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Old 1st August 2009, 9:45 AM   #1
scotty22 Thread Starter
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Question How quick do SSD HDD wear out?

A while ago I upgraded the HDD in my Lenovo T61p ThinkPad with a SSD (can't remember what brand now though) and it's been one of the best things I've done - the laptop is quieter, the wrist rest doesn't get hot, etc. But I only use this laptop at uni and only for looking up things on the net and typing my lecture notes.

I've ordered an HP HDX laptop for at home, as a replacement for my main PC, and I'm debating on whether or not to replace the HDDs in that with an SSD (it's a dual HDD laptop - I use one HDD for the OS and installed programs, and a second for storing my documents, files, etc.). Basically the machine will be running 24/7. While I don't do anything intensive (just web browsing, uni work, general sort of stuff - no gaming), I'm wondering if anyone is able to give some sort of indication of how long a SSD HDD would last in such a set up? I ask this as when upgrading to SSD on my ThinkPad pretty much every review cited the largest disadvantage of the SSDs as being that they have a limited lifespan as can only be written so many times - while they often give an indication of how many times they can be written, they don't indicate what this actually means in real life terms...
On a related side note, I read that Microsoft Windows 7 has SSD optimisation features, so that may help prolonge the life of the SSD.
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Old 1st August 2009, 10:03 AM   #2
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you need to disable, defragment and indexing as these will kill your SSD. You are best off to use a boot SSD, and then a normal higher capacity spinning hard disk drive, then for uni stuff like word doc, ect, and all the programs on the SSD

SSD's are less likely to fail compared to HDD's, but depending on how much you use it and stuff it should last min 2 years. Also set up hibernate to save to the hard drive if you hibernate a bit.
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Old 1st August 2009, 10:29 AM   #3
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I doubt they'd die before you want to upgrade. They've got millions of hours of usage (in theory). I don't know what im talking about.
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Old 1st August 2009, 10:43 AM   #4
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There are tools available to completely wipe them back to factory form. Basically a format +1 which restores them to their full speed I'm sure mechanical drives would wear out permanently more often and sooner than an SSD would.
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Old 1st August 2009, 11:12 AM   #5
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Ta. One of the other big reasons I'm keen on the SSD HDD in laptops is because of the lack of moving parts it helps make the laptop more drop resistant.
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Old 1st August 2009, 4:38 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by scotty22 View Post
Ta. One of the other big reasons I'm keen on the SSD HDD in laptops is because of the lack of moving parts it helps make the laptop more drop resistant.
With regular backups of important stuff, I think hard drive would be the cheapest of repairs for a dropped laptop. Think about the screen!!
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Old 1st August 2009, 4:51 PM   #7
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This has been discussed on Slashdot every time an SSD story comes up. Basically if you get a ~128GB drive and write 20GB/day to it's projected to last 5 years.

Also, when a portion of the disk (not sure of the technical term for SSDs, sector? *shrug) fails it can still be read, it's only the write which fails. This means that "failure" doesn't result in data loss.

Lastly, the whole drive doesn't fail at once. Sections of the flash memory will fails while others will still be fine and as such the level of "wear" (ie: the number of failed sectors) can, in theory, be measured through something like a SMART extension. However, AFAIK this has not yet been implemented.

So yeah, the whole "1000 write limit" thing was a problem 15 years ago (and still exists with devices such as micro controllers with embedded flash for the firmware) but for SSDs it's a complete non-issue, in theory. In practice they've not been proven so if you're very paranoid by all means wait another 3-5 years before purchasing one.
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Old 1st August 2009, 5:29 PM   #8
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I doubt you would have too many worrys, hell i have hdd's sitting around here that are 10 years old and still work perfectly (quantum Fireballs ftw)
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Old 1st August 2009, 5:39 PM   #9
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I doubt you would have too many worrys, hell i have hdd's sitting around here that are 10 years old and still work perfectly (quantum Fireballs ftw)
That's completely different technology, flash has a finite amount of write cycles (~100k) and once you reach that limit then you cannot write to them ever again. There is absolutely no physical limit for hard drives, you can write only to the same sector constantly for the entire life of the drive and never wear it out
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Old 1st August 2009, 7:27 PM   #10
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I think hard drive would be the cheapest of repairs for a dropped laptop. Think about the screen!!
Yeah, but I said more drop resistant, not drop proof. There's plenty that can break on them.
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Old 1st August 2009, 7:48 PM   #11
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Yes they are much better, as laptop hard drives will die faster because when you use a laptop you generally move a bit so when it's spinning you get more wear than if you where shaking a SSD while it was working,
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Old 1st August 2009, 8:06 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dakiller View Post
That's completely different technology, flash has a finite amount of write cycles (~100k) and once you reach that limit then you cannot write to them ever again. There is absolutely no physical limit for hard drives, you can write only to the same sector constantly for the entire life of the drive and never wear it out
Wear is an interesting word isnt it.
Magnetic media wears, despite the fact they're designed in such a way that the heads float on a tiny air buffer. Add to that the bearing wear, and the electric motors sometimes failing, and you have to wonder which of the 2 technologies is actually more reliable.

See, at least with an SSD, they fail on delete - which is really the ideal time for something to fail. My understanding is they dont fail on reads.
Assuming that they verify all writes, you're effectively not ever going to lose any data.

Bad blocks on an SSD dont spread quite like they do on Magnetic media either, and the heads dont fail when dropped.

Bad sectors on a magnetic disk are like cancer. Once there's a tiny imperfection in the disks surface, you can effectively say goodbye to the entire disk. It's only a matter of time before one of the heads has failed, and is mechanically flung by the friction.

Short of a chip failure, which is rare unless there's some sort of power anomaly, you'd expect an SSD to be readable almost indefinitely. The failure mode, of the blocks wearing is far more graceful. You will start off with full capacity and over time blocks will be marked as bad. This will not affect the normal operation of the drive and should be basically transparent to the end user.
Until one day the disk is reported as full, or SMART says "look mate, can you back this up, and throw this out?"
Either way, they're not catestrophic failure modes. What's written is still readable, and the damage wont spread. With 10 million hours MTBF you'd expect the drive to be upgraded before failure anyhow.

So really, which wear is better?

The way I see it, SSD's have the following advantages:

1) Failure is detected as the data is written (write verification) and not when it is read
2) quite unlikely to suffer an electronic failure unless it is a catestrophic event like a massive power surge (which would kill a mechanical drive also)
3) degrade gracefully and are entirely recoverable as they do start failing
4) resistant to physical damage (dropping)

So basically, there's only one catestropic failure mode. When it burns out.
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Old 1st August 2009, 8:23 PM   #13
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I was only speaking to the actual storage mediums. There is no limit to the amount of times you can magnetically polarise the surface of the hard drive, nothing is worn out in terms of the disks surface ability to hold data, I didnt say anything about the heads, bearing or electronics.

The way that electrons are forces into the flash storage 'medium' means you have a finite limit on the number of times you can do this, hence the wear levelling in SSD's to stop frequently written files wearing out where they are stored in the flash. SSD's can hold and read data for very long times very reliably, but as long as you are writing to it you are slowly wearing it out, even if we are talking on the order of 10 petabytes of writes for a 128gb drive
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Old 1st August 2009, 8:55 PM   #14
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Quote:
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...you'd expect an SSD to be readable almost indefinitely.
Not quite true. Thermionic excitation of the semiconductor lattice (mn'hai) means that the data retention time of solid state memories is about 100 years. The first google result for "flash retention time" is a PDF which quotes 10, 40 and 100 years for EEPROM, EPROM and flash respectively.

Thermionic losses tend to decrease exponentially when the device is cooled. So (pulling numbers out of the air) it might be 100 years at 21C, 10 years at 80C or 1000 years at -100C. By 120C a silicon structure is pretty much destroyed* so it's much easier to destroy sensitive data on a SSD than on a HDD (curie temperature of iron is ~1000K).

*Well, depends on what you mean by "destroyed". At this temperature there's enough electrons in the conduction band of the bulk Si structure that a chip just acts like a bulk conductor and allows a lot of current to pass through it.
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Old 2nd August 2009, 1:41 AM   #15
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Quote:
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This has been discussed on Slashdot every time an SSD story comes up. Basically if you get a ~128GB drive and write 20GB/day to it's projected to last 5 years.
The Intel rated the 1st gen X25-M's at 100GB/day for 5 years. Of course, intel ones don't suffer the massive performance issues that others do due to a non-stupid firmware.

Of course, Intel SSDs are expensive. But they have random-write performance which isn't sucktastic.
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