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Many computer manufacturers are switching from standard hard disk drives (HDDs) to solid-state drives (SSDs), which are smaller, faster, and have no moving parts How Do Solid-State Drives Work? [MakeUseOf Explains] How Do Solid-State Drives Work? [MakeUseOf Explains] Over the past few decades, there has been a considerable amount of work in the field of computer hardware. While computer technology is constantly improving and evolving, rarely do we experience moments where we simply... Read More that can malfunction. But SSDs have their own issues, and if you want to make sure that your drive lasts as long as possible, you should take a few precautions.

But before we get into those precautions, let’s talk a little about SSDs and how they work.

How Long Can an SSD Last?

SSDs are a form of flash-based storage, which means that there are no moving parts — all of the writing and erasing of data happens electronically — and any given piece of flash-based storage can only handle so many read/write cycles before it gives up the ghost.

Fortunately, modern technology has made it so that you can write an incredible amount of data to an SSD before you need to worry about degradation of performance or drive failure.

solid-state-drive-internals

In fact, Tech Report published some results of an experiment at the end of last year that shows just how much you can write to an SSD, and the results are astounding.

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Several of the drives wrote over two petabytes of data without problems. That’s an absolutely ridiculous amount of data Memory Sizes Explained - Gigabytes, Terabytes & Petabytes in Layman's Terms Memory Sizes Explained - Gigabytes, Terabytes & Petabytes in Layman's Terms It’s easy to see that 500 gigabytes is more than 100 gigabytes. It’s also easy to see that 1 terabyte is larger than 1 gigabyte and that is larger than 1 megabyte. But these are... Read More . So while reducing the number of read/write cycles on your SSD will technically extend its life, it’s not something you need to worry about, even on multi-level cell drives.

In fact, generally speaking, you’ll get much more life from an SSD Hard Drives, SSDs, Flash Drives: How Long Will Your Storage Media Last? Hard Drives, SSDs, Flash Drives: How Long Will Your Storage Media Last? How long will hard drives, SSDs, flash drives continue to work, and how long will they store your data if you use them for archiving? Read More than you will from a hard drive. That being said, there are a few things you can do to make sure you get the most out of an SSD.

1. Avoid Extreme Temperatures

SSDs are more resistant than HDDs when it comes to hot and cold.

For example, the HyperX 3K MLC SSD has an operating temperature range of 0º to 70º C (32º to 158º F) while the Western Digital Black HDD has a range of 5º to 55º C (41º to 131º F). The acceptable storage temperatures for the HyperX are -40º to 85º C (-40º to 185º F) while the WD Black can handle -40º to 70º C (-40º to 158º F).

hyperx

That being said, even SSDs can struggle with extreme temperatures, especially over extended periods of time. Leaving an SSD in a storage unit all summer long in Arizona is not going to be good for the longevity of the drive. (The winter in Minnesota won’t do it any favors either.)

Big swings in temperature are hard on all electronics so minimizing those will help. Interestingly, the temperature that an SSD is stored at can also affect its data retention.

While most people who use SSDs on a daily basis don’t need to worry about this, business users or people who store lots of data for a long time (e.g. photographers, designers) may want to be wary: an SSD that gets too warm when stored without power can have reduced data retention abilities.

2. Avoid Power Outages

Power outages can wreak havoc with just about any piece of computer equipment The Effects Power Outages Can Have On Your Computer The Effects Power Outages Can Have On Your Computer Do you unplug your computer during severe storms? If not, you may want to start. Read More  and SSDs are no exception. If the power to a drive cuts out during a write cycle, you could lose the data that you’re writing (at best) or lose the drive altogether (at worst).

Four researchers published a study in 2013 showing that major data corruption could happen after a power outage.

system-failure-green-screen

So how can you prevent power cuts to your solid-state drive? An uninterruptible power supply 5 Things You Need To Know In Order To Buy The Right UPS 5 Things You Need To Know In Order To Buy The Right UPS Power is unpredictable. A car crashing into a pole or a small flaw in a transformer's equipment can cause a blackout or, in some cases, a surge strong enough to destroy most electronics in your... Read More  (UPS) is the simplest and easiest solution. A UPS is like a surge protector with a big battery that you plug your devices into. If the power goes out, the battery will provide enough power for you to finish your write cycle and properly shut down your computer to avoid corruption.

APC sells a six-outlet unit for $44, so you don’t need to break the bank to add protection to your home office. Then again, if you need the ultimate protection, you could drop $3,000 on a Tesla home battery Did Elon Musk Just Save Us From Fossil Fuels? Did Elon Musk Just Save Us From Fossil Fuels? Read More  instead.

APC Back-UPS 550VA UPS Battery Backup & Surge Protector (BE550G) APC Back-UPS 550VA UPS Battery Backup & Surge Protector (BE550G) 550VA / 330W Battery Backup UPS Power Supply Buy Now At Amazon $4.22

Power surges could potentially damage your drive too, so having a surge protector Do You Really Need a Surge Protector? Do You Really Need a Surge Protector? A surge protector is not the same thing as a power strip! Here's how they're different and why you need surge protectors instead, as well as how to choose a good one. Read More between your computer and the wall outlet is never a bad idea.

3. Keep Some Space Open

Although read/write cycles will rarely cause problems with your drive, there are a few things you can do to make certain that they don’t. We’ve covered several of these tips in our previous article on maximizing your SSD’s performance 3 Top Tips To Maintain Performance & Extend The Life Of Your SSD 3 Top Tips To Maintain Performance & Extend The Life Of Your SSD For years, standard hard drives have been the speed limiting factor in overall system responsiveness. While hard drive size, RAM capacity, and CPU speed have grown almost exponentially, the spinning speed of a hard drive,... Read More , but there’s another important one to keep in mind: keep as much of your drive as open as possible.

ssd-free-space

The reason for this has to do with a technology called “wear leveling,” which basically causes your computer to write equally often to all of the available spaces on your SSD. What this does is it keeps storage cells in your SSD from wearing out faster than other cells.

There’s just one problem: wear leveling can only be used on cells that are open. If a cell in your drive is being used for long-term storage, the drive is forced to reuse other cells when it needs more space, which increases the read-write cycles on those cells faster.

By deleting unused files 6 Ways to Free Up Space on Your Windows Computer 6 Ways to Free Up Space on Your Windows Computer Clutter can be a big downer on productivity. Over time, files get lost, programs go unused, and suddenly, your once spacious hard drive is packed with useless things and you have to clean it up.... Read More on your computer, or moving them to an external hard drive for long-term storage, you open up as much of the storage on your drive as possible for wear leveling.

Protect Your SSD for Optimal Performance

If your solid-state drive is properly protected and maintained with the proper tools Top Tools for Managing and Maintaining Your SSD Top Tools for Managing and Maintaining Your SSD Did your SSD start out Usain Bolt fast, but now limps along? You can whip your drive back into shape using a handful of toolkits and optimization software, but caveat emptor: Some SSD optimization software... Read More , you can expect great performance out it for a very long time — possibly even longer than the rest of the components on your computer. But extreme temperatures, power surges, and filling up the drive can cause problems, both in the integrity and the longevity of your drive.

Take heed to these few but easy precautions and you’ll be able to use your drive long into the future.

What steps do you take to protect your SSD? Have you found that SSDs last longer than hard drives? What other solutions have you heard of? Share your thoughts below!

Image Credits: OliverSved via Shutterstock.com, Vlue via Shutterstock.com,

  1. Zhong Jiang
    November 14, 2015 at 11:45 pm

    Could you tell us the various SSD form factor and does it affect its lifespan?

    • Dann Albright
      November 17, 2015 at 9:00 pm

      I'd have to do some research on that; as far as I know, the form factors don't affect the lifespan much. I'll keep my eye out, though, and let you know if I find anything!

  2. Trey Odom
    November 14, 2015 at 8:01 pm

    Overprovisioning when creating partitions is tremendously helpful in extending the lifespan of these devices. Search for "SSD Overprovisioning" for more information.

    • Dann Albright
      November 17, 2015 at 9:01 pm

      Yes, that's a great way to increase the life on your SSD. Thanks for sharing!

  3. art176
    November 14, 2015 at 12:28 am

    good reminders, we need to change our habits from sata's to ssd's
    what would be a way to test if our ssd is in good health?
    cheers

    • likefun butnot
      November 14, 2015 at 1:40 am

      @art176,

      Most SSD vendors have some kind of downloadable toolkit that can provide basic health information.

      I have six and seven year old SSDs between 32 and 120GB that still work just fine but I've also had SSDs die in under six months of very modest use. As far as reliability goes, I treat them as any other drive: they get backed up and if they die, they get replaced.

      I've been deploying SSDs in database servers for the last three years and even under heavy random loads, consumer-grade SSDs hold up at least as well as the incredibly expensive 15,000rpm SAS drives I had been using previously.

      • Howard Blair
        November 16, 2015 at 2:40 pm

        Don't SSDs provide SMART readouts as well (although things like "spin-up time" would be irrelevant)?

        • likefun butnot
          November 16, 2015 at 3:30 pm

          @Howard Blair,

          Short answer is yes, they do provide SMART data but the data isn't particularly meaningful. SMART is somewhat complicated because every drive vendor implements different data fields and interprets them different ways. This is obnoxious enough between Seagate and Hitachi mechanical drives, but it's even worse for SSDs because most of the commonly used fields have no meaning or are used differently by SSD vendors.

          Ideally, drive vendors will come up with some new standard in the not too distant future but for the time being, monitoring drive health is a pain in the butt.

    • Dann Albright
      November 17, 2015 at 9:01 pm

      I'd say likefun butnot answered this question perfectly. Thanks for that, likefun!

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