The lifespan of HDDs vs SSDs

Many comparisons can be made between a Hard Disk Drive (HDD) and a Solid State Drive (SSD); cost, speed, data storage capacity etc. Another important factor is durability, and the difference in life expectancy between the type types of drive.

HDDs are mechanical devices with moving parts, which generally makes them more susceptible to damage from a physical shock. However, many modern hard drives incorporate shock-proofing technology such as “drop” sensors which are used to protect the heads and media even when the drive is running. Although SSDs have no moving parts, the use of flash memory as a storage medium brings with it a whole host of potential issues other than physical damage.

Most people would assume that if you left the device in optimal conditions, in the correct temperature and humidity, then the drive will last forever. This is actually untrue; data stored on a hard disk drive will gradually degrade, and data stored on a solid state drive will actually degrade faster. This is because NAND flash stores data as electrical charges, which leak away quickly in comparison with changes in magnetic domain polarity. In saying this, data on an SSD won’t start degrading for about ten years, although this can vary depending on the type of NAND memory used.

In terms of storage, factors such as temperature and humidity can have a big effect on the lifespan of a drive. Humidity for example can lead to oxidisation of metals inside both hard disk drives and solid state drives. High storage temperatures are particularly problematic for SSDs, as data degradation in flash memory occurs at a faster rate.

For day to day laptop or PC users, you don’t need to worry about the lifespan of your drive, whether it’s an HDD or SSD. With mobile devices that are carried around more, you need to take particular care not to drop them. If you’re looking to store data long term, it might be best to choose an HDD over an SSD.