What storage technology does SSD use?

SSD stands for solid-state drive. It is a storage device that uses integrated circuit assemblies to store data persistently. Unlike hard disk drives (HDDs), SSDs contain no moving mechanical components.

The first SSD was introduced in the 1950s for mainframe systems, but was not commercially viable due to high costs. In the 1970s, SSDs for personal computing were explored but still very expensive. It wasn’t until the late 2000s that SSD prices dropped enough for consumer adoption. Today, SSDs are commonly used in computers and data centers.

SSDs store data in solid-state flash memory rather than on spinning platters like in HDDs. They use microchips to retain data in non-volatile memory chips and contain a controller that manages all read and write operations. SSDs accessed faster than HDDs since they don’t have to mechanically seek data. This makes them ideal for devices and applications needing high speed data input/output.

Flash Memory in SSDs

SSDs use flash memory to store data, unlike traditional hard disk drives that use magnetic disks. There are a few common types of flash memory used in SSDs:

NAND Flash

NAND flash is the most widely used type of flash memory in SSDs. It offers high storage densities at a lower cost compared to other flash types. However, NAND has slower write speeds and higher chances of bad blocks over the lifetime of the SSD.


NAND flash comes in different levels of bits stored per memory cell: SLC (single-level cell), MLC (multi-level cell), and TLC (triple-level cell). SLC stores 1 bit per cell, MLC stores 2 bits per cell, and TLC stores 3 bits per cell. SLC has the fastest performance and highest endurance but is more expensive. TLC is slower and has lower endurance but offers higher capacities for lower cost. MLC strikes a balance in the middle.


3D NAND is a newer technology that stacks memory cells vertically to achieve even higher densities. It helps improve endurance and speeds compared to planar NAND at higher capacities. Most modern SSDs now utilize 3D NAND flash.

Overall, NAND flash provides SSDs with fast access times, low power usage, shock resistance, and compact form factors. Choosing SLC, MLC, TLC, or 3D NAND involves tradeoffs between cost, performance, and endurance.

NAND Flash

SSDs use NAND flash memory to store data. NAND flash gets its name from the logic gate used in its structure, which is called “NOT AND” or NAND. It is a type of non-volatile flash memory, meaning it retains data even when power is removed, unlike volatile RAM which needs constant power to store data.1

NAND flash provides faster read and write performance compared to traditional hard drives. It also requires less space per cell allowing greater storage density. However, NAND has limitations around endurance and reliability. Each cell within NAND flash can only withstand a certain number of erase/write cycles before failing. Wear leveling techniques help distribute writes across the drive evenly.2

Some key advantages of NAND flash in SSDs:

  • Faster read/write performance than HDDs
  • Lower latency and access times for random I/O
  • Higher throughput for sequential I/O
  • Greater storage density than HDDs
  • Non-volatile storage – retains data without power
  • More resilient to physical shocks/vibrations
  • Lower power consumption


The controller is the brain of an SSD. It manages all the main functions of the drive including read/write operations, wear leveling, garbage collection, encryption, error correction, and interfacing with the host system.

The key roles of the SSD controller include:

  • Managing the NAND flash memory – The controller maps logical block addresses received from the host to physical addresses on the flash memory and handles all the underlying complexities of NAND technology.
  • Wear leveling – To extend the lifespan of the NAND flash, the controller actively remaps data across all cells evenly. This prevents any one cell from wearing out faster than others due to excessive rewrites.
  • Garbage collection – The controller consolidates data to free up blocks with invalid pages and reclaims storage capacity. This is done transparently in the background.
  • Error correction – Advanced error correcting codes are used to detect and fix corrupted bits of data.
  • Encryption – Optional hardware encryption securely protects data on the drive.
  • Interface with host – The controller translates the host interface protocol to NAND flash. This enables backwards compatibility.
  • Caching – A portion of fast SDRAM memory is used as a cache to boost performance.

SSD controllers play a crucial role in delivering high performance, reliability, and endurance. The algorithms and proprietary firmware of the controller are key differentiators between SSD products and brands.





SSDs use several standard interfaces to connect to a computer system (Different). The most common SSD interfaces include:

  • SATA – The Serial ATA interface is the most common interface for 2.5″ SSDs. SATA SSDs connect via a cable to a standard SATA port on the motherboard.
  • NVMe – NVMe or Non-Volatile Memory Express is a high-performance SSD interface designed to utilize the high bandwidth of PCIe. NVMe SSDs connect directly to the PCIe bus via an M.2 or U.2 connector.
  • M.2 – The M.2 form factor allows SSDs to connect directly to the PCIe bus. M.2 SSDs come in multiple lengths and can use the SATA or NVMe interfaces.
  • U.2 – Also known as SFF-8639, U.2 allows NVMe SSDs to connect via a cable rather than directly to the PCIe slot. This is useful in servers and high-end workstations.

The interface used by an SSD determines the maximum performance the drive can achieve. NVMe offers much higher bandwidth than SATA, enabling faster speeds. The form factor and connector type are closely related to the interface type (SSDs).

Form Factors

There are several common form factors for SSDs:

  • 2.5-inch – This is the most common form factor and is the same size as a standard 2.5-inch hard drive. 2.5-inch SSDs are commonly used in laptops and desktops.

  • M.2 – The M.2 form factor is much smaller than 2.5-inch drives and connects directly to the motherboard without cables. M.2 drives are commonly used in ultrabooks and small form factor PCs where space is limited. There are several sizes of M.2 drives including 2280, 2260, and 2242.1

  • Add-in card – These SSDs connect via PCIe slots and are used when very high performance is needed. Common formats include half-height half-length and full-height half-length cards.2

The 2.5-inch form factor offers good capacity at a lower cost, while M.2 provides smaller sizes. Add-in cards offer the fastest performance but take up space in a PCIe slot.


SSD performance is often measured using metrics like throughput, IOPS (input/output operations per second), and latency. Throughput refers to the maximum rate at which data can be read from or written to the drive, usually measured in megabytes per second (MB/s) [1]. IOPS measures the number of individual read or write operations the SSD can handle per second. Latency is the time it takes for an I/O operation to process, measured in milliseconds. Lower latency represents better performance.

Benchmarks like CrystalDiskMark and AS SSD are commonly used to test SSD performance [2]. Real-world performance can vary based on factors like the drive’s controller and interface (SATA vs. NVMe), over-provisioning, and thermal throttling. Workload type also impacts performance – SSDs handle random read/write operations better than hard drives, but sequential operations are limited by NAND flash speed [3].


SSDs are generally considered more reliable than traditional hard disk drives (HDDs) for a few key reasons:

SSDs have no moving parts, unlike HDDs which use spinning platters and moving heads to read/write data. The lack of moving parts makes SSDs more resistant to physical shocks and vibrations. SSDs also run cooler than HDDs which reduces failure rates (source: https://www.wepc.com/tips/ssd-reliability/).

However, SSDs do experience gradual performance degradation over time as cells wear out from repeated write/erase cycles. Consumer SSDs typically have write endurance ratings ranging from 100-5000 cycles before performance drops substantially (source: https://www.reddit.com/r/techsupport/comments/vjobwp/ssd_reliability_vs_hdd/). To compensate, SSD controllers use wear leveling algorithms to distribute writes across all cells evenly.

Overall, SSDs have proven to be reliable for most consumer usage, with an annual failure rate around 2% which is lower than HDDs. For applications requiring high uptime like servers, HDDs may still be preferred for their recoverability from mechanical failure modes (source: https://www.tenforums.com/drivers-hardware/176874-wd-external-failing-need-advice.html).


SSDs provide several security advantages over traditional hard disk drives (HDDs). One of the main security features of SSDs is encryption. Many SSDs support full-disk encryption using AES encryption. This encrypts all data stored on the drive so that it cannot be accessed without the password or key. Some SSDs also offer on-chip encryption done directly within the SSD controller chip. This provides faster encryption than software-based encryption done on the host computer (Blanco).

In addition to encryption, some SSDs offer password protection to prevent unauthorized access to the drive. The SSD cannot be accessed unless the correct password is entered. Some business-focused SSDs require the password on every boot-up (Drossel).

Besides encryption and password protection, SSDs also enable quick and secure deletion of data. With HDDs, data deletion is not secure because the data is simply marked for deletion rather than actually erased. SSDs can securely erase all data almost instantly by issuing the TRIM command (Bates). This instant purge ability is important for quickly removing sensitive information.

Overall, the lack of mechanical parts in SSDs makes them less susceptible to data theft through component removal. There are fewer options for successfully retrieving residual data from discarded or stolen SSDs compared to traditional HDDs (Nimmala). SSDs give users and organizations much stronger control over data security.


Bates, Camberley. “Detailed Program 2.” Real Intelligence, 10 Aug. 2023, https://realintelligence.com/customers/expos/00Do0000000aAt2/index-Details-presentation.php?eventId=a0J5c00001LiDgC&orgId=00Do0000000aAt2&trackCategory=Session&paperId=a0K5c00000X14uA&sessionId=a0R5c00000GlP2s. Accessed 15 Feb. 2023.

Blanco, Javier. “SSDs with Fast Erase and Data Purge.” StorageSearch.com, www.storagesearch.com/ssd-purge.html. Accessed 15 Feb. 2023.

Drossel, Gary. Data Protection for Dummies: Solid State Drives Special Edition. John Wiley & Sons, 2017.

Nimmala, Rama Rohith. “Forensic Research on Solid State Drives Using Trim Analysis.” St. Cloud State University, 2020, https://repository.stcloudstate.edu/msia_etds/53/. Accessed 15 Feb. 2023.


SSDs offer several key advantages over traditional HDDs that make them the preferred choice for many applications. SSDs use flash memory rather than spinning platters, making them much faster for accessing and writing data. This speed advantage is one of the main reasons SSDs are rapidly replacing HDDs, especially for laptops, tablets and smartphones.

SSDs have no moving parts, so they are more durable and resistant to shocks. They generate less heat, use less power, and operate silently. Though more expensive per gigabyte, SSD prices continue to fall. The reliability of SSDs continues to improve, matching or exceeding HDDs in many use cases.

Looking ahead, SSDs will likely completely replace HDDs for consumer devices and mainstream PCs. HDDs will still have a role for bulk data storage, servers, and other niche uses where capacity is more important than performance. But for everyday computing, SSDs are now the standard for their speed, silent operation, and durability advantages.