What is the Lifespan of an SSD?

When Solid State Drives (SSDs) first entered the data storage market as an alternative to conventional mechanical Hard Disk Drives, the main concern, price aside, was longevity. So just how long do SSDs last? And should you be worried about losing your data?

SSD lifespan was a common drawback back when they first started being deployed in computers and laptops several years back, with fears that they were, ultimately, unreliable. However these days, with SSDs now pretty much standard in laptops, they’re a lot more reliable; and certainly at least as reliable as traditional hard disk drives in terms of data retention. On the flipside, though, SSDs do tend to fail with age. A figure of speech often used to refer to discuss SSD lifespan is P/E, or Program/Erase cycle. Different types of flash memory chips used in SSDs will have various lifespans.

Unlike their mechanical counterparts, the hard disk drive (HDD), solid state drives don’t contain any moving parts. Rather than storing data on spinning magnetic platters via read/write heads, SSDs store data as electrical charges on NAND flash chips – and they can read and write data at incredibly fast speeds. There’s still a market for hard disk drives, and their storage capacities are ever-increasing and by far outclassing SSDs thanks to helium-filled hard drive technology. Plus, hard drive recovery is much easier and cheaper than SSD recovery. But SSDs are lighter, faster and quickly dropping in price.

There are two main types of flash memory – Single Level Cell (SLC) and Multi Level Cell (MLC), and most SSDs will utilise one of these. The type of flash memory used will determine the SSDs lifespan i.e. the maximum number of program/erase cycles before the drive is no longer usable. MLC memory is typically found in consumer-grade SSDs, as well as USB flash drives, SD cards and mobile phones, and is cheaper and slower. More data is stored per cell, hence the cheaper price tag. SLC is typically utilised in enterprise-level SSDs due to its faster speeds and being less prone to losing data. There is less data stored in SLC cells, so they tend to be more expensive.

In reality, modern SSDs can withstand a huge amount of data written to and erased from it. Take the Crucial MX3000 750GB SSD for example – that has an endurance of 220TBW. In simple terms, this means you can write a whopping 220 terabytes of data to it before it starts to become unreliable and fail. Let’s put this in perspective for e minute – that would be 50GB of data a day written to the drive. Who writes that much data on a daily basis? However if you are worried about your SSD suddenly failing, keep a backup.

SSD Lifespan