Is an SSD a good backup drive?

With the decreasing costs and increasing capacities of solid state drives (SSDs), many people wonder if using an SSD as a backup drive is a good idea. SSDs have advantages over traditional hard disk drives (HDDs), but also some limitations to consider. This article examines the pros and cons of using an SSD as a backup drive.

Quick Answer

An SSD can make a good backup drive due to its fast speeds, low latency, and resistance to physical shocks. However, SSDs have higher costs per gigabyte compared to HDDs and a limited number of write cycles. For backups that are rewritten frequently, an HDD may be more cost-effective over the long term.

What is an SSD?

An SSD, or solid state drive, is a type of high-speed storage device that uses flash memory chips to store data, unlike traditional hard drives that store data on spinning platters. Some key advantages of SSDs over HDDs include:

  • Faster read/write speeds – SSDs can read and write data much faster than HDDs.
  • Lower latency – SSDs can access data almost instantly, while HDDs require time for the platter to spin and the read head to move into position.
  • Better durability – SSDs have no moving parts, making them less susceptible to damage from bumps or drops.
  • Lower power usage – SSDs consume less power than HDDs.
  • Compact size – 2.5″ SSDs are smaller and lighter than most HDDs.

Advantages of an SSD Backup Drive

Using an SSD as a backup drive has several potential advantages:

Faster backup and restore speeds

The fast data transfer rates of SSDs means backing up and restoring data can be done much quicker compared to HDD backup drives. This is especially noticeable when backing up large amounts of data.

Resistance to shocks and vibration

Since SSDs have no moving parts, they can withstand bumps and shocks better than traditional hard drives. This makes them suitable for situations where the backup drive is moved around frequently.

Low power consumption

SSDs use less power than HDDs, which can help extend the battery life of laptops when used as portable backup drives.

Compact size

2.5″ SSDs take up less space than bulkier 3.5″ HDDs. This allows them to be easily tucked away for backups without using much desk space.

Silent operation

SSDs make no noise when operating, unlike the audible spinning of HDD platters. This makes them preferable for quiet home or office environments.

Disadvantages of an SSD Backup Drive

However, there are also some downsides to consider when using an SSD as a backup drive:

Higher cost per gigabyte

SSDs currently have a higher cost per gigabyte compared to hard drives. As a result, it may be more expensive to purchase an SSD with the same capacities as an HDD backup drive.

Limited number of writes

While SSDs have practically unlimited read cycles, they can only sustain a finite number of write/erase cycles before drive failure. Constantly rewriting the same backup files can wear out an SSD prematurely.

Risk of data loss from dead or damaged cells

If enough NAND flash memory cells die or are damaged on an SSD, data loss can occur as damaged cells become unreadable. HDDs do not have this problem.

Slower write speeds as drive fills up

SSD write performance slows down as more space is used up and the drive has less spare area to work with. In contrast, HDDs maintain consistent performance regardless of drive capacity.

When an SSD Backup Drive Makes Sense

Here are some situations where an SSD backup drive is a suitable choice:

  • Backing up a few key files frequently that don’t take up much space.
  • Backing up a mobile device or laptop when on the go.
  • Making incremental backups of a system drive to capture changed data.
  • Backing up your operating system drive for fast system restore.
  • Storing backups that are infrequently written to.

For these uses cases, the fast speed, compact size, and durability of SSDs make them a good option. The limited writes of SSDs are less of a concern here since large backups are not written continuously.

When a HDD Backup Drive is Preferable

Here are some situations where a traditional hard drive works better as a backup drive:

  • Backing up a large media collection or archive.
  • Backing up an entire system image nightly.
  • Continuously backing up surveillance footage.
  • Storing backups that change significantly each time.
  • Keeping years worth of incremental backups.

For these use cases, the higher capacities and lower costs of HDDs make more financial sense. HDDs are well suited to repeatedly writing large amounts of changing data without wearing out quickly.

Tips for Maximizing SSD Lifespan

To extend the usable lifespan of an SSD backup drive, consider these tips:

  • Use the SSD for backups only, not as a primary storage drive.
  • Setup a schedule to replace the SSD once it reaches 70-80% of its write endurance rating.
  • Enable TRIM on your system to maintain the SSD’s performance.
  • Make incremental backups instead of full backups when possible.
  • Use a larger capacity SSD to reduce the number of rewrite cycles per cell.
  • Store only compressed or deduplicated backup archives on the SSD.

Recommended SSD Models for Backup

Here are some highly rated and reliable SSDs suitable for backup purposes:

SSD Details
Samsung 870 EVO Up to 560 MB/s reads. Great endurance with 150 TBW rating.
Crucial MX500 Durable and energy efficient. 5 year warranty.
WD Blue 3D NAND SATA Cost-effective option with 550 MB/s reads.
Adata SU800 Affordable alternative with 3 year warranty.
WD Black SN750 NVMe Blazing fast NVMe SSD for max performance.

External SSD vs. Internal SSD for Backup

For backup purposes, an external SSD connected via USB 3.0 or Thunderbolt offers some advantages over an internal SSD:

  • Allows easy transfer and storage of backups off-site for security.
  • Backups don’t consume space in your PC case.
  • External power source extends notebook battery runtime.
  • Typically include backup software for convenience.

However, external SSDs have slower interfaces like USB 3.0 instead of SATA III or PCIe. So an internal SATA or NVMe SSD offers faster read/write speeds, but less portability.

Hybrid Approach: SSD + HDD Backup

A hybrid approach of using both an SSD and HDD together as backup storage combines the advantages of both technologies.

For example, you can use a small SSD as a primary backup drive to hold a month worth of incremental backups and recent file versions. Then use a larger HDD to keep yearly archives and older backups in longer term storage. This balances fast backup and restores with affordable high capacity storage.


SSDs offer a fast and rugged backup solution. But their higher cost and limited endurance make them best suited for backing up smaller amounts of data that change infrequently. For large or frequently changing backups, HDDs are more cost effective over time.

A tiered approach using both SSD and HDD media provides a good balance of speed, capacity, and value for backup needs. Overall SSDs can be part of a well-rounded backup strategy, but are not necessarily a full replacement for traditional backup drives in all scenarios.