What Happens When Your SSD Fails?

When your hard drive dies we all know what happens. You go to turn on your machine one day and your OS doesn't boot, or your drive stops getting detected. But with SSDs their lifespan is far more predictable, so what does happen as they near the end of their life? A well designed SSD will have a good enough wear leveling algorithm to make sure that all blocks in the device get equal usage, so that when they fail, they do so at the same time.

Intel's SSDs are designed so that when they fail, they attempt to fail on the next erase - so you don't lose data. If the drive can't fail on the next erase, it'll fail on the next program - again, so you don't lose existing data. You'll try and save a file and you'll get an error from the OS saying that the write couldn't be completed.

The beauty here is that the SSD knows exactly when it can't erase/program a block, and if the drive knows, then you can use software to ask the drive what it knows. In the near future Intel will be releasing its own SSD tool that will let you query two SMART attributes on the drive: one telling you how close you are to the rated cycling limit, and one telling you when you've run out of reallocating blocks. The latter is the most important because Intel fully expects these drives to outlast their rated limits. As bad blocks develop, the SSD will mark them as such and write to new ones - by telling you when it has run out of bad blocks (or nearly run out of bad blocks), you'll know exactly when you need a new hard drive.

This is hugely important. While Intel's SSDs aren't exactly cheap, the beauty of flash is that it follows the same Moore's Law that CPUs do. In the next ~18 months you'll be able to get a 160GB drive for the price of the 80GB, in another couple of years we'll be at 320GB for the same price (most likely lower as SSD demands increase). Within the next five years we'll be in a situation where the fans in your system are more likely to fail than your hard drive, and if your drive does happen to fail it'll tell you well in advance. How nice of it.

How Long Will Intel's SSDs Last? The Generic SSD
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  • Googer - Monday, September 08, 2008 - link

    Today, you can pick up a 160GB HDD for $50 and a 320GB HDD for around $90-100. This make the 80GB SSD 20x more expensive than a HDD of the same size.


    Reply
  • aeternitas - Thursday, September 11, 2008 - link

    I dont know where you shop, but 100$ can get you 750GB.


    It doesnt make much of a point anyway, as flash based and typical hard drives will coexist for at least the next ten years. One for preformance, the other for storage.

    Maybe some of you are too young to remember, but it was only about 10 years ago that a 20GB hard drive cost 200$ at costco. We are a huge step in terms of the new technology from where we were before. 32 GB for 100$? Yes please. In ten years i expect to see 3+TB flash drives running over 1GBps throughput for around 200$.
    Reply
  • strikeback03 - Thursday, September 11, 2008 - link

    I assume they were referring to 2.5 inch drives, as those prices are more in line with what was stated.

    Also don't forget that with the drop in $/GB of drives has come an increase in demand for storage. Ten years ago digital photography was almost non-existent, with file sizes topping out under a megabyte. Images on the web were maybe 640x480. Now we have digital cameras that average 4-6MB as JPEGs, and some can turn out images over 30MB, not counting the medium-format backs (over 100MB IIRC for the 65Megapixel Phase 1). When I was in college any movie you saw on the network was sized to fit a 700MB CD, Now HD movies can range well over that. MP3s are still the same, or you can store in a lossless format if you choose.

    Will 3TB be small in 10 years? Possibly. The key for flash completely replacing mechanical will be getting the price low enough to hold large amounts of the current data.
    Reply
  • aeternitas - Saturday, September 13, 2008 - link

    Even if they were useing 2.5" drives in the example, it doesnt matter. The fact that these drives will be replaceing 3.5" ones makes their point just as misguided in the point they were trying to make.

    Laptop and desktop drives were differant due to size, now they arnt, so you cant comapair them (HDD vs SSD) in such a illogical manner.
    Reply
  • Blimeynext - Friday, April 23, 2010 - link

    "Intel went one step further and delivered 5x what the OEMs requested. Thus Intel will guarantee that you can write 100GB of data to one of its MLC SSDs every day, for the next five years, and your data will remain intact."

    Any tool out there which tells me how much I write to my HDD each day? It would be nice to find out my present usage and compare it with the 100 GB/day limit....

    If I write less than 20GB a day does that mean the SSD will last at least 25 years?
    Reply
  • Smokerz - Sunday, January 02, 2011 - link

    http://www.bit-tech.net/hardware/apple/2010/07/01/...

    read it all
    Reply
  • Smokerz - Sunday, January 02, 2011 - link

    sorry for the misspell Reply

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