What is solid state storage device?

Solid state storage devices, often abbreviated as SSDs, are a type of non-volatile computer storage medium that stores and accesses data using integrated circuits rather than magnetic or optical storage. Unlike traditional hard disk drives (HDDs) that have spinning magnetic disks, SSDs use microchips that retain data in non-volatile memory chips. This allows SSDs to be much faster, smaller, lighter, and more reliable than HDDs.

The first crude prototype of an SSD was created in the 1950s using vacuum tube memory. However, SSDs only became commercially viable in the late 1990s and early 2000s with the introduction of NAND flash memory chips. These allowed SSDs to offer substantial improvements in performance, power consumption, size, and reliability compared to HDDs. Since then, SSD technology and adoption has steadily grown, with SSDs now commonplace in consumer devices as well as data centers.


How Solid State Storage Works

Solid state drives differ from traditional mechanical hard drives in that they have no moving parts. Mechanical hard drives store data on spinning platters and read/write data using a moving read/write head. This makes them susceptible to damage from shock or vibration. SSDs instead use NAND flash memory chips to store data. These chips contain transistors in a grid pattern that can be electrically switched on or off to represent 1s and 0s for data storage. The lack of moving parts makes SSDs more resistant to physical damage. SSDs are also silent, faster, and less prone to catastrophic failure compared to mechanical drives.

Data is written to and read from SSDs in blocks, similar to mechanical hard drives. However, while mechanical drives can only access data sequentially, SSDs can access any data block instantly and directly. This random access capability significantly improves data access speeds. The performance of SSDs also does not degrade over time as mechanical drives do. Overall, the solid state design provides substantial performance, reliability, and durability benefits over traditional spinning hard drives.

Benefits of Solid State Storage

Solid state drives have several benefits compared to traditional hard disk drives:

Faster read/write speeds – SSDs have much faster read and write speeds compared to HDDs. This is because SSDs access data directly from flash memory chips, while HDDs rely on mechanical moving parts like read/write heads (https://www.kingston.com/en/blog/pc-performance/benefits-of-ssd).

More reliable and durable – SSDs are more reliable and durable because they have no moving parts. HDDs can fail due to mechanical issues like head crashes or spindle motor failures. SSDs are not susceptible to these physical failures (https://www.techtarget.com/searchstorage/definition/SSD-solid-state-drive).

Lower latency – The lack of moving parts also means SSDs have much lower access latency. Applications load faster because data can be accessed almost instantly (https://www.kingston.com/en/blog/pc-performance/benefits-of-ssd).

Lower power consumption – SSDs are more power efficient and consume much less energy than HDDs during operation. This can improve battery life in laptops (https://www.techtarget.com/searchstorage/definition/SSD-solid-state-drive).

Drawbacks of Solid State Storage

While solid state drives have many benefits, they also have some drawbacks compared to traditional hard disk drives (HDDs). Two of the main drawbacks are higher cost per gigabyte and a limited number of write cycles.

SSDs are generally more expensive than HDDs when comparing cost per gigabyte. As of 2022, SATA SSDs averaged around $0.10 per gigabyte while HDDs averaged around $0.03 per gigabyte (https://www.backblaze.com/blog/hard-drive-cost-per-gigabyte/). This price differential means smaller sized SSDs are significantly more expensive than HDDs. However, the price gap has been narrowing over time.

SSDs also have a limited number of write cycles before cells start to fail and the drive stops working. Most SSDs are rated for between 300 to 1000 write cycles. In contrast, HDDs don’t have a set write cycle limit that determines lifespan (https://drivesaversdatarecovery.com/pros-and-cons-of-solid-state-drives-ssds/). Heavy workloads with constant writing can cause SSDs to wear out and fail faster than HDDs. However, wear leveling techniques in modern SSDs help distribute writes across all cells to extend lifespan.

In summary, the higher cost per gigabyte and limited write cycle lifespan remain two disadvantages of SSDs compared to traditional HDDs. However, the performance and reliability benefits of SSDs often outweigh the drawbacks for many users.

Types of Solid State Drives

There are several common form factors and interfaces for solid state drives on the market today, with the main ones being:


SATA SSDs connect via the serial ATA interface and come in the traditional 2.5″ form factor that is used for hard disk drives. SATA SSDs offer a balance of affordability, performance, and compatibility, making them a popular choice for laptop and desktop upgrades. The interface caps their maximum sequential read/write speeds around 500-550MB/s.Types of SSD Form Factors – Kingston Technology


PCIe SSDs connect directly to a PCI Express slot on the motherboard. This provides much higher bandwidth than SATA, allowing for sequential reads/writes in excess of 3,000MB/s. However, they are more expensive and require a compatible motherboard slot.


The M.2 form factor is more of a connector than a protocol. M.2 SSDs connect via PCIe or SATA and come in a compact, slim card form factor. Their small size makes them well-suited for ultrabooks and small form factor systems. There are SATA M.2 SSDs with similar performance to 2.5″ SATA drives as well as much faster PCIe M.2 SSDs.M.2 vs NVMe vs. 2.5″ vs. U.2 SSDs – CDW

Solid State Drive Interfaces

There are several interfaces used by solid state drives to connect to a computer system:

SATA (Serial ATA) – This serial interface was originally designed for mechanical hard disk drives but has become the most common interface for solid state drives. SATA SSDs connect via the standard SATA data and power cables and are compatible with most desktop PCs and laptops (An Introduction to SSD Interface). SATA SSDs offer good performance at an affordable price point.

PCIe (PCI Express) – PCIe SSDs connect directly to a computer’s PCI Express bus via PCIe slots or M.2 slots. PCIe provides higher bandwidth than SATA for extremely fast data transfer speeds. However, PCIe SSDs have a higher cost per gigabyte (SSD Interfaces: SAS vs. SATA vs. NVMe).

NVMe (Non-Volatile Memory Express) – This interface was designed specifically for high performance SSDs. NVMe SSDs utilize the PCIe interface while supporting advanced queueing and parallelization capabilities. NVMe offers the lowest latency and highest throughput but requires NVMe driver support on the host system (SSD Interfaces: SAS vs. SATA vs. NVMe).

Overall, NVMe is the fastest SSD interface available today, followed by PCIe and SATA. The interface type impacts performance capabilities and cost.

Leading Solid State Drive Manufacturers

The solid state drive market is dominated by just a handful of major manufacturers. Here are some of the top players in SSD production:

Samsung – The Korean tech giant is the leader in the SSD market with over 30% market share as of 2020. Samsung SSDs like the 970 EVO are known for their top-tier performance and reliability [1].

Intel – A pioneering force in SSDs, Intel remains a major player though its market share has declined. Intel SSDs offer rock-solid stability and are common in enterprise environments [2].

Micron – Another big name in NAND flash memory and SSDs. Micron SSDs like the Crucial MX500 provide excellent bang for your buck [3].

SK Hynix – This Korean semiconductor company has grown into one of the top SSD vendors. They provide OEM SSDs for many PC manufacturers.

While there are other SSD brands, these four companies have the biggest footprint and influence in the solid state storage space currently.

Choosing the Right Solid State Drive

When choosing the right solid state drive (SSD), there are several key factors to consider:


How much storage capacity do you need? For most laptops and desktops, a 256GB to 1TB SSD is sufficient. Gamers and media creators may need larger 2TB+ drives. As Tom’s Hardware notes, 1TB SSDs are becoming the new sweet spot for balancing price, performance, and capacity.

Performance Needs

Faster SSDs with higher sequential read/write speeds are better for gaming, video editing, and other demanding tasks. NVMe SSDs are much faster than SATA SSDs. Consider your workflow needs and budget when choosing performance. As Digital Trends suggests, opt for NVMe drives if your PC supports them.


The interface determines SSD compatibility and speed. Most desktops and laptops are limited to slower SATA III SSDs. Newer PCs support faster M.2 PCIe NVMe SSDs. Ensure your PC is compatible before purchasing an SSD.

Form Factor

2.5-inch SSDs fit laptop drive bays and standard desktop mounting brackets. M.2 SSDs are smaller and connect directly to the motherboard without cables. Choose the appropriate physical size and mounting for your PC.


SSD pricing ranges from around $50 for a 240GB SATA drive to $700+ for high-capacity PCIe 4.0 NVMe drives. Determine how much you can reasonably spend, then get the best SSD you can afford based on your interface, form factor, capacity, and performance needs.

Solid State Drive Failure Modes

Solid state drives can fail in several ways, some of which are unique to SSD technology. Three main failure modes for SSDs are write failure, read disturbance errors, and wear levelling issues.

Write failure occurs when an SSD is unable to successfully write new data to its memory cells. This can happen when too many program-erase cycles have worn out the drive’s memory blocks. Write failure tends to be gradual, with the drive slowing down during writes before eventually failing completely. Read disturbance errors are issues where reading data from one memory cell leads to corruption of data in adjacent cells. This is often the result of charge leakage between closely-packed NAND flash cells. Read errors steadily accumulate over time and eventually make data unrecoverable.

Wear levelling refers to how SSDs spread out writes across all their memory blocks to extend lifespan. Wear levelling issues cause premature failure when this process breaks down and some cells wear out much faster than others. This leads to bad blocks and corrupted data. According to one source, wear levelling problems are responsible for 55% of SSD failures.

Other common failure modes include electrical shorts, controller bugs, and physical damage to NAND chips. SSDs tend to fail differently than traditional hard drives, so being aware of these unique issues can help predict and prevent failure.

Future of Solid State Drives

The future of solid state drive technology looks very promising, with several key innovations on the horizon that will bring increased capacity, faster interfaces, new memory technologies, and continued advances in 3D NAND.

In terms of capacity, SSDs are expected to reach enormous sizes in the coming years. Manufacturers are already producing SSDs up to 128TB, but some predict drives in the multi-petabyte range within the next decade. This will be enabled by stacking more and more NAND flash layers using 3D manufacturing techniques.

SSD interfaces are also getting faster, with new standards being introduced like PCIe 5.0 and future versions of SATA. This will allow SSDs to transfer data at speeds exceeding 100GB/s in high-end models. Storage-class memory technologies like 3D XPoint are also poised to hit the market and offer 10x faster performance than NAND flash.

3D NAND flash will continue advancing too, with manufacturers stacking more layers and utilizing denser QLC and PLC technologies. More advanced manufacturing processes will cram more terabytes into each NAND chip. Some experts predict 500 layers or more within the next 5-10 years.

Together, these improvements will usher in a new era of ultra-fast, enormous capacity, and relatively affordable SSD storage. The future is bright for solid state drives to dominate the storage landscape moving forward.