The SSD wears out faster than the hard drive

SSD hard drives: how to extend their lifespan

Thomas Rau

The lifespan of an SSD is finite - this cannot be changed due to the flash memory technology. That is why it makes sense to check the condition of the drive regularly and to counteract wear and tear with suitable tips and tools.

EnlargeGive your SSD a longer life

An SSD has many advantages: It is fast - that helps with every computer. And it is insensitive, which is particularly important with notebooks. What also speaks in favor of SSDs: The biggest disadvantage so far - the very high price compared to a hard drive - is becoming less and less important. Flash disks with 500 GB are available from around 70 euros, SSDs with 1 terabyte of storage space start at around 100 euros.

But there is one problem you cannot avoid: The life of the flash memory is limited because it wears out with every use. The impact this has on your PC depends on how you use the SSD and what type of storage it uses. The manufacturers use various methods to counteract accumulator wear. But it can have a greater effect on smaller SSDs than on larger flash memory. And it is precisely the small models with 60 or 120 GB that many users have installed in order to switch from hard disk to SSD technology.

Here's how to estimate the lifespan of your SSD to see if it's in critical condition - or if you don't need to worry. We also show which tools can be used to check the status of the flash memory. If this information suggests that you need to take action in order not to risk losing data, it will also provide you with the most important settings and tips.

SSD technology:Everything you need to know when buying

SSD guarantee: This is behind the manufacturer's promise

The specifications of your SSD contains information that you can use to estimate its service life. In addition to the warranty period, which is usually between three and five years depending on the model, the manufacturers provide information on durability (endurance). You will often come across the term TBW (Total Bytes Written or Terabytes Written): It describes the amount of data that can be written to the flash memory before it breaks. The manufacturers determine the TBW for SSDs using a standardized procedure by the JEDEC standardization committee, so that the values ​​are comparable.

The TBW essentially depends on the size of the SSD and the storage technology used. The flash memory modules have defined P / E cycles (Program / Erase), which specify the maximum number of write / erase processes that they can withstand. Very expensive SLC (Single Level Cell) memory, for example, can handle around 100,000 processes. Due to the high costs, SSDs for PC use are rarely equipped with them. In most cases, these models work with MLC (Multi Level Cell), TLC (Triple Level Cell) or QLC (Quadruple Level Cell): These cells can store 2.3 or 4 bits at the same time, thus allowing inexpensive SSD models with high storage capacity . However, storing several bits in a cell accelerates their wear and tear, which you can see from a lower TBW value or a shorter guarantee period.

The TBW values ​​of current SSDs are impressive, but not very practical: Samsung, for example, specifies a service life of 360 TBW for the 1 TB model of the 860 QVO. The information on Drive Writes per Day (DWPD) is more helpful. It states how often an SSD can be completely written to per day. For the Samsung SSD mentioned, the DWPD is 0.3 - the daily write volume should therefore not exceed 30 percent of the total capacity within the warranty period. What sounds like little at first, in practice means that you can write 300 GB to this SSD every day for three years. With the 4 TB model of the 860 QVO with the same DWPD values, this results in a daily write volume of over 1 TB.

EnlargeIn the technical data for an SSD, as here for the Samsung 860 Evo, you will find information on the warranty period and the write performance that the flash memory can handle.

The usual write load of a normal Windows PC is 20 to 40 GB per day. In the case of extensive copying actions, for example in the case of video editing or a daily complete backup, this can be significantly higher. Nevertheless, an SSD normally does not achieve an - extrapolated - write volume that exceeds the TBW value within the warranty period. A few years ago, colleagues at c’t carried out an endurance test with twelve SSD models from different price ranges. All flash storage devices clearly exceeded the TBW value specified by the manufacturer: Even the worst performers in this test only failed after reaching 2.5 times the TBW value; the best model managed 60 times the guaranteed write performance.

If you only know the TBW value of your SSD or a model you intend to buy, you can calculate the DWPD using this formula:

Multiply the DWPD result by the storage capacity of the SSD, you get the maximum daily write load that the flash memory can handle.

How well is your SSD? How to find out

EnlargeThe freeware Crystaldiskinfo gives you an overview of the SMART values ​​for the SSD. The value 100 stands for an optimal result.

With the right tools, you can check the health of your SSD. If you know the TBW information about your drive and know how long it has been working in the PC, you can easily estimate the service life and probability of failure. The programs read out the SMART values ​​(Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology) from the SSD. You can check your SSD with various tools - either directly from the SSD manufacturer or with a free program like Crystaldiskinfo. The most important tools can be found in the table below.

Note, however, that the tools do not always display the SMART results in the same way, so you have to convert depending on the tool. In order to compare the value of your SSD between different tools, it is best to use the number or ID of an entry as a guide: The information on the same ID is based on the same SMART values. The tools display the ID as either a decimal or hexadecimal number. The ID information also helps to compare SMART information between SSDs from different manufacturers: because not every SSD outputs all SMART values, so that you get values ​​from one manufacturer that are missing from another SSD.

In most cases, the tools indicate the SMART values ​​as a percentage: The value 100 stands for the optimal state. In addition to a current number (also called “Current Value”) for a SMART entry, you will also see the worst value to date (“Worst Value”). In addition, the manufacturers set a threshold for the SSD at which the tool issues a warning. Usually an absolute value is also given for the SMART occurrence, "raw value" or "raw data". Here you have to pay attention to whether it is available as a decimal or hexadecimal number. The latter can be converted, for example, on the website https://bin-dez-hex-umrechner.de/.

It is best to use the manufacturer's management program for your SSD, e.g. Samsung Magician for a Samsung SSD. There you can see the total amount of memory that has been written to the SSD so far in the “Drive Details” menu under the graphic for “Drive status”. You can obtain detailed information on the drive status by clicking on the "S.M.A.R.T." button on the right. The operating time of the SSD "Power-on Hours", which you can find in ID field 9, is of interest here. The “Raw Data” column shows the operating time of the SSD in hours. If you convert this value into days and divide the information about the amount of memory written, you have an approximate value for the daily amount of data that is written to the SSD. You can now compare this result with the DWPD value given by the manufacturer to determine whether you are pushing the SSD to its limits or whether there is nothing to worry about.

EnlargeThis Samsung SSD is doing well: The manufacturer's tool Magician also shows that Windows has so far written almost 5 TB to the flash memory.