An oft-discussed drawback to solid state drives was that they were ultimately unreliable. Despite the performance gains for your PC, it was only a matter of time before "poof!" your SSD would just up and die with almost no warning.
But an ongoing project from Tech Report demonstrates what the experts have been saying for some time: fearing an SSD's untimely death is more about myth than substance.
TR recently reported that after a year of testing the durability of six SSDs, four died after reaching between 728 terabytes and 1.2 petabytes of data writes, all of which is far beyond the specified life span for the drives.
Two other SSDs--a Samsung 840 Pro and a Kingston HyperX 3K--are still going after crossing the 2 petabyte data write benchmark. That's utterly insane.
Why this matters: Since flash memory degrades over time it's true that all SSDs have an expiration date, which has always led to the big question: How long will your SSD last before it finally shut down for good? There were plenty of stories during the early days of SSDs about these fancy expensive drives dying quickly. But short of getting a dud drive, the current generation of SSDs are robust enough for anything most users could throw at them over the course of a reasonable life span.
To make that point, Tech Report's Geoff Gasior says the SSD he's running in his own desktop PC has logged less than two terabytes of data writes over two years or so. "At this rate, it'll take me a thousand years to reach that total," Gasior wrote, referring to one drive that lasted to the 1.2PB mark. While you shouldn't expect an SSD to last for generations, the point is clear: Worrying about the endurance of modern SSDs makes no more sense than worrying about the endurance of the spinning drive you use now.
In case you're wondering, the drive that fared the worst (petering out after 728TB worth of data writes) was another Kingston HyperX 3K, followed by an Intel 335 Series drive that made it to 750TB. A non-pro Samsung 840 Series almost hit 1PB, and a Corsair Neutron GTX gave up the ghost at 1.2 petabytes.
The grueling test is slated to continue until all drives are dead, but whether Samsung's or Kingston's drive is the last one standing doesn't really matter. Tech Report's study is just too small to tell us anything useful about the durability of a particular SSD model or brand. At this point, we're just watching a (very, very geeky) gladiator match to see which one survives to the bitter end.
The big takeaway is that you shouldn't fear the SSD. There are plenty of justifiable reasons to stick with HDDs over SSDs, including price and capacity. But holding back because you're afraid an SSD is not as reliable as an HDD shouldn't be a concern.
That said, even with an SSD you should always have a solid back-up plan by storing your data on a second drive locally, as well as a cloud-based or other off-site back-up. Here's a guide to doing just that if you need it.
And even though you can depend on an SSD to last a while, there are still ways to maximize any drive's lifespan. Check out our tutorial on how to extend your SSD's life even longer for info on that, and also be sure to check out Tech Report's SSD endurance test series for more nitty-gritty details. It's great geeky reading.