Solid state drives (SSDs) have become a very popular storage solution in recent years, replacing traditional hard disk drives (HDDs) in many devices. SSDs have numerous advantages over HDDs – they are faster, lighter, more shock-resistant, and draw less power. However, one concern that many people have is whether SSDs go bad or fail over time like HDDs do. In this article, we will examine the lifespan and reliability of SSDs compared to HDDs, look at the factors that affect SSD longevity, and provide tips on how to extend the usable life of an SSD.
Do SSDs go bad?
The short answer is yes, SSDs can and do fail over time. However, SSDs are generally much more reliable and last longer than HDDs when used appropriately.
SSDs have no moving parts unlike traditional HDDs which use spinning magnetic disks and moving read/write heads. The lack of moving parts makes SSDs more resistant to physical shocks and vibrations. SSDs are technically considered to have a finite lifespan, meaning they can only handle a limited number of read/write cycles before beginning to fail. However, modern SSDs usually last much longer than most consumers need them to with average lifespans of 5 years or more with moderate daily use.
SSD vs HDD failure rates
Research has shown that SSDs have significantly lower annualized failure rates (AFR) than HDDs. One study by Carnegie Mellon University found SSDs to have failure rates of 0.5-2.2% per year compared to HDDs which had failure rates of 4-10% per year. So you can expect an SSD to last around 2-4 times longer than an equivalent HDD. However, failure rates vary between different SSD and HDD models from different manufacturers. High-end enterprise-level drives tend to last longer than budget consumer-grade drives.
Factors that affect SSD lifespan
There are several factors that can impact the usable life of an SSD:
Total data written
The NAND flash memory cells in SSDs can only be written and erased a finite number of times before they begin wearing out and becoming unreliable. This is referred to as program-erase (P/E) cycles. Most modern SSDs are rated for anywhere between 5,000-10,000 P/E cycles before the drive will need to be replaced. However, the total terabytes written (TBW) rating is more useful than just P/E cycles. A higher TBW rating means an SSD can withstand more data writes over its lifespan. For consumer SSDs, the TBW rating typically ranges from just 100-600 terabytes written, while enterprise drives range from 1-10 petabytes.
Wear leveling algorithms
SSDs use wear leveling to distribute writes evenly across all the memory blocks in the SSD. This prevents “hot spots” with excessive writes from wearing out specific blocks prematurely. The efficiency of the wear leveling algorithm has a big impact on extending the useful lifespan of the SSD before data blocks begin failing.
SSDs with over-provisioning have extra spare NAND flash blocks that improve performance and the efficiency of wear leveling. The over-provisioning is invisible to the end user and operates in the background. Most SSDs have at least 7% over-provisioning plus additional spare blocks to replace failed blocks.
TRIM and garbage collection
The TRIM command and garbage collection processes help SSDs run efficiently by clearing invalid data blocks and preparing them to receive new writes. Disabling TRIM shortens SSD lifespan so it’s important to leave it enabled.
Drive writes per day (DWPD)
This metric indicates how much data can be written to an SSD per day over a 5-year period before exceeding the drive’s endurance rating. Most consumer SSDs have a DWPD rating between just 0.1 and 0.5. Heavy workstation users should look for drives with a DWPD closer to 1.0 or higher.
Heat accelerates the degradation of NAND flash memory chips. Cooler SSDs last longer, so active cooling or heatsinks can prolong lifespan. Enterprise SSDs designed for data centers are built with durability and heat tolerance in mind.
How the SSD is formatted makes a difference. For example, the ReFS file system causes less write amplification versus NTFS thus reducing wear on the SSD.
Signs that an SSD may be near end of life
Determining if an SSD is near failure can be tricky but these are some key signs to watch out for:
– Increasingly slow write speeds and performance in general
-files taking much longer than usual to open or save
– inability of SSD to complete writing data (hangs/freezes during writes)
– bad sectors and corrupted data beginning to appear
– more read/write errors appearing in SMART data
– reduced usable storage capacity
If you notice multiple symptoms like these, it’s time to prepare for SSD failure in the near future. Begin migrating your data to a new replacement drive.
Improving SSD lifespan
Here are some tips to maximize the usable life of your SSD:
Minimize unnecessary writes
Avoid repeatedly saving small changes to files on the SSD. Instead batch multiple changes together less frequently. Turn off any software features that auto save application data every few minutes. Use cloud backup instead of constantly writing copies of files to the SSD.
Keep at least 10-20% free space
Having this much free space enables the SSD controller to more efficiently manage the available blocks and wear level properly. Never let the drive fill up 100% as that severely degrades performance and SSD longevity.
Use the manufacturer’s SSD toolbox
Reputable SSD brands offer a drive utility that provides useful stats and maintenance tools to monitor disk health and optimize performance. Keep firmware updated for bug fixes and compatibility.
Don’t disable over-provisioning
The over-provisioning on most SSDs provides spare blocks and improves wear levelling. Don’t attempt to manually access or fill up this reserved space.
Avoid excessive swapping or paging files
Having the OS frequently write swap files shortens SSD life. Upgrade RAM if needed to reduce swapping. Move the page file to a secondary HDD instead.
Disabling TRIM prevents the SSD from efficiently garbage collecting and preparing erased blocks for reuse, causing premature failure. TRIM is automatically enabled for most modern SSDs.
In summary, while SSDs do technically have a limited lifespan and fail after years of use, they are far more durable than traditional hard drives. The average consumer SSD should reliably last at least 5 years even with moderate daily use. Following best practices for maximizing SSD longevity can help extend the drive’s usable life even further. Pay attention for the warning signs of impending failure and be prepared to swap out an aging SSD. With proper precautions, most users won’t have to worry about their SSD just suddenly dying one day with no advanced notice.