What is Solid State Drive (SSD)? Function, Pros, Cons & More

What is Solid State Drive (SSD)?

An SSD or Solid State Drive refers to a particular type of storage device with Integrated Circuit assemblies. These are secondary storage devices that use flash memory to store data persistently.

The main components of an SSD are the memory and the controller. Initially, these drives had a volatile DRAM but after 2009 non-volatile NAND flash memory is used more commonly in their build.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Also called a semiconductor storage device, the solid-state drives do not come with any physical spinning disks or moving arm to read and write data and hence are faster, consume less power and generate less heat and noise.
  • Using SSDs does not need moving the computer to carry files. These drives allow faster access and are quite reliable offering faster access.
  • This storage is quite durable and can survive drops and shocks and allow storing large amounts of data depending on their size permanently and allow smoother file transfers.
  • Data is stored in the NAND flash memory cells as electrons following the Charge Trap Flash technology.
  • The SSDs are more expensive than the HDDs but are more efficient in spite of their small size.

Understanding Solid State Drive (SSD) Storage

SSD Storage

The SSDs are one of the best innovations of modern computing which offers reliable storage solutions and faster access to data.

The development in the technology created smaller devices with more storage space.

The SSDs typically do not come with any moving parts in them and hence are less vulnerable to damages and that is why these are called ‘solid state’ drives.

Instead, they use the newer NAND flash memory storage technology in which data is stored in small memory cells.

These memory cells in the SSDs can be of different types depending on 1,2,3,and 4 bits stored in each cell of the drive such as:

  • Single Level Core or SLC
  • Multi Level Core or MLC
  • Triple Level Core or TLC and
  • Quad Level Core or QLC.

Out of these, the SLC drives are the fastest, costliest and have the longest life.

All SSDs may not be compatible with the system, which is a factor determined by the following parameters:

SSDs are available in different storage capacities from 120 GB to 30 TB though the massive ones are not used usually in standard desktop computers.

Importance of SSD

SSDs are important in those cases where there is a need to move a computer, and faster access to the data is a must.

They can live through shocks and falls and even large chunks of data stored in them can be accessed in a matter of seconds.

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Thus, they have found uses in laptops mainly and various MNCs that store their client’s data on a server.

On a daily usage, SSDs no matter what type ensure faster gaming and bootups along with smoother file transfers.

How Does SSD Work?

Unlike an HDD, a solid-state drive doesn’t have any moving parts, rather there is a complex network of electronic circuits inside.

There are NAND flash memory chips where all your data is stored. Every form of data is stored in the memory cells of these chips in the form of electrons.

An SSD works on the technology of a Charge Trap Flash, which is basically a semiconductor form of data storage.

Electrons are placed into each charge trap at various levels. Let’s say each of the data bits has three binary numbers, and if each charge trap has 8 levels, then it can hold 3 bits of electrons.

Electrons once trapped in these cells can last for almost a decade, unless there is a leak. More levels are being introduced in each cell, thus the capacity to hold more electrons is increasing.

In order to read information, the electron charge levels are measured. While saving a picture, for example, the pixels in it are stored in the form of an RGB (Red, Green and Blue) color code.

Each of these colors has a number ranging from 0 to 255, and thus every pixel is a combination of these numbers. Each number takes 8 bits of binary storage, and hence each pixel takes 24 bits.

The SSD also has a controller, which is also known as a processor, that connects the memory chips inside to the main system of the computer in which they are being used.

This data can be accessed very fast, just like you could find a house on a road if you are given the proper address.

The Pros of SSD

1. Faster Operations

Due to the technology on which they are based, SSDs can store and read data much faster than a hard drive which requires the metal arm to move over a particular spot on the rotating disk to gain access to a particular amount of data.

2. Sturdy

As there are no moving parts, SSDs are tough storage devices.

The data stored in them is safe even after a fall or a shock as there are no such small parts that could have been damaged from said fall.

3. No heat or noise generation

SSDs do not create any heat or sound while operating because of the aforesaid reason.

The data is stored in a chip, and it works much like an SD card or a USB drive.

4. Small Size

Both internal and external SSDs are small in size which makes them ideal to carry around or put in a laptop. They are lightweight as well.

The NVMe SSDs are even smaller which allows you to install one into your system very easily, as long as there is a designated port to do so.

5. Efficient

They are efficient forms of storage and consume less electrical power.

This means that in the long run, an SSD will be worth it. You not only get speed, but also efficiency.

The Cons of SSD

6. High Price

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One of the drawbacks of the SSDs from the very beginning has been their price.

A 2 TB SSD drive costs much more than a 2 TB hard drive, and hence it is not always possible to afford one with a high capacity.

7. Lower Life

The SSDs, in general, have a limited number of reading/writing cycles when compared to a HDD.

This means that after an estimated time of usage, either you won’t be able to use one anymore or the system will slow down.

8. Random Memory is not supported

SSDs store data in the form of pages in different memory blocks.

The data stored in one of these blocks cannot be overwritten and needs to be deleted completely before some new data is incorporated in the same space.

This is one of the main disadvantages they have compared to hard drives.

9. Data Loss

Data loss in an SSD is very common. Once some data gets removed from your drive for any reason whatsoever, it is not recoverable.

Also, when left unused for a year or so, SSDs start leaking charges thus leading to data loss.

If you don’t have any backup for this data, then you will be having a problem.

10. Slow recording speed

While accessing some data already stored on an SSD is fast, such is not the case when the data is being stored.

This is because the writing speeds are usually slow, and storing a large file might take a considerable amount of time.

Questions & Answers:

How Much Storage is Good for an SSD?

Ideally, a 250 GB SSD is good to store operating systems, entertainment and work files, and for creating backups.

If you limit your usage to basic computing and simple browsing and gaming, for business use and holding a decent number and variety of programs, productivity files and operating systems, an SSD of 500 GB is also ideal.

A 1 TB SSD is good for business use, photography and more than basic gaming while a 2 TB SSD is good for professional computing tasks such as image editing and high-end gaming.

What are the 3 Types of SSDs?

As said earlier, the three basic types of SSD storage are 2.5-inch SATA SSD, M.2 SATA or M.2 NVMe SSD, and PCI Express SSD.

However, based on their performances, the SSDs can also be tiered as SATA SSDs, NVMe Gen 3 SSDs, and NVMe Gen 4 SSDs, in that order usually.

Is it Worth Getting a 2 TB SSD?

If you need and can afford the price, a 2 TB SSD is worth working with large and high resolution media files. Professional gamers may also need it to create a large library of games to access them quickly without needing to install them every time.

How Long Will SSD Hold Data?

This entirely depends on the lifespan of the SSD, which is typically determined by its usage. According to a few current estimates, SSDs can hold data safely anywhere between 5 and 10 years.

However, SSDs do fail and are susceptible to physical damage and in that case things might be different entirely.

Though there is no golden rule to find out exactly how long an SSD can hold data, the manufacturers usually consider three basic factors for it such as:

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· The age of the drive

· The TBW or total number of Terabytes Written over time and

· The DWPD or Drive Writes Per Day.

Quite naturally, the computation results vary.

Can SSDs Lose Data Without Power?

Yes, SSDs can lose data without power. According to an estimate of JEDEC Solid State Technology Association, these drives can hold data in them for about a year at 30°C when powered off.

Typically, the SSDs are known to have a very poor data retention rate which may range from one week for enterprise class drives and one year for the consumer grade variants without power.

What Happens When an SSD Fails?

When the SSD fails, the system may not boot at all and you will get error messages stating ‘No bootable device’ or ‘No bootable medium’ on Windows and a flashing question mark on Mac.

Apart from that, your system will run at an excessively slow rate, and all of the active applications may freeze often and even crash eventually.

You may also get a blue or black screen of death error message or your drive may suddenly become read-only.

Usually, for consumer grade SSDs, data is lost when it fails but in the case of the consumer grade SSDs, everything remains in it but it simply backs off to read-only and may retain the data for several years henceforth in that state.

What Causes the SSD to Fail?

The SSDs come with a limited number of Program/Erase cycles and each of these P/E cycles degrades the memory cells in the drive slowly and wears out eventually. At this point, the drive will fail and you will not be able to store anymore information in it.

Other causes of SSDs to fail are:

· Power outage

· Manufacturer or physical faults

· Accidental damages

· Logical issues

· Data corruption

· Damage from water, fire or heavy blow

· Short circuits

· Upgrade failure

· Firmware

· Surface Mount Component failure

· Hardware or software issues

· S.M.A.R.T. failure

· File system issues and

· Frequent system crashes.

Apart from that, high error rate or uncorrectable errors will not only lower user experience but will also cause the SSD to develop bad blocks, lower data retention rate and fail eventually.

Conclusion

The SSDs are not without flaws but having a fast storage has become a necessity so these can be ignored. Also, newer technologies are being incorporated to reduce data loss and make it more reliable.

About Dominic Cooper

Dominic CooperDominic Cooper, a TTU graduate is a computer hardware expert. His only passion is to find out the nitty gritty of all computers. He loves to cook when he is not busy with writing, computer testing and research. He is not very fond of social media. Follow Him at Linkedin