How to know when your Solid State Drive could fail

Crucial 500GB SSDThe main difference between Hard Drives and Solid State Drives (SSD’s) is this: The area of a hard drive that can hold data can be rewritten as many times as is needed, and will always be usable as long as the drive is functioning (until bad sectors begin to cause problems). This is not the case with SSD’s: Each cell that holds data can only be written to, or programmed, a finite number of times before it is effectively dead. That’s because every time a write operation needs to be performed, any data in the cell has to be erased before it’s used. This process of writing/erasing/rewriting causes wear and tear on the cells and erosion of the insulator between cells. So eventually, individual cells can no longer hold a charge.

Different types of flash memory have different life cycles depending on how many bits there are per cell. Fewer bits equal fewer problems over time, and more bits seem to cause more issues.

The most common form of flash in SSD’s is called MLC, which stands for Multi-Level Cell. This means each cell can hold two bits of data, and this type of flash, generally speaking, can handle 3,000 or so cycles of erasing the cells and reprogramming them.

More recently, SSD manufacturers are using a type of flash called TLC, which stands for Triple-Level Cell. This adds one more bit to each cell, thus improving density – but at the cost of endurance. This type of flash can generally withstand 1,000 cycles, or about one-third the endurance of MLC.

All this means your SSD has a finite lifespan, usually measured in “terabytes written” (TBW). Manufacturers don’t often quote these numbers, and your SSD might die way before it hits this magic number, or long afterward, depending on a multitude of factors.

Typically, most SSD’s that are heavily used will last at least 5 years and possibly even longer.

Coveniently most SSD’s include software that will tell you how much data has already been written to your drive.

Different brands of SSD’s offer their own utilities. Here are links for Crucial, Sandisk, and Intel.

You can also use a third-party tool – Crystal Disk Info