Being new to SSD (I don't own/use one, yet), how severe can storage loss be on those drives?

I heard that the entire drive can pretty much get lost instantly due to the technology it uses to store data. While that IS awful, I was curious if anyone knows if the drive are still functional after the incident?

Provided that the drive wasn't physically damaged (like dropped, hit with a baseball bat, submerged in a water tank...) and just happened out of the blue from, well, the wear-and-tear of electrons flowing in it (what else is moving in it, really?), is there any chance to reuse the drive? Does it become more and more questionable if they are reliable or not?

Or, is the general rule - once faulty, toss it in the garbage?

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While SSD's do not have any chance of mechanical failure, short of physically damaging the disk by dropping, etc., you are susectiple to electronic failure the same as with any other electronics. It may indeed be totally lost in an instant.

If there is any recovery possible, it is greatly complicated, and usually beyond the end-user's abilities.

Read this excellent paper, entitled Data Recovery from Solid-State Drives. Read the section entitled especially, "SSD Data Recovery Process".

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    On a personal note, based on the number of people on this site, who have experienced total drive failures, I would only use it as a system drive, and I would make sure I have a good image of it for rapid recovery, just in case. – KCotreau Aug 5 '11 at 14:11
  • Right, the onboard drive controller can always go out entirely, just like on a mechanical drive. You could always attempt to transplant one and restore the data (to be fair, I don't know how successful that'd be on an SSD as opposed to an HDD but it would have to be done by trained professionals anyway so...) Some SSDs have lousy failure rates, so do your homework in advance. The only consumer drive I'd really consider reliable from both personal experience and in-depth research are Intel branded with Intel controllers. – Shinrai Aug 5 '11 at 14:12
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    @Shinrai Right. Also, anyone, who has been doing this for a while, has managed to recover data from a failing magnetic media hard drive; but usually, when an SSD goes, you get no warning, and you are done. – KCotreau Aug 5 '11 at 14:21
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    Also, @KCotreau you mention a good point about using the SSD drive primarily as a system drive - which I would more than likely do. However, would an SSD drive be also a great decision for storing large Sound Sample libraries? (since if it fails, it could be re-installed from the install DVDs/CDs... or better yet it could be duplicated on a separate HDD for backup/recovery purpose) – bigp Aug 5 '11 at 14:36
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    Yes, static data would also be a good choice for an SSD. Good point. – KCotreau Aug 5 '11 at 14:41

The more common failure you're likely to see in an SSD is write exhaustion. SSDs have a spec called "write endurance" which is basically how many times its memory cells can be written to before they're rendered "static." They'll still hold their data, you just can't write to them anymore. So!

It is unlikely that you're going to notice "gradual degradation" of the drive like you might with HDDs, it'd probably "just happen." That said ...

  • A: Backups, backups, backups. Offsite backups too, if you can.
  • B: It may still be possible to a read which has hit its write limit, and you could recover the data and put it on a new drive, but that wouldn't matter if you paid attention to point A ;)
  • C: As others mentioned, it is possible that the onboard controller went bad and that could be replaced, and it might work again. Personally I'd just ... get a new drive and restore it from (wait for it ...) backup!

SSDs are great for their performance but they are a bit less reliable unless you're getting EFDs and they still have the write endurance issue. At the incredibly cheap rates for HDD storage, it would be a very good investment to set one up to regularly backup your SSD and then you wouldn't need to worry about failure so much.

  • schweet - Thanks for reinforcing the fact that SSDs are typically more suited for static storage. I was actually curious if the "writing" process was the main reason, and you've just read my mind :D – bigp Aug 5 '11 at 15:13
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    @bigp I'd say that the performance of SSDs makes them ideal for data that changes often, such as for an OS drive, rather than using HDDs for that purpose. Also, filling up SSDs with static data is often wasteful. I think Daniel's point is that, in theory, even after exhausting all program-erase cycles, you should still be able to read from the SSD. In fact, SMART data should tell you how many blocks have been re-allocated/ignored due to wear, and you could replace the drive at a certain threshold. – sblair Aug 5 '11 at 15:32
  • They're fantastic for OS/application drives, you just have to be aware that it WILL fail eventually. If it's just storing data and only being read, it will last longer, but the cost per gig is prohibitive for anything substantial. Thanks for clarifying, @sblair. Also, I <3 Anandtech. – Daniel B. Aug 5 '11 at 15:33

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