Testing shows SSDs are now more reliable than hard drives

Photo by Jeremy Bezanger on Unsplash

This should come as to no surprise given SSDs (Solid State Drive) don’t have any moving mechanical parts which could fail such as those in the ‘old school’ Hard Disk Drives (HDDs). While SSDs do have a finite number of reads/writes, with an average lifespan of 10-years the SSD is likely to outlast the device which it is installed within.

As speedy solid-state drives began to rise as a realistic alternative to the decades-old hard drive for consumers, early adopters worried that their new SSDs would fail faster and more frequently. But that might not be the case now, if it ever was. According to the latest Drive Stats report from online backup service Backblaze, its SSDs are failing at a consistently lower rate than old-fashioned hard drives. If the data can be replicated, it means that one of the last advantages (or perceived advantages) of the hard drive is disappearing.

For my prior job I repaired/refurbished HP and Lenovo PC’s for a large US based grocery store chain. These PC’s included mini-PCs that would mounted on the back of a monitor; small form factor (SFF) desktop used in various departments throughout the stores to full size (and heavy) towers used for the stores’ CCTV systems or by developers in the cooperate offices. We also had a sperate team which I was not a direct part of, repairing Lenovo and HP laptops. I was also the RMA (warranty) Claims Administrator for HP, Lenovo, Western Digital and Seagate. For the latter two the only parts we used were traditional HDD. Western Digital were either 500 GB or 1 TB 3.5-inch used in SFFs. Seagate were either 6 TB drives 3.5-inch (four setup in a RAID) used for the CCTV boxes or 7mm/9mm 500 GB for the mini-PCs and older laptops. For HP and Lenovo PC’s/laptops any failed part I would process and handle the warranty claims.

The newer Lenovo and HP laptops used an M.2 SSD as did the Lenovo boxes for CCTV (the SSD was just used for Windows and the camera software as all the CCTV footage was saved to the HDD RAID.) While I did not repair the laptops, the team would drop-off failed parts daily for me to process for RMA. It was not uncommon for me to get multiple HDDs each day (in addition to the multiples I would have from the desktop PCs). However, failed SSDs were rare; may be once every 4-6 weeks I would get one. Even the Lenovo CCTV boxes sent in for repair claiming the SSD was bad the majority of the time were related to the M.2 caddy (either defective or improperly installed) not the drive itself. So ot was very rare for me to process an RMA claim for an SSD. The HP PC’s HDDs were the 3rd most common failure (Heat Sink/Fan assembly and Power Supply being most common). Though HDD (and memory) failures were more common in the Mini PC’s more so than the SFFs due to inadequate heat dissipation.

There are a couple caveats though in regards to my experience with HDDs and SSDs. Most of the HDDs which I sent in for warranty were between 3 to 5-years old and were in PCs which typically were running 24/7/365 (and sometimes in very dirty areas such as stock rooms). The SSDs were likely around two-years or less and being installed in managers’/executives’ laptops were not subject to such abuse. However, the CCTV boxes ran 24/7/365 as the stores were still monitoring/recording ever outside normal operating hours. There was also the very rare occurrence where an SSD failed in a laptop out-of-box or during the imaging process. I had left before the SSDs were more than 3-years old, but still would not have expected to see much of an uptick in the rate of failure.

via PCWorld