Do SSD drives fail more than HDD?

Solid state drives (SSDs) and hard disk drives (HDDs) are the two main types of storage drives used in computers. Many people wonder if SSDs fail more often than HDDs. The quick answer is that it depends. Overall, SSDs tend to be more reliable and fail less often than HDDs. However, there are factors that can impact failure rates for both drive types.

SSD Failure Rates

SSDs have no moving parts, making them less susceptible to mechanical failures than HDDs. However, SSDs can still fail due to:

  • Write endurance – SSDs can only withstand a finite number of write/erase cycles before cells wear out.
  • Controller failure – The SSD controller can malfunction.
  • Improper power loss – Sudden power loss while writing data can corrupt files.
  • Manufacturing defects – Faulty hardware from the factory.

Well-made SSDs today typically have a lifespan of 5-10 years for light to moderate usage. Heavy workloads like video editing may wear out an SSD faster. Overall annual failure rates for SSDs tend to be around 1-2%.

HDD Failure Rates

HDDs have moving parts like actuator arms and spinning disks. This makes them more prone to mechanical failures. Common HDD failure modes include:

  • Disk head crashes – Read/write heads making contact with platters.
  • Motor failures – Spindle motor stops spinning.
  • Degraded sectors – Parts of disk become inaccessible.
  • Burnt-out circuits – Electrical components can burn out.
  • Worn out bearings – Spindle bearings wear out over time.

In general, HDDs tend to have higher annual failure rates around 3-5%. Enterprise or NAS drives designed for 24/7 operation have failure rates of around 2-4% per year. Consumer HDDs see higher failure rates around 4-6% annually.

Comparing Failure Rates

Several studies have compared real-world failure rates of SSDs and HDDs in enterprise environments. These provide insightful statistics:

Backblaze HDD Failure Stats:

Year HDD Model Annual Failure Rate
2013 Hitachi Deskstar 7K4000 3.01%
2014 Seagate Barracuda LP 2.27%
2015 HGST Ultrastar He8 0.82%

Intel SSD Failure Stats:

Year SSD Model Annual Failure Rate
2013 Intel S3500 Series 0.46%
2014 Intel S3700 Series 0.58%
2015 Intel S3710 Series 0.45%

These real-world studies show HDDs failing 2-3x more often than SSDs in enterprise environments. However, consumer usage may yield different results. Overall SSDs appear more reliable, but HDD reliability is still quite good on modern drives.

SSD vs HDD: Which Fails More?

Based on various industry studies, SSDs seem to have lower annual failure rates compared to HDDs typically around 1-2% vs 3-6%. However, many factors affect drive reliability:

  • Drive type – Enterprise vs consumer grade drives.
  • Drive workload – Light vs heavy usage, read vs write cycles.
  • Drive age – Older drives fail more often.
  • Drive size – Larger drives tend to fail slightly more.
  • Manufacturing quality – Varies between brands.
  • Environment – Heat, vibration, power faults.

In general, modern SSDs appear to have a significant reliability advantage over HDDs for most usage scenarios. But there are many caveats, so conclusions require looking at specific drive models and usage patterns.

SSD Failure Rate Factors

What affects the annualized failure rate for SSDs? Here are some key factors:

Write Endurance

All SSDs have a finite lifespan based on the number of write/erase cycles the memory cells can endure before wearing out. This is referred to as write endurance and is typically measured in terabytes written (TBW) or drive writes per day (DWPD):

  • Consumer SSDs have endurance around 100-600 TBW.
  • Enterprise SSDs offer 1600-10,000+ TBW ratings.

Heavier workloads with more data written per day will cause SSDs to wear out faster. Light everyday computing generally will not come close to wearing out quality SSDs before other components become obsolete.


SSDs use different types of NAND flash memory chips:

  • SLC – Most durable, highest endurance.
  • MLC – Medium endurance, common on consumer SSDs.
  • TLC – Lower endurance but higher capacities.
  • QLC – Least durable, shortest lifespan.

SLC SSDs offer the longest lifespan of these types, while QLC SSDs have the shortest overall endurance. Consumer TLC SSDs offer a good balance of cost, capacity and reasonable endurance.

Controller & Firmware

The SSD controller and firmware manage all read/write operations to the NAND chips. A low quality controller or buggy firmware can negatively impact SSD reliability and lifespan. Top-tier SSD brands generally have reliable controllers and firmware.

Write Amplification

Write amplification refers to the amount of data actually written to an SSD compared to what the host system requested. The higher the write amplification, the more NAND writes occur, reducing SSD endurance. Good controllers minimize write amplification.


Heat can accelerate wear on SSD components including NAND chips and the controller. SSDs in hot environments may need enhanced cooling to maintain their lifespan. Most SSDs throttle performance if they begin to overheat.

HDD Failure Rate Factors

What affects the annualized failure rate for hard disk drives? Here are some considerations:

Drive Age

Most HDD components like head actuators and spindle motors degrade over time. Older HDDs have higher failure rates as components start to wear out. Consumer drives tend to have shorter useful lifespans around 3-5 years.

Power-On Hours

Total powered on time correlates strongly with HDD failure rates. Drives constantly running in servers for years will fail more often than lightly used consumer drives. HDD lifespans are generally rated for 2.5-5 years of continuous operation.

Drive Capacity

HDDs with higher capacities tend to have slightly worse reliability on average. This is due to factors like tighter head positioning tolerances and more platters. However, modern manufacturing can offset these drawbacks.

Usage Level

Heavily accessed HDDs with heavy read/write workloads will wear faster as mechanical components degrade quicker. Lightly used drives last longer.

Temperature & Vibration

Excess heat and vibration can accelerate failures of HDD components. Enterprise HDDs designed for datacenter use are engineered to handle higher temperatures and vibration versus consumer models.

Mitigating Drive Failure Risks

Both SSDs and HDDs can suffer sudden failures resulting in potential data loss. Some best practices to help avoid drive failures include:

  • Use enterprise-grade drives for critical data (vs low-cost consumer drives).
  • Implement RAID data redundancy to protect against individual drive failures.
  • Maintain proper cooling and vibration controls.
  • Perform regular drive health monitoring and diagnostics.
  • Follow manufacturer recommendations for workloads.
  • Replace drives proactively as they approach rated end-of-life hours.

With proper precautions, both SSDs and HDDs can provide years of reliable service. But drives do inevitably wear out over time as components degrade.


In general, SSDs tend to have lower annual failure rates around 1-2% compared to 3-6% for HDDs in most studies. However, many variables affect drive reliability. Enterprise SSDs and HDDs built for datacenters offer enhanced endurance and reliability ratings versus consumer models. For non-critical consumer uses, modern SSDs and HDDs are fairly comparable in reliability. But for frequently accessed data, SSDs provide a clear advantage with their lack of mechanical wear plus much faster performance.