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SSD Endurance Experiment (2013 to 2015)


Trilwych
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For your curiosity, a hardcore SSD endurance experiment started in August 2013:

Despite the perks, SSDs have a dirty little secret. Their flash memory may be inherently robust, but it's also fundamentally weak. Writing data erodes the nano-scale structure of the individual memory cells, imposing a ceiling on drive life that can be measured in terabytes. Solid-state drives are living on borrowed time. The question is: how much?

Drive makers typically characterize lifespans in total bytes written. Their estimates usually range from 20-40GB per day for the length of the three- or five-year warranty. However, based on user accounts all over the web, those figures are fairly conservative. They don't tell us what happens to SSDs as they approach the end of the road, either.

Being inquisitive types, we've decided to seek answers ourselves. We've concocted a long-term test that will track a handful of modern SSDs—the Corsair Neutron Series GTX, Intel 335 Series, Kingston HyperX 3K, and Samsung 840 and 840 Pro Series—as they're hammered with an unrelenting torrent of data over the coming weeks and months. And we won't stop until they're all dead. Welcome to the SSD Endurance Experiment.

November 2013 update: Testing data retention at 300TB

January 2014 update: 500TB update (Halfway to a petabyte)

February 2014 update: Data retention after 600TB

June 2014 update: Casualties on the way to a petabyte (And then there were three)

September 2014 update: Only two remain after 1.5PB (Another one bites the dust)

Last updated December 2014: The SSD Endurance Experiment: Two freaking petabytes:

More than a year ago, we drafted six SSDs for a suicide mission. We were curious about how many writes they could survive before burning out. We also wanted to track how each one's performance characteristics and health statistics changed as the writes accumulated. And, somewhat morbidly, we wanted to watch what happened when the drives finally expired.

Our SSD Endurance Experiment has left four casualties in its wake so far. Representatives from the Corsair Neutron Series GTX, Intel 335 Series, Kingston HyperX 3K, and Samsung 840 Series all perished to satisfy our curiosity. Each one absorbed far more damage than its official endurance specification promised—and far more than the vast majority of users are likely to inflict.

The last victim fell at 1.2PB, which is barely a speck in the rear-view mirror for our remaining subjects. The 840 Pro and a second HyperX 3K have now reached two freaking petabytes of writes. To put that figure into perspective, the SSDs in my main desktop have logged less than two terabytes of writes over the past couple years. At this rate, it'll take me a thousand years to reach that total.

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And finally, they're all dead (March 12, 2015): http://techreport.com/review/27909/the-ssd-endurance-experiment-theyre-all-dead

 

The SSD Endurance Experiment represents the longest test TR has ever conducted. It's been a lot of work, but the results have also been gratifying. Over the past 18 months, we've watched modern SSDs easily write far more data than most consumers will ever need. Errors didn't strike the Samsung 840 Series until after 300TB of writes, and it took over 700TB to induce the first failures. The fact that the 840 Pro exceeded 2.4PB is nothing short of amazing, even if that achievement is also kind of academic.

Obviously, the limited sample size precludes drawing definitive conclusions about the durability and reliability of the individual drives. The second HyperX's against-all-odds campaign past 2PB demonstrates that some SSDs are simply tougher than others. The important takeaway is that all of the drives wrote hundreds of terabytes without any problems. Their collective endurance is a meaningful result.

The Corsair, Intel, and Kingston SSDs all issued SMART warnings before their deaths, giving users plenty of time to preserve their data. The HyperX's warnings ended up being particularly premature, but that's better than no warning at all. Samsung's own software pronounced the 840 Series and 840 Pro to be in good health before their respective deaths. Worryingly, the 840 Series' uncorrectable errors didn't change that cheery assessment.

If you write a lot of data, keep an eye out for warning messages, because SSDs don't always fail gracefully. Among the ones we tested, only the Intel 335 Series and first HyperX remained accessible at the end. Even those bricked themselves after a reboot. The others were immediately unresponsive, possibly because they were overwhelmed by incoming writes before attempted resuscitation.

Also, watch for bursts of reallocated sectors. The steady burn rates of the 840 Series and 840 Pro show that SSDs can live long and productive lives even as they sustain mounting flash failures. However, sudden massacres that deviate from the drive's established pattern may hint at impending death, as they did for the Neutron GTX and the first HyperX.

If you wonder why this is important, PC World explains:

 

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.

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My tech buddy has been suggesting I go the SSD route for a year now.  Says it will enhance gaming performance.

Oh my goodness, yes. :)

Complete boot times, application start-up, data transfer speeds are all significantly faster. Game load times while accessing all the textures and data, significantly faster. For long-term usage, HDDs are still best (I mean over a decade), but SSDs are pretty standard now for anything else. No noise, no moving parts to break, and with the latest data indicating they're pretty darn durable for any consumer use, there's no reason not to get one. Besides having a super old system or the price, I suppose. What I usually do with my desktops is have a smaller SSD for the OS and all applications and a separate HDD for large data storage (AV, etc.) because HDDs are still cheaper.

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For a short time I was playing LOTRO with the game placed on my SSD and it considerably improved performance. Some issues that people would generally call 'lag' were resolved - things related to data loading and maybe graphics stuff, not connection-related problems. Still, some things didn't improve like for example the loading time when you open your vault. I don't remember when they screwed that one (I have a feeling it suddenly appeared in one moment), but the SSD couldn't fix it.

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Given that the writing of data to a SSD is one (and certainly the one that gets the most exposure; and was the main threat to the endurance of first generation devices) limit to a drives operational lifespan (ive no idea what the others might be, i havnt read around on the subject, but i havnt noticed any other major factors, or how much of an issue they may be) makes the below conclusion impricise.

 

"Worrying about the endurance of modern SSDs makes no more sense than worrying about the endurance of the spinning drive you use now."

 

I worry about the reliability of my mechanical hard drives every now and then, its why i keep regular back-ups. 

 

Its pretty obvious that mechanical hard drive technology of rotating disk platters is by orders of magnitude less reliable (given some of the evidence linked above, and the absence of any other major threat to their operational lifespan that im aware of; subjection to constant high temperatures possibly) than that of Solid State Drives.

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Once Solid State Drives will become so cheap to become really mainstream that every gamer will have one and install all "major" games on them.  Reducing HDD only to AV and similar storage.  Then this fact coupled with further increase in ssd& interfaces bandwidth will allow certain things in gaming that is not possible now.

 

Most that will benefit will be open world games, with lot of data, assets, big view distance etc that need constant data loading.

 

 

SSDs are still far away from that though. Cost wise, even taking into account that their 1GB/$ fallen tremendusly, they are still several times too expensive for that to happen.   

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Prices for SSD are not to bad just now.  You can get 120 GB for under £45.  I would look at the Seagate Solid State Hybrid Drives as an alternative.  You can get 1 TB drives for under £65 and 2 Tb for around £90 and 4 TB for around £140.  These seem to offer good value for money well getting faster speeds than standard HDD 

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Yes, but that's still not the price that makes SSD a standard device.  Take note that PS4/Xbox still use HDD and that there are still plenty of gamers that either don't have SSD or have only small drives.

 

For game developers to truly utilize SSD speed / seek rate would mean that game would be unplayable from HDD.   They won't do that until SSD is both faster and much more widespread than now.

 

 

Propably won't happen at least until next generation of consoles - IF that next generation of consoles will utilize SSDs instead of HDD.

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Its pretty obvious that mechanical hard drive technology of rotating disk platters is by orders of magnitude less reliable (given some of the evidence linked above, and the absence of any other major threat to their operational lifespan that im aware of; subjection to constant high temperatures possibly) than that of Solid State Drives.

It is pretty obvious that although that might be so in theory the current consumer SATA SSDs have failed to deliver on the promise. Every piece of actual data coming out, including this thread's topic study, indicates that.

And it's worse. The SSDs usually fail suddenly and entirely with no data recovery possible. Old style drives tend to start wining in S.M.A.R.T. beforehand. Doesn't make a difference for the users who treat the computer like a car and keep driving not looking at error messages until it stops but for those who do monitor health it makes a difference.

Even when they fail HDs are much more likely to fail in a way where large parts of the data are recoverable (some sectors affected but the rest can be read once) or where a change of a PCB board can make the data accessible.

There is no cure for a blown controller on a SATA SSD since it is on-die.

You can further improve HD reliability by never buying Seagate, and there is no known good vendor in SSD land. People thought Intel would be but the drives are as easy to kill as others.

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Given that the writing of data to a SSD is one (and certainly the one that gets the most exposure; and was the main threat to the endurance of first generation devices) limit to a drives operational lifespan (ive no idea what the others might be, i havnt read around on the subject, but i havnt noticed any other major factors, or how much of an issue they may be) makes the below conclusion impricise.

 

"Worrying about the endurance of modern SSDs makes no more sense than worrying about the endurance of the spinning drive you use now."

 

I worry about the reliability of my mechanical hard drives every now and then, its why i keep regular back-ups. 

 

Its pretty obvious that mechanical hard drive technology of rotating disk platters is by orders of magnitude less reliable (given some of the evidence linked above, and the absence of any other major threat to their operational lifespan that im aware of; subjection to constant high temperatures possibly) than that of Solid State Drives.

The real takeaway about endurance from the study is actually SSD "normal use." I have a couple tablet computers, and typically people will say "you should never torrent on it because you'll wear down the SSD!" The point is that under normal use, even heavier computer-geek use, people don't need to worry about wearing down an SSD outside of manufacturing defects. (In consumer-grade devices, we end up upgrading after 4-5 years anyway, so I would worry only if you really plan on keeping something for a much longer time.)

Darmokk, what are you blabbering about, again? All the drives gave warnings before death except the Samsungs, so they give plenty of warning before a failure and you can check your backups. Backups are a must in any case, though; everyone should do that whatever tech they choose. People shouldn't have to rely on physical recovery, so that's not a good argument at all. It's like you're the master of missing the point, same with the Windows 10 thread and randomly bringing up Linux or complaining about various things in current MMOs that have nothing to do with MMOs. There has been no failed promise: That cumulative data writes far exceeded manufacturer limits show users don't have to worry about their write habits over the regular course of usage. The "promises" are the warranty and manufacturer-imposed technical limits.

Eillwen, I only put applications on SSD and data on HDD mirrored to optical and cloud, because SSDs are still expensive relative to large HDD capacities. The only loss would be time for reinstallation. Traditional HDDs can still be reliable (1, 2). Look for drives with longer warranties, especially enterprise, since a few years ago all the HDD manufacturers shortened their consumer-grade drive warranties. But just keep in mind that neither SSD nor HDD are expected to last forever anyway.

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The flash inside tablets can be a significant problem if you write more than expected by the designer.

I don't think torrenting is a big issue since they are only written once and then served out without writing forever.

The bigger problem could be constant updates to apps or even the OS (all of which is followed by re-writing the cache of compiled Java apps). Android also doesn't universally do TRIM in all cases on all devices, even if the OS version itself supports TRIM.

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I'm wondering.  If the SSD fails and you can't your stuff unless it's backed up.  Are you able to reformat and start a fresh install? Since after all it's digital and no spinning disks to write information on.

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So same as with spinny disks, keep backups and/or sacrifice a bit of storage space for RAID with parity?

Except that SSDs tend to keep dying at the same time, which is a bit of a problem for a RAID or mirror.

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