Ever since SSD’s started showing up in consumer hardware, end-users have had one consistent question: How long do the drives live, and how robust are they compared with conventional hard drives? Data on these metrics is often difficult to find, and the complexity of the drives themselves makes it hard to isolate which kinds of failure are more or less likely to occur on a given drive. Manufacturers publish lifetime write specifications and recommended usage patterns, but this data tends to be extremely general.
18 months ago, Tech Report set out to test the limits of SSD endurance and catalog how a set of six drives would fail under load. The drives chosen: Corsair Neutron GTX, Intel 335 Series, Kingston HyperX 3K, Samsung 840, and Samsung 840 Pro. All were in the 240GB to 256GB class of hardware, and all started off the experiment pristine.
All six drives made it several hundred terabytes past their manufacturer-set limits, but four of the six drives died before or just after the 1PB mark. Intel’s SSD died first, of a self-inflicted wound (the drive is designed to stop working once it begins having problems), but two drives — the Kingston and the Samsung 840 Pro — made it past the 2PB mark. Of course, six drives aren’t a representative sample of how all SSDs perform, and TR doesn’t recommend treating this test as such. SSDs can fail for a variety of reasons and causes — this particular test measured how the drive would handle steady wear and repeated write cycles, as opposed to testing how the SSD handled repeated loss of power events.
What it does point to, however, is that at least in this one particular metric, manufacturers appear to set their guidelines extremely conservatively. That’s good news for anyone looking to jump from HDDs to SSDs, though we should note that recent EVO drives haveleft us wary of TLC-based NAND once again.
One thing to be aware of, as Tech Report puts it, is that “SSDs don’t always fail gracefully… watch for bursts of reallocated sectors.” This is good advice for any storage medium — hard drives don’t always fail gracefully, either. One of the most profound disconnects in computing is the vast difference between the value of hard drives or solid state drives as a blank storage medium (where they both cost well under $1 per GB) and the extraordinarily high cost of recovering that lost information in the event of failure. As always, ExtremeTech recommends a good backup solution, no matter what kind of storage you use.