solutions, security solutions, and added-on support that can prevent and help manage the loss of data in the event of a drive wearing out.