Find Out How Long It Is Before Your SSD Will Die

Many of us photographers rely on solid-state drives to store our important images. Did you know these types of drives only have a limited life span? Here's how to check how long your current drives have left on them before they urgently need replacing.

While solid-state drives (SSD) tend to be much more reliable than other forms of storage, they too don't last forever. I think many of us knew this fact already, but do we really have any idea how long the drives storing all our precious images will last? This week, technologist Joseph Thio is back once again to explore this very subject in his latest video.

In just over 8 minutes, Thio explains in great detail everything we need to know about SSD drives. The video starts by explaining the factors for endurance of a drive which is something I knew little about. He goes on to explain how the number of write cycles an SSD is capable of performing in its lifetime will vary wildly depending on the levels of cells the drive has. If you're in a hurry, this one area of the video is important to know as it will help you to understand if you have an SSD that has the durability to be written to 50,000 to 100,000 times at the higher end of the scale, or 150 to 1000 times at the lower end. Those two sets of numbers are quite different so it's crucial you know how many levels of cells you have in your SSD.

Thio goes on to explain how SSD manufacturers use a measurement called Terabytes Written (TBW) which is an estimate of how much data in terabytes the drive can handle being written to during the lifetime of the drive. By referring to the spec sheet of our particular drive we can easily find this figure out. We can then use a free program such as CrystalDiskInfo for Windows or GSmartControl for Macs to see how many of those Terabytes Written we have already used. Once we subtract these two numbers, we will know just how long our drive has left before we should start to consider replacing it. It's not all doom and gloom though as even when the drive has passed its rated TWB the drive could still last a good while yet. Thio talks about the concept of using these drives for things less important or in a way that means they are not written to as often.

Depending on the type of photographer you are will affect how hard your drives are worked. If you are a commercial photographer shooting and storing thousands of images a day, then you really need to make sure that you have the most durable drives that are out there. I think the biggest lesson I learned from this video is that not all SSDs are made equal. I currently have an SSD sat in my Amazon shopping basket that I've been meaning to buy for a while now. Before I send the money over to Jeff Bezos, I'll be checking to make sure the specifications meet my particular needs.

Do you know the lifespan of your particular SSD? Anyone using a drive way past its "Terabytes Written" rating? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below.

Lead image by Kalhh used under Creative Commons license.

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10 Comments

Paul Parker's picture

I'll get the ball rolling. My laptop has a SanDisk SDSSDH3-500G-G25 Ultra 3D drive in the second bay and has an endurance of 200TBW. So far, the drive has done 12TB of data written and I've had it for just over a year.

So at current yearly use that drive could last at least 16.6 YEARS!

The laptop it's in or the owner will be dead before then...

J.d. Davis's picture

Just got a new iMac w/2TB SSD - since I'm mid-70's I Agree!

David Vivian's picture

That's hilarious.. but could be accurate. This whole storage conundrum is confounding. I really want to develop a new strategy for managing local vs. local NAS vs. cloud. I can't justify sending everything to cloud... I create too much f*cking stuff.

Jerome Brill's picture

I'm only on my second SSD since 2015 but my first is still going good. Actually it's now my external drive to play PS4 games on the PS5.

I'm sure these drives will last a good amount of time. I still have it backed up though. The problem with an SSD is when it goes, that's it your data is gone. I'm sure I'd upgrade most SSD's by the time I use half of its life.

Tip: Use both the manufacturer software and CrystalDisk to monitor the health of your drive. Crystaldisk is good but the manufacturer software might have some settings specifically for your SSD. Plus it allows for firmware updates.

Jan Holler's picture

Paul, I have more than 35 years of experience with hard drives and the years with SSD since they were payable. I experienced hard drives which lasted 12 years (24/7) without any significant bad smartd-values and they are still lasting and also HDs in a PC, turned on and off for 10 years and yet they show no signs of failure. But I also experienced hard drives which in a batch all failed after 4 years in a time span of a few months. No important smartd warnings were visible but grew rapidly shortly before the failure. That said: never ever rely on any storage. SSDs are tougher than HDs, don't suffer physical damage that fast. SSDs last long. In the last 8-9 years I just experienced one failure of an SSD and it was an early model (2013). That said, I wouldn't worry because of the possible failure of an SSD. It will be replaced by a bigger and faster long before the end of its lifespan. I'd worry about my data and backup regularly regardless of the hardware I use. Cheers!

El Dooderino's picture

They have lifespans?? Yeesh!

However, since I'm not a professional, just a hobbyist, I would think my SSDs will last awhile.

Good information though!

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

I have a Transcend 256 GB SSD since Apr 2015 as my OS drive before I upgraded. Based off CrystalMarkInfo, 67 TB Total Host Writes, 95 TB Total NAND writes and manufacturer TBW of 740. that drive probably could last another 36 years.

Mahmoud Alaydi's picture

all of us we should to know that
thank you

Kirk Darling's picture

From what I can understand, having explored that information a year ago: I use SSDs primarily for data that won't be written often, such as my C: drive. Over the last year, the small amount of writing I do on that should enable it to last a couple of decades. I'll have replaced it for other reasons long before then.

I do more writing on spinning hard drives in a couple of RAID 5 arrays that back up each other.

I do use one SSD for working files...that one gets a lot of writes. But all that data is transient until I move it to a spinning disk. It's contents get automatically synced to a spinning disk every few minutes. It that one should fail "early" (and it appears "early" may still be several years), I won't have lost much.

Manzur Fahim's picture

TBW and DWPD are old news. I've been checking those specs since 2015 before buying SSDs