Week In Tech: Are SSDs Really Reliable?

By Jeremy Laird on January 30th, 2014 at 9:00 pm.

Oh hell, it’s happened again. But this time it’s induced not only frustration but a sudden pang of guilt. Another of my SSDs has gone titsup.com and my borderline breathless fanboyism for SSDs is flashing before my eyes. What have I done? Have I been wrong all along? Are SSDs still not fit for public consumption? At the very least, it’s reason enough to re-examine just how reliable the latest solid staters are and whether the reward is worth the risk.

My latest offender is a Crucial C300. A couple of generations old, perhaps, but very much a modern SSD complete with TRIM support.

More importantly, this drive had until recently led a pretty pampered life. It was one of my test drives that was woken up once or twice a month to benchmark a motherboard, GPU or whatever – unlike the previous failure involving a Kingston SSDNow effort of similar vintage that wilted under the onslaught of some heavy duty torrenting.

The irony here is that I pressed the C300 into regular duty in one of my secondary PCs on the back of the Kingston’s failure. To be fair, the C300 hasn’t totally died and I haven’t gotten properly stuck into the trouble shooting yet. But it has started locking up horribly on occasion. Not good.

Good company
I could simply view myself as being in good company. Last year, Linus Torvald’s SSD reportedly screwed the pooch, bringing development of the Linux 3.12 kernel to a standstill.

Of course, the real difficulty here is getting hold of proper stats with decent sample sizes based on a well-designed survey from an independent source. Because as an individual, it’s tricky enough to test a single drive for long term reliability, much less a significant sample of said drive or multiple competing models. It’s a bit of a mare.

Dig really deep into the subject of SSD reliability and in my experience brainache is a more likely outcome than true enlightenment. It’s a painfully tricksy subject.

One of the better surveys of SSD reliability dates back to 2012 and generally lines up with prevailing prejudices in terms of which are the most reliable SSD brands out there, with Samsung and Intel looking pretty clever. More recent returns data from a French e-tailer does likewise, though it notably puts Crucial drives rather lower down the pecking order.

The TechReport has also been busy for the last six months or so hammering away at a selection of the most popular drives. Overall, the drives seem to have held up reassuringly well as they passed the 500TB test mark, though a few chinks have appeared in the armour of the hallowed Samsung 840 Pro.

Power-loss panic
Extremetech, meanwhile, has some detail on how sudden power loss can hit SSD reliability and performance. It’s slightly unnerving stuff, but interestingly Intel once again rises to the top.

If it came down to life or death, you’d choose Intel

Then there’s the broader question of how SSDs compare to traditional hard drives. Lest ye forget, failures of those spinning platters are far from unheard of. According to a researcher at electronics market intelligence outfit IHS, annual failure rates of SSD run around 1.5 per cent with HDDs nearer five per cent. If true, that does rather blow SSD reliability concerns out of the water.

That seems to tally with Intel’s reported claims of warranty return rates below one per cent. Perhaps part of the confusion is that SSDs have a wider range of functionality than hard drives in the sense that the latter tend to be a bit more binary – either working fine or dead and not a lot in between.

But what to make of it all, especially in a gaming context? Firstly, the usual advice applies. Back important things up. SSD or traditional HDD, these drives routinely die.

Personally, I’m a big fan of treating your primary OS drive as expendable and disposable. Keep everything important elsewhere, use cloud-based profiles where possible and reinstall frequently.

For me it’s typically a case of installing Windows from a USB key, which takes no time at all, adding a GPU driver, installing Chrome and Steam and letting the cloud do its work. OK, there are a few more specialist apps I stick on. But you get the idea. It’s really not that painful.

You also have the option of using various tools to shunt your Steam library around, either to save space on your SSD or to back up your games for swift resinstallation.

The terrible ‘t’ word
But overall, a gaming-biased install oughtn’t be too hard on an SSD. What I would advise against is torrenting heavily on an SSD. I have no hard proof here. Just my anecdotal experience. And it’s that SSDs don’t take kindly to 24/7 torrenting.

Those provisos and the intermittently worrisome reliability data aside, I still think SSDs are well worth the downside. They may not be super critical in-game in performance terms, though god knows anything that speeds up level load times in some games is worth it.

But the impact on all-round PC responsiveness is just so overwhelming, I would personally put up with SSDs even flakier than most of those currently available. And the good news is that there’s just enough solid info out there to help you choose a really reliable drive if that’s your main priority. To cut a long story short, out of the big brands choose Samsung or Intel and favour the latter if your life depends on it.

With most of the latest SSDs delivering very decent performance, reliability is certainly my number one concern when choosing an SSD. I reckon it should be yours, too.

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134 Comments »

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  1. ScubaMonster says:

    The better modern SSD’s can stand up to years of heavy read/write operations. The old problems of yore with SSD’s aren’t quite as prevalent if you buy a decent one.

    • Risingson says:

      How many years? Who knows! One day you will wake up and notice that you don’t have any information! Anymore!

      It’s a pity that there is no reliable data storage after all :(

      • BTAxis says:

        Entropy always wins.

        • Heliocentric says:

          And on the pedestal these words appear:
          “My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
          Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
          Nothing beside remains.

      • tasteful says:

        i dont think you really care about anything on your hard drive. i dont know if i care about anything at all :(

      • Premium User Badge

        FriendlyFire says:

        There is, I’m just not sure you’d be able to afford it for your family photos.

        • Jade Raven says:

          For affordable reliability choose BTRFS, it’s in “beta” though.

          • quintesse says:

            If only a driver existed for windows though so I could share a BTRFS drive on a dual-boot system.

          • KillahMate says:

            @quintesse That’s why you use your Windows system disk as your Windows system disk. The data goes elsewhere, preferably to a NAS using btrfs or zfs. Like this one:

            http://www.freenas.org/

      • Blad the impaler says:

        Buy a journal, bro!

      • 00000 says:

        According to a 500TB workload test, even the worst performing SDD tested should survive* for 10 years being hammered with 140GB of “torrenting” each day.

        * “survive”

    • DodgyG33za says:

      More anecdotal evidence:

      I have four 250gb SSDs – two S830’s, one OCX Vertex 4 and an S840. No problems so far, and the S830’s have been hammered fairly hard daily for at least two years, including with torrents.

      Over the same period I have had 4 HDD’s fail (half my total number). Two were Western Digital 2.5 inch laptop drives about 4 years old, and two were Seagate 1GB drives that were less than a year old. I suspect heat was the problem for the HDDs as we had a number of 40 degree days and the office they were is was probably over 30 degrees. The SDDs don’t generate the same heat, so presumably that was why they survived.

    • jalf says:

      “Years” is kind of a low bar to set though. In my experience, don’t *rely* on your SSD lasting more than, say, 2 years. Sure, you might be able to use it longer for the performance and responsiveness, but make damn sure you have a backup at that point.

      SSDs *are* a lot flakier than mechanical harddrives, that seems to be everyone’s experience. They often don’t last as long. You might get lucky and it’ll work for several years. Or you might get unlucky and it’ll die after a year.

      (As far as SSD’s supposedly having a lower failure rate, that seems odd because I don’t think I’ve ever met *anyone* who had that experience. Perhaps it is because more HDDs are dead on arrival, but if it’s not defective out of the box, it’ll last for a decade, where SSD’s generally work out of the box, and generally fail after 1-3 years? Or maybe it’s just that SSD’s are younger as a technology, and individual drives just haven’t been in use as long, and are replaced more often, before they have time to fail? (really, how long did early adopters hang on to that whopping big 64GB SSD they bought back when that was the biggest they got?)

      The better modern SSD’s can stand up to years of heavy read/write operations.

      How can you tell? The modern ones, by definition, are the ones that haven’t yet had to stand up to years of heavy read/write operations.

      • Commenter says:

        Well, we do have some runtime approximations for a few of the more popular modern SSDs.
        Websites like xtremehardware tested models like Samsung’s 830 by writing data at maximum speed until they failed, which they did after more than a year of constant stress and reaching more than a Petabyte of written data.
        Without any moving parts or other classic wear-and-tear points of potential failure, that’s many years of use even for power users.

        Sure, things can still just die for no apparent reason but that’s always been a negligible factor in products that are known to be reliable and not fail for the lack of proper hardware components or software.

        • jalf says:

          As I’ve said elsewhere, it’s not how much total data you write, but where it is written to. It’s pretty hard to create a synthetic benchmark which actually correlates with real-world usage. And in real life, most SSDs do not seem to last for “many years”, at least not yet.

    • DThor says:

      This. Because it’s still a relatively young mass market tech, you have a choice: get a solid Intel or Samsung Pro and never look back once, or save a penny or be seduced by spec numbers and risk doubt. SSD’s are the future, they are stunningly reliable, but brand matters. A lot. Death to spindles!

  2. The_Hunter says:

    Very interesting and I’m sorry to hear you’ve had bad luck with your SSDs.

    I use a 256gb Samsung pro for my OS and games. When I torrent the files go directly to a secondary HDD. Is this still causing some form of unseen stress on my SSD? Cache stress?!

    I doubt it but now I’m not sure…

    • Naed says:

      not really.

      unless your torrent client is doing something fairly weird, the only thing it dumps on the OS drive is the .torrent file itself (in the temp folder), and there will be a database file that handles a list of what is what in your client.

      But that is (very roughly) what is stored on your OS drive.

  3. trjp says:

    My experience isn’t really their unreliability per-se – it’s that you almost never get any warning before they fail and they always fail bigstyle.

    HDDs usually give some warning of their impending failure and will often still be semi-readable even then. I once left an HDD which would sporadically power-off on for a week as a ‘smart’ copying script emptied it of it’s rich data – I got all but about 5 files off it quite successfully tho the noises it made were quite nasty :)

    SSDs tend to just “just die” tho – no warning, no clicking or ticking, no Reallocated Sectors or CRC errors, no “slow PC” warnings – they – just – die.

    Of course it’s not really a problem because you’ll have all your ‘work’ backed-up instantly to the cloud and a fairly recent image of the device to recover from – right? You may even have completely redundant RAID!?

    I mean you have those things don’t you – because it you don’t you should’t really be using a PC at all – most of that is FREE!!

    • Naed says:

      well, you have the option of having a look at the “state” of your drive, either with the supplied software (as an example: samsung has the magician software).

      But yes, do backup important stuff :)

      • LionsPhil says:

        At least with spinning drives, I’ve kind of learnt that SMART is a great source of complete lies.

        “Everything is fine!” *WHIRRRCLICKCLICKCLICKCLICK* “Just dandy!” *GRNCH*

        • trjp says:

          SMART’s fitness test isn’t usually much help but I find that watching “Reallocated Sector Count” is a pretty good guide to a drive which is simply dying of old-age.

          CRC errors usually point to cable and interface problems too – rather than actual drive problems.

          The key thing, tho, is that HDDs “just dying” are rare in my experience – and even if they do there’s a good chance that it’s a mechanical/electrical fault and that if you’re wealthy enough, your data can still be rescued.

          That’s not an option with SSDs AFAIK – so backup is CRUCIAL here.

          Also – bear in mind that they’re not the place to store media files or most of your games either ;0

          • fish99 says:

            You mean because games are big? Otherwise I can’t see a reason not to put games on them since the data is always replaceable should the drive die, and I doubt gaming puts much wear on a drive.

        • syllopsium says:

          Lies may be a little excessive. SMART does work on occasion, and if it says the drive is at imminent risk of death, it usually is. The only issue is that plenty of other times drives die with no warning, but at least some warning sometimes is better than none.

          • LionsPhil says:

            Yes…it’s just that I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a SMART bad status, but I have seen a bunch of spinning drives in “I’ve started losing data” conditions. I monitor it anyway, but I don’t really expect it to tell me anything useful by this point.

    • Spongbo says:

      +1. 2 SSDs failed on me – and they were just nonworking at that point. No mess, no fuss, no recovery – just dead. Hard drives have in my experience (maybe 5 overall failures over the last 20 years, but high rate of churn) do fail with more warning given- bad sectors, retry noises, clickety-click.

    • GPTurismo says:

      Back ups are important for any drive. HDD’s have mechanical failures a long with digital failures. SSD’s are strictly digital and the one I experienced with a friends computer is he was running everything off of his SSD’s vs having a secondary HDD as a data drive. I also have two Raid 5 cases I back up to, with one being at my moms house since she doesn’t ever take advantage of the internet except to play Bejeweled and do hangouts with family in the UK (we live in the states)

      I really like Samsung’s Magician software for basic things and use Hard Disk Sentinel for more complicated checks. Also I made sure to have enough ram to have a small swap (which is on the HDD) and try not to put the machine to sleep much since the biggest write is the hybernate file. Rather just do a full shutdown and boot up since it’s relatively the same time.

      But backing up is the biggest issue, for any drives, be ssds, hdds or even large scale logical drives.

    • Low Life says:

      I’ve had two HDDs fail (on separate occasions) and they both went down without any SMART warnings or earlier problems. They were both over 5 years old at the time of failure, though, so I guess it was their time. I need to start doing something that warrants an upgrade every couple of years.

      The one SSD I had fail gave a SMART warning on boot and died on the same boot, so that wasn’t very useful, either.

    • Muzman says:

      Cloud back ups aren’t really in reach for most of the planet except for negligible stuff like documents. The stuff people really want back after a failure (ie…everything just the way it was) is not feasible to be backed up on a regular basis.
      Most people are still best off with an external USB drive or something and even that’s a job.

      It’s not really enough to say “Well you just shouldn’t be a PC user then” if people don’t want to jump through a ton of hoops to do it. A good way for no one to want to be one. And then Apple wins, and nobody wants that While some knowledge is necessary we should be pushing for better standards of security constantly too.
      Things with raid mirroring by default, Harddrive death clocks maybe. I don’t know, but the more the better.

  4. cmc5788 says:

    SSDs aren’t really reliable, but neither are typical hard drives. They are and always have been one of the most delicate components in any setup. Statistically SSDs aren’t any more or less reliable than old-school hard drives. I’m sure there will be plenty of horror stories about both, and this article certainly presents one, but it’s all anecdote and shouldn’t have anything to do with consumer decisions.

    But either way, I have to agree that even if SSDs ran on unstable live explosives I’d still take them for the performance boost over an HD any day.

    • Phasma Felis says:

      You may have missed that the article also links to a number of sources of hard data.

    • DodgyG33za says:

      It is extremely unlikely that two very different technologies have the same failure rate. Unless God is involved somehow. We all know the mysterious ways He moves in.

      Coincidentally the article states that “According to a researcher at electronics market intelligence outfit IHS, annual failure rates of SSD run around 1.5 per cent with HDDs nearer five per cent.”

    • Dizrupt says:

      They are very reliable. Author just ended up with worse batch, it happens, nothing is 100%. Also Crucial are not the worst but personally I would not put anything else on in except the system. When you want build quality it’s either Intel or Samsung.

  5. Geebs says:

    My ancient Samsung SSD corrupted one partition (Mac OS) but left the other (windows) intact. Admittedly it had had everything from Snow Leopard to Mavericks installed on it and the recovery partition was behaving strangely so it may have all been Apple’s fault. Quick format and reinstall and everything worked fine.

    For perspective, at the same time my main hard drive blew up and then the backup drive died immediately after restoring it, so I couldn’t rightly suggest that HDDs are more reliable :-)

    • Premium User Badge

      stahlwerk says:

      Considering how abysmally outdated HFS+ is behaving with its can-do-but-actually-won’t-attitude towards journalling or any kind of automated consistency checking (for the love of all that is holy, don’t ever start worrying about bit-rot!), I would not be so quick to lay the blame with the SSD in your case.

  6. CookPassBabtridge says:

    I’ve been running an Intel SSD in a gaming latop since August 2011, seems to be ok so far. She only runs my OS though as she’s too little to do games. That’s being handled by her big sister, a 700GB mechanical laptop Hitachi model.

  7. Beernut says:

    I installed 128gb-editions of the Samsung 830 in my laptop and my parent’s and a friend’s PC. My PC has a 240 gb edition of the same drive as a system drive and my old 128gb-Supertalent with the ancient Indilinx-Controller has been demoted to a gaming partition. I put a 128 Samsung 840 Evo in my sister’s new PC. Except for the last one, all of the mentioned drives have been running fine for years, despite being under some heavy loads occasionally. We were lucky so far, on the other hand there really seems to be quite a discrepancy between the failure-rates across different manufacturers. Hard statistics with meaningful sample sizes are hard to come by, but that’s a problem we already had with traditional hard drives.

  8. mLocke says:

    “SSDs don’t take kindly to 24/7 torrenting”

    …what do you think seed boxes use? tape drives?

    • Premium User Badge

      Aninhumer says:

      I imagine they use HDDs, since they want lots of storage, and only need to read/write at network speeds.

    • Calreth says:

      Writes are also more costly than reads. Seedboxes primary read.

    • Phasma Felis says:

      I would bloody well hope they use HDDs. Using SSDs for network storage is like using Ferraris for freight transport.

  9. RProxyOnly says:

    I would actually consider your opinion in this matter to be quite relevant, I too no longer have any reason to trust SSD’s having had all three of mine, 2 sammies and a corsair, fail rather spectacularly after very little usage.

    I have gone back to platters and have finally a satisfactory experience again after a year and a half of pure bullshit.. I see no reason to risk further SSD failure, data loss and expense by switching back.

    In my personal experience, I feel that SSD’s simply aren’t a mature enough platform yet.

    EDIT I don’t torrent enough to consider that being a contributing factor in my case.. at most I have downed 6 or 7 various Linux distros over a large period of time and I don’t seed for long after download.

  10. ueberOne says:

    Flash Memory is inherently unreliable. There’s no way around this fact. What the industry does is to alleviate this deficiency by implementing controllers for the flash chips that basically ‘guess’ at the probability of an error occurring in a given cell and to then remap a ‘known good cell’ to that address.
    So guesswork. True, the things are ‘reasonably reliable’, but still guesswork. Don’t ever store stuff you need without making backups, but I guess that’s been true since, rock paper pottery days …
    Solid State Drives Data Reliability and Lifetime

  11. Premium User Badge

    Don Reba says:

    I wonder, what does actually happen with SSDs when they “die”?

    • Naed says:

      for background info (if you really want to know)

      Start with this one: (its been linked all over the place)
      http://www.anandtech.com/show/2738

      then follow up with this one:
      http://anandtech.com/show/2829

      Both will tell you quite a bit about how SSD’s work :)

      • Premium User Badge

        Don Reba says:

        Thank you, that’s a lot of information about how SSDs live, but it does not seem to say much about how they die. It talks a bit about performance degradation, but not about sudden death.

    • RProxyOnly says:

      Well they’re not like dogs, mate, they don’t all go to heaven. I think, due to their sins, most of them burn in hell for all of eternity.

    • Jupiah says:

      They go to SSD heaven of course!

  12. TillEulenspiegel says:

    as they passed the 500TB test mark

    Holy crap! My 128GB Samsung 830 registers just over 5TB written, after about 18 months of being used as a primary OS + applications drive. And for compiling a ton of C++ code almost every day. I don’t think normal users/gamers are going to hit 500TB for a very long time.

    I actually just bought an 840 Pro, and used the software to configure Windows for maximum reliability/longevity. As a matter of course I keep backups of everything important and never completely trust any one drive, but unless you’re really beating the hell out of your Samsung or Intel SSD, the early failure rate should be very small.

    • Sharlie Shaplin says:

      My 830 OS drive, shows 3.48 TB after 20 months use. Gonna be a while before I hit 500 TB then.

      • kaer says:

        Excuse my ignorance, but; how did you two see how much has been written? Was it some software that came with the drive? Thanks.

        • Sharlie Shaplin says:

          I used the Samsung Magician software that came with the drive.

          • kaer says:

            Thanks. It’s funny, I had just convinced myself, before reading this article, that I have nothing to worry about, as I couldn’t possibly be averaging 10GB/day. But I can’t resist the possibility of knowing exactly.

        • ahmedabdo says:

          Yep… SSD drives come with software that measures drive statistics.
          Edit: a bit late :p

  13. Gwilym says:

    titsup.com would be a good name for a breastfeeding website, but instead it’s NOTHING. it doesn’t even have the backpacker woman. and she travels everywhere

    • DodgyG33za says:

      Glad to know I wasn’t the only one who was curious.

      • EveryoneIsWrong says:

        I checked the comments JUST to confirm someone else looked as well.

    • geldonyetich says:

      I’m certainly glad I have NoScript installed. It’s basically just a cyber squatter’s URL that has been loaded up with everything he could find in hopes to pick up random browsers’ computers and shake them until money comes out.

  14. Azradesh says:

    Honestly, just get a hybrid drive or set up your own SSD cache. Most of the benefits with none of the down sides.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Stick a USB stick in the back and tell Windows to dedicate it to ReadyBoost. Entirely worth how very little effort and expense it is.

      • Max.I.Candy says:

        Ready Boost?! Hasn’t that been completely useless for years now that everyone has over 512mb ram, lol?

        • syllopsium says:

          Theoretically, no, as the whole point the boosted files are read from fast flash rather than spinning disk.

          In reality I had a go on my 8GB main system and found that under Vista at the time it didn’t have as much impact as expected, and also that the flash drive I was using was not uniformly fast. 3/4 way into copying data it slowed right down making it unsuitable for readyboost. I believe it was supposedly readyboost capable too..

        • LionsPhil says:

          No, because unlike in-memory cache, ReadyBoost won’t be flushed out the moment you launch a hungry game with a web browser lurking in the background. Having dedicated read cache is a nice luxury.

          It’s simple enough to just try it and find out for yourself. It made a huge difference for Visual Studio startup times and TF2 map load times for me.

          If you’re into 8GB territory you may be facing diminishing returns, though. Congratulations, SuperFetch has already given you a smart hybrid drive, and at the speed of main memory, not flash.

  15. SRTie4k says:

    Anyone who stores long-term data on an SSD without backups deserves what they get (or in this case, what they lose).

    Besides, that’s what mechanical HDD’s are for.

    • Hahaha says:

      Anyone who leaves unbacked up data on mechanical HDD is asking for it…. what do you know it works both ways.

      You need backups of your backups or your backups to really be secure.

  16. SkittleDiddler says:

    Meanwhile, my trusty WD Caviar Black hard drives are going on strong as ever, 5+ years after I bought them. I won’t be buying SSDs until they can surpass that kind of reliability and shelf life.

    • LionsPhil says:

      And when aging HDDs have failed on me, they’ve done it in a gradual crawl of bad sectors, allowing time for ddrescue to image them across to a fresh disk.

      Yes, yes, backups. Restoring from those takes time, especially if you’re only backing up your data, not your whole environment. (And doing the latter takes a lot more space.) Just because I can restore from sudden, total failure doesn’t mean I want to if I can avoid it.

      • TillEulenspiegel says:

        That’s lucky. I’ve experienced a number of sudden Click of Death failures, with no reasonable possibility of data recovery.

        Always always back up your important stuff. Not the whole OS and all the crap you can just reinstall, that’s pointless. For most people that should probably be just a few GB, especially after you’ve taken advantage of free cloud services for storing photos, videos, music, Git/Mercurial repositories, etc etc.

        Gambling on the reliability of any one drive is a really, really, astoundingly bad idea.

        • LionsPhil says:

          Like I said, I can recover from that.

          But if you offer me two system drives, one of which will mean some day I will have to be sat there watching ddrescue clone it, and the other means that one day I’ll be reinstalling Windows, reinstalling my programs, restoring their configuration, and restoring my actual data from backup, I’ll take the former.

          (This is also why I take full system images of my non-gaming machines, “wasteful” as that may be to back up things I could reinstall.)

    • UncleLou says:

      I’ve had a WD black Caviar fail within 3 months of buying it. Meanwhile, my trusty old MacBook Air is going as strong as ever after 4+ years. :p

      • SkittleDiddler says:

        I probably got lucky in buying from the same batch, but all four of my 1TBs are still alive. I’m fully expecting them to last another five years, which is probably around the same time I’ll be picking up my first SSD.

        Hybrids are certainly looking more and more appealing, though.

  17. CommanderJ says:

    The TechReport mentioned Samsung 840 when it talked about allocated sectors after 100TB.

    NOT the venerable 840 Pro.

    Just want the article to be correct :)

  18. UncleLou says:

    I am actually considering ditching mechanical hdds altogether, for one simple reason – noise. I’ve got very quiet fans, and a very quiet graphics card, but my western digital enterprise drives make quite a racket even when they’re idle. The OS is on an ssd anyway, and I don’t need *huge* amounts of space. With even 1TB ssds coming down to reasonable prices these days, I am tempted.

    Backups are a must, anyway, I’ve had too many hdds fails. Old ones, new ones, cheap ones, expensive ones.

  19. PoLLeNSKi says:

    I don’t wanna be that person, but the 1.5 / 5% figures are both just for warranty returns…

    It *might* be that 1/20 HDD’s messes up within the first year or two just because of a bad batch of manufacture, but the remaining 19/20 last for donkeys years whilst the SSD’s are built more uniformly, but all die after 5yrs..,

    It’s just slightly misleading to say “annual failure rates of SSD run around 1.5 per cent with HDDs nearer five per cent” without mentioning that this is just within the first few years of the product life. It rang a bell for me from working in repairs for hifi equipment, where a certain brand had a known return rate of 25% within warranty, but they just kept on replacing it until the customer got one that ‘worked’ and that’d be fine. Apparently that was more economic than testing each resistor before making the equipment, or using components with a tighter tolerance in the first place.

    • DodgyG33za says:

      The inconvenience of failing Hi-Fi equipment is not the same as that of a HDD though. Regardless it sounds like design by accountant. If I had any device fail repeatedly I would not be buying that brand again, regardless of their replacement policy.

  20. dahools says:

    Jeremy youve spoke of a few different parts in articles now. Any chance of cases? Looking to downsiize from an epically large cosmos to something much more portable about 400 mm tall and can take an ATX mb as I dont really want to change hardware much. You can pick several price points.

    And since things have moved on for a bit since your talk on monitors. Whats the best you can advise for gaming sub 200 quid at the moment?

    Cheers

  21. altum videtur says:

    I’ve been using computers an extreme amount in the past I’d say 10 years. I have never had a hard drive failure. Or a CPU failure. Or a GPU failure. I am convinced that my presence bestows a blessing upon machines of all kind and that I AM A WALKING GOD. BOW DOWN BEFORE MEKANOS, LORD OF ALL WOT CALCULATES GOOD

    I did have troubles with RAM (is that what you call the little memory sticks? I sure hope so) and power units though. Especially this one time I kicked my PC halfway across the room (good times).

    And still I haven’t bought an SSD. Always worrying about it frying or something.

    • Pinlive says:

      Excuse my ignorance but, I wonder how much the environment influences failure rates, as an English expat in Shanghai, I’ve never had anything fail in the UK. But G/CPU life expectancy here is around 16 months. although shoddy Chinese construction plays a part (one pays a hefty premium here for goods of export quality) the heat (40 degree summers) and choking dust (can gum up heat sinks in a month) surely play a part.

  22. Psymon says:

    Recently, my crucial M4 hit the point of causing BSOD after an hour of update.
    A ‘quick’ firmware update later and all was well again.

    My dad had an OCZ vertex which gave up the ghost after about 6 months, and has been replaced with a samsung 840 which is still doing fine after about 6 months.

  23. Major Kong says:

    My Samsung “smart” phone Xcover survived ill treatment for 2 years and 4 weeks. The battery went bad, then it would not charge anymore with any cable I tried.
    It was built to last a certain amount of time. Then it died and was lost like tears in rain.

    We may never reach Mars. With spaceships built to last for the time it takes to get there and come back but not a day more as calculated by bookkeepers.
    Not long ago christian religion slowed down science, today capitalism does.

  24. Premium User Badge

    Gap Gen says:

    I was actually literally just Googling for SSDs after I finally got annoyed at how long it takes Windows to become useable. Thanks for the advice! Even the indirect link to the French site was useful, since I have no idea where to buy from online here.

    • stiffkittin says:

      You looking to buy from French sites?

      • Premium User Badge

        Gap Gen says:

        Yeah. Any advice?

        • stiffkittin says:

          Sure. Best experience overall was with Materiel.net. The site is specialised in tech and computing, has a competitive range of products and is attractively laid out. Tech specs on components are displayed prominently and in a consistent way, comparing similar products is easy, and they don’t bombard you with upsells. Customer reviews can also be occasionally useful. They have tech staff on hand that really know their stuff and the 3 times I’ve needed to contact them (once for build advice on a purchase and another time for a return on a failing HDD) I was personally contacted by email within 2 hours. Downsides are the prices are a bit higher on average than the cheapest merchants, shipping costs, and a lot of the product reviews can be on the gushing side about how amazing the service is etc.

          Rueducommerce.fr was another I used more than a few times. I found them consistently the cheapest for the same products (when I could find them) and the point relais free delivery options were pretty handy to bring the price down further, especially since materiel.net had no pickup offices in Nice. The site, though, is designed by a demented spidermonkey on pcp and is a bit aggravating. Also, hopefully you never have a customer service issue because emails disappear into that theoretical black hole event horizon and the bored, prickly human tumor you get on the phone will have no idea how to help you and will do everything in their power to let you know what a massive inconvenience your call is to the life-saving business they could be getting on with otherwise.

          I also used Gros Bill once and it was fine. Site was similar to Rue du Commerce but less so and everything went smoothly as far as I remember. I’ve also heard LDLC mentioned positively and believe they are reliable but have no personal experience with them.

          For all of them you’ll probably need reasonable French as I don’t think any serious French merchant sites are particularly foreigner-friendly. Good luck!

          • Premium User Badge

            Gap Gen says:

            Thanks very much! And yeah, living in France you tend to need decent French for everything upwards of buying bread; I still haven’t got a social security number thanks to the CPAM asking for something new every time I send them what they asked for last time. I’m currently in Paris, so might try the GrosBill shop near Hotel de Ville; I’ve already checked out their site and the prices for the Samsung 870 Pro seem reasonable. Otherwise, will check out Materiel.net. I did look at a few sites on the list in hardware.fr, and yeah, some of them look like they were designed in the ’90s and never updated since.

          • stiffkittin says:

            No worries. Yeah I sympathise, I certainly don’t miss Gallic bureaucracy. It took me 4 years to get a carte vitale. I had a “temporary” number the whole time – and I’m a citizen (although, born abroad). I’d drop into our local CPAM office every few months to try and push it into the light somehow but for whatever reason it just never got processed. Didn’t make any differences to my rights or anything, just made it a bit more awkward when I needed to claim on medical. My wife, a foreigner, got hers in 2 months – go figure *shrug*. It helps when you find that one functionary who you get on with at the CPAM or CAF or whatever and then you just cut the queue and go directly to them every time. This is How It Works generally for the natives as well.

            I also know what it’s like when you’re unfamiliar with the local online merchants. I’ve been having a similar experience since returning home after 10 years abroad.

            It’s good you’re in Paris, you have plenty of options – online and retail. Materiel.net definitely has several pickup locations in Paris. No shops, but offices where you can receive your goods and skip shipping costs.

          • Premium User Badge

            Gap Gen says:

            OK, that’s worth considering; normally I’d ship stuff to work where it won’t just bounce to the nearest post office, but if you can skip shipping costs for half an hour travel (or five hours, depending on if the entire RER network decides to shut down) then great.

            Yeah, shame I don’t really have contacts here in Paris. I could ask work about it, but I don’t know if they have any more clout with the CPAM (plus the bureaucracy at work is also horrible).

  25. Premium User Badge

    Goodtwist says:

    Nothing is reliable.

    • Muzman says:

      Nothing is static. Everything is evolving. Everything is falling apart.

      Welcome to PC club.
      If it’s your first time at PC club, you have to…uh…PC.

  26. Premium User Badge

    sendmark says:

    I have nothing valuable sitting on solely on an SSD or HDD and haven’t done for years, although I appreciate some people who deal with huge amounts of data will do.

    Still staggers me how rapid my 500gb SSD is compared to my old HDD. Even if it fails eventually, it will have been worth it for this quality of life.

    • Premium User Badge

      Gap Gen says:

      Recommend paying up for a 500GB over 250GB? I have a 500GB HDD from 2007 that I’ll probably wipe and use for general storage, either way.

  27. nasenbluten says:

    Most of the problems SSDs have are related to firmware bugs. Of the 4 I own (one since 2007), 2 stopped working within the first year of use and I was able to revive the with firmware upgrades.

    My advice would be to install only OS, apps and games in them and change the location of the user data to a conventional HDD, then make weekly or monthly images of the SSD as backup.

  28. The Dark One says:

    it’s probably worth noting this reent news piece about the reliability of mechanical drives: http://techreport.com/news/25940/hard-drive-reliability-study-names-names

    • sandineyes says:

      Awesome link. I was putting together a dream build wishlist on Newegg the other day, and while I knew I wanted a Samsung 840 1TB SSD for primary use, I also wanted 2 2+TB HDDs in a RAID1 and had no idea which ones to get for fear of reliability concerns.

  29. nimbulan says:

    I was always concerned about reliability with SSDs. I’ve worked computer support in the past and the vast majority of hard drive failures we saw were electronic rather than mechanical. SSDs would be prone to the same sort of electronic problems, though they don’t need to handle as much power. The early years of unreliable Sandforce controllers didn’t help matters much.

    SSDs seem to be in a good place now though. I think it may still be too early to say how reliable they are long term, but I haven’t heard anything especially bad since Sandforce got their act together so things are looking up. I’m quite happy with my Plextor M5P and hope it lasts.

  30. uh20 says:

    while i still get the idea that solid state drive problems are just about the same as hard drives. its better to not be torrenting and putting caches on your brand spanking new SSD

    when i got my SSD, i installed mah linux on it and then wiped everything but the home directory on my hard drive, after a few auto-mounting thingies i was able to get an install where the OS and applications are on the SSD and personal files/ caches are on the hard drive.

    its not very fun for the average joe however to go through a 2-drive installation that none of the 3 OSs have automated support for.
    this is combined with wierd annomalies like chrome wanting to store its cache in its directory and the stupid decision for trim not to start by default.

    • syllopsium says:

      I would have said that caches were definitely one of the things to put on your SSD, unless the cache management in the application is decent enough that the speed of the underlying cache storage is unimportant. Sure, your SSD may die sooner, but whilst it’s working it’ll be damned fast..

      No argument about torrenting, though – it doesn’t need high enough performance for SSD to be useful.

      • uh20 says:

        dont want to go all techno-jumbo, i forgot to say my cache is some ram-HD hybrid where i can link certain applications to ram instead of the HD. i bet there is some improvements with having cache on a SSD, but i would rather not risk it considering my drive came in some 9cm by 9cm flat box smaller than the shoddy box they put intel processors in.

  31. Brotoles says:

    I have a Crucial m4 128 Gb SSD for almost 2 and a half years now, use it as a system drive, and also instaall some games on it. I take care to leave at least 10 gigs free for it to use as spare area, and don’t use it as my downloads drive (and most certainly not for my backups), but besides that the drive is still working like a charm.

  32. Jambe says:

    Lead-acid UPSes aren’t hellishly expensive and might be worth looking into if one suffers intermittent power failures (or simply wants reassurance).

  33. darkhog says:

    Call me old and prejudiced, but I think I won’t be buying SSD unless it will be as stable as magnetic, regular HDD. Also space is issue on SDD, HDDs are still bigger than SSDs.

    • darkhog says:

      Also, if you have SSD, using chrome is probably bad idea. When I used chrome my HDD led was constantly on, chrome constantly read or write something, when I am using FF, it only sporadically turns on. Also RAM usage is way lower.

    • KillahMate says:

      In that case you might want to pick one up about now – as mentioned in the article, though SSDs are not perfect and unfailing their general failure rates are already below the ones for HDDs.

  34. AlexV says:

    Not sure if it’s SSD-specific, or just a coincidence, but when my first SSD (an OCZ) failed the big problem for me was that it did so silently. When hard disks had failed in the past, they *knew* they were failing, and steps could be taken.

    When my SSD failed, certain files on it just started being read wrong. Games on steam needed cache verification and re-downloading every so often, then some documents would become corrupt, a couple of photos would be cut in half with grey blocks, one or two emails had garbled text. Once I noticed one or two I went through all other files that were important to me to check what was lost and what was lot. In some cases I had to go back through months of backups to find an uncorrupted copy, and in some cases it was simply gone for good – all backed up copies were corrupt. I was not a happy bunny.

    My current SSD (Samsung Pro) has been fine so far, but more importantly my weekly backup system has been rejigged so that it doesn’t assume that if the disk says the file is unmodified it actually is unmodified, but will read the whole thing off the disk each time and checksum it against the last time it was backed up! Not going to get caught out like that again…

  35. Premium User Badge

    samsharp99 says:

    I’ve been using SSDs for a fairly long time. I’ve just had to RMA my 2nd Crucial SSD (M225) which died in my home media server.

    I think the most important thing if you’re using SSDs is to make sure you use it only as an OS/Programs drive and not for data storage – don’t buy a 1TB SSD and use it like a 1TB mechanical drive before you had an SSD (storing all your precious memories & data). Of course – make sure you back it up! It’s not too difficult with recent versions of windows to do full image backups to a separate drive.

    I think the trade-off of reliability after a few years is absolutely worth the sub 10s boot times and speedy application loads. As others have said, I think it’s the #1 nice-to-have upgrade not just for gamers but for workstations as well – but I never say they should rely on it as their main drive.

  36. Strabo says:

    Another dead Crucial? The only SSD which ever went down for me is a Crucial too (bought for my sister), lasted a year. I have several OCZ, Samsung, Intels, which do their job for up to 4 years now.

    Which, by the way, is a better reliability rate than I had with HDDs, where I have had four dead ones over the years.

  37. hideinlight says:

    The story of most SSD failures I heard of start with the word FRAPS.

  38. hurrakan says:

    I’ve never had problems with SSDs, despite several power cuts and when the trip switches get tripped. As long as you use them properly, SSDs are much more reliable than mechanical HDDs. I’ve had alot more HDDs die on me than SSDs. I couldn’t go back to not using SSDs now!

    I’ve used SSDs for many years. You just have to understand your components, like every true PC gamer should. And you should probably be familiar with various controllers used by different SSDs (Sandforce, Indilinx, etc). I generally follow the advice on http://www.anandtech.com

    Here is my current drive setup:

    Samsung 840 Pro 256GB SSD
    OS boot drive. Only for Windows, programs and a few games.

    Samsung 830 120GB SSD
    Steam games, GOG games, portable apps

    Intel 510 250GB SSD
    Spare (I may tell photoshop to use this as a scratch disk)

    Samsung Spinpoint F1 750GB HDD
    Video recording/editing (NextPVR live TV, Nvidia Shadowplay, FRAPS)

    Samsung Spinpoint F4 Eco Green 2TB HDD
    Stroage and backups (torrents and downloads go here)

    WD Red 3TB HDD
    Backups

    My first SSD did break once – but it was one of the earliest made – OCZ Vertex Turbo 120GB. It just needs a firmware update but I haven’t bothered because it’s old now. The SSDs mentioned in the first link of the article are the ones to get. Crucial M4 is ok – my dad’s has been running fine for years.

  39. jalf says:

    Just putting this out there: it really doesn’t matter how much has been written to your SSD over its total life. What is absolutely critical for a SSD is *where* that data is written. (or how many times the same cells have been written (The driver tries to spread out writes, but it can only do that over unused space. If your disk is nearly full, then every write will go to the same couple of cells, and they will wear out *much* faster, and voilá, you’ll be left with a broken SSD).

    So if you want your SSD to last, buy it *much* bigger than you need to.

  40. Wildeheart says:

    Using.com .com.com at.com the.com end.com of.com words.com is.com stupid.com

  41. His Divine Shadow says:

    i’ve heard that having virtual memory swap file on an SSD can be a problem (as it’s kind of like torrenting from it). obviously, having it on an HDD would kill a lot of performance gains from moving the os to an SSD, so best to disable it altogether. “16Gb should be enough for any task!”

    • Muzman says:

      You’re scaring me now.
      Don’t try that 16gb quote on an After Effects forum either. There 24 is what they call “a good start”

    • LionsPhil says:

      It seems to be one of those irritating PC myths propagated around forums by people who heard it from forums because some guy thought it might be so. Annoyingly I can’t find the link any more, but by Microsoft’s own research, an SSD is a great place for your pagefile. Mostly it’s subjected to large writes and small random reads, so fits the usage pattern great, and will see the biggest benefits for the change to SSD. They didn’t think it would be a significant contributor to wear.

      (While I’m at it, don’t disable the pagefile just because you have lots of RAM, either. Windows’ memory management is smarter than that, and it will still make use of it to make sure what’s in RAM is what’s worth having there. Paging out linging parts of background programs is totally worth it to make room for filesystem cache.)

      • His Divine Shadow says:

        windows memory management might be smart, but is it really smarter than not having it at all? i mean, if one does have enough memory, isn’t it still faster and safer to not use swap files? if anything, it’d free some precious SSD space. also, from the OS’s perspective it might sound like a good idea to swap away a program i wasn’t using for 5 minutes, but i just love the feeling of switching to a huge app that i wasn’t using for a while and have it open immediately.

        • LionsPhil says:

          Windows memory management might be smart, but is it really smarter than not having it at all?

          In a word: likely.

          In more words: it’s not that hard to find out if it makes a noticeable difference for your particular case, so give it a try.

          • His Divine Shadow says:

            well i did give a try on both home and office pcs, and i’m loving it so far. it *might* be almost as fast with a swap file on an SSD, but i’m not sure i’m willing to verify whether the memory manager’s write pattern is in fact as SSD-friendly as MS claims.

  42. Iskariot says:

    Yes happened to me 2 months ago.
    Sudden power loss and my SSD was gone.
    All my HDD just kept functioning.
    I replaced my SSD with a much cheaper and much roomier HDD.
    All is well again now.
    I will stay away from SSD for the time being.

  43. jmtd says:

    The only situation I can think of where it would make sense torrent onto SSD is when you have only an SSD and nothing else, such as a mac air or something. Even then, I’d suggest acquiring a usb HDD, or flash drive, or SD card or *something* to move the load off the (non-replaceable) system SSD.

  44. Tei says:

    I have a SDD, and is like the “VIP party area”. I only invited games there for a limited time, and wen I think will benefict from the speed. Some games already load fast enough, I think… Is wen you have streaming-from-disc problems, or long load times, wen you will get something from a SDD. So I think my SDD will last very long, indeed.

  45. bill says:

    Since people are talking about Cloud Backups, what do people recommend and what do they think about security?

    I’d been considering backing up, at the very least, all my photos to the cloud. But the recent spate of hackings of big web services (not only by the NSA etc..) have made me a little worried. If one of these big cloud services gets hacked, then suddenly we might have everyone’s private photos, files, etc.. all over the web.

    I have accounts with a few of the cloud storage services, but (maybe weirdly) I currently don’t use them for anything that important.

    • stupid_mcgee says:

      I can’t comment on security, but I’ve used CrashPlan ever since MozyHome dropped their unlimited data plan. Overall, I really like CrashPlan. Its unlimited data plan is very affordable and my upload and download speeds are never throttled, which is the most major problem I’ve had with other services.

  46. SuicideKing says:

    Well, here’s my data!:

    Intel 320 series, 120GB, OS + Programs:
    Power-on hours count = 6177
    Power cycle count= 1521
    unsafe shutdown count = 201
    Total LBA’s written= 3.07 TB
    Total LBA’s read= 5.53 TB

    Intel 313 Series, 20GB, page file
    Power-on hours = 3827
    power cycle count = 739
    Written= 145.28 GB
    Read= 76.81 GB

    Samsung 830 Series, 256GB, games+steam, FRAPS videos for a few months
    power-on hours= 2698
    power cycle count = 588
    total bytes written = 1.17 TB

    WD Caviar Blue, 320GB, general file storage, formerly games as well
    power-on hours = 6057
    power cycle count = 1398

    No drives are going bad. The HDD is a replacement, the original one i had started developing bad sectors and had to be RMA’d. Been fine since then. The one replaced must have been in use for a year or so. So has it’s replacement (in fact more) and it’s fine.

  47. Azhrarn says:

    I have had an Intel X25-M 80GB SSD as my primary OS drive for a little over 4 years now (the PC is from november 2009). And it’s been pretty much perfect.
    I moved a lot of the disc heavy operations off the drive (that includes the very write-heavy windows page-file), and according to SSD life, my drive will last another 476 years at the current rate of decay (averaged over more than 4 years of daily use).

    The total “on” time for the drive is a little over 18 months, so it’s not as if it’s unused or anything. ;)
    I’d most likely include an SSD in any new build I was planning, the speed-up for windows alone is amazing, and in a new PC, I’d probably get a larger drive and include the page-file for even more speed boost.

    The other 2 drives in the PC are Samsung Spinpoint F1 1TB drives, nice and quick and plenty of space.

  48. SuicideKing says:

    Also worth reading is this report by a cloud storage company, on HDD reliability:
    http://techreport.com/news/25940/hard-drive-reliability-study-names-names

  49. tehfish says:

    My personal experience has been that reliability of HDDs and SSDs are about the same.

    The main difference being, as already mentioned by others, HDDs tend to give you some warning for the most part, whilst a SSD fail tends to happen in an out-of-the-blue “oh my C: drive has just disappeared from windows explorer” … *bluescreen* … “oh my SSD has disappeared from the BIOS” way.

    I have my main PC set up now with some HDDs in RAID for storage, and backing up the SSD partitions to the HDDs. should cover most failures :)

  50. geldonyetich says:

    I used to run off a SSD boot drive, and ~40 seconds to desktop was great while it lasted, but then one day it just stopped booting out of the blue and that soured me to that idea, permanently.

    In fact, I’m so sick of having to reinstall Windows that I went RAID 1 and never looked back. Currently, I run four cheap drives on a software RAID 1+0… and it’s not great, but it’s about 110% the speed of one of those drives by itself, and fairly unlikely my computer will be rendered unable to boot with that RAID 1 protection. (I actually had two drives fall out of the array on a couple of occasions, and lucked out that they were the correct two not to kill the array. It probably was caused by overheating leading to CPU faults that caused the data on the drives to fall out of sync: a danger of using an on-motherboard software RAID.)

    The point is that I can’t really do that with SSDs. The speed is sufficient that putting them on RAID 0 is unnecessary. The cost per gigabyte is too high that running them in RAID 1 or 5 is not ideal. The additional wear and tear of running them in RAID 1 or 5 is recommended against by most manufacturers. So, basically, if I went pure SSD RAID, the only real option is JBOD, and that just multiplies the jeopardy of losing the whole array by the number of drives in the RAID.

    I wonder how a four-7200RPM 3.5″ drive array (deliberately not the fastest) running on the PCIe hardware RAID card with the best hardware cache implementation would stack up to a SSD, performance-wise? I wouldn’t be cheap: RAID cards with genuine integrated hardware acceleration and sizable onboard cache are pricy server hardware. I’m anticipating it’d be something like a hybrid SSD, starting out as slow as conventional drives but reaching SSD speeds on frequently-accessed applications, but possibly with an even greater top speed because I think PCIe SSDs are faster than standard ones.