Solid-state drives are some of the most important pieces of your gaming system that can affect performance and daily use. However, like all system hardware, SSDs can have differing lifespans and longevity based on use over time and other factors and simply cannot last forever. As a result, continual upkeep is crucial and knowing when the time is right for upgrading your SSD is a necessity.
In this article, we will discuss solid-state drives, what you should know about them and their lifespan, and how to stay on top of your SSD's health.
An Overview of Solid-State Drives
Solid-state drives are a common storage solution found in computing devices. As another solution with hard disk drives use for large storage capacity, solid-state drives have been widely adopted in the modern age for their faster read/write speeds and faster data access. With their modern advancements, SSDs also have no moving parts and have less issues with temperature, making them an appealing system storage option, especially with the growth of PC gaming where speed and longevity in performance are supreme components for success.
The Importance of Monitoring your SSD's Lifespan
The bottom line is that keeping track of your SSD's performance and lifespan is of great importance in order to ensure your system is running properly and your data is secure. The ability to read and write data constantly is a major need for gaming. If your system or SSD is unable to do so with high speeds with gaming or other activities, this can be a major problem that your SSD is failing and could cause other problems to your system. Problems to things such as speeds, temperature control and regulation can be a telltale sign that an SSD is beginning to fail and needs to be checked or replaced.
Important SSD Health-Related Terms
With many modern gaming-specific SSDs in today's wide-stretching market, the need for monitoring SSD health and performance is an important need for maintaining your system over time. New technologies have created easier ways to closely track your SSD's health in real time to ensure users are always aware of storage health. Here are a few terms that are helpful to be aware of:
Read Speeds: Read speeds represent how quickly data can either be opened or accessed from a drive.
Write Speeds: Write speeds represent how quickly data can be downloaded or saved onto a drive.
S.M.A.R.T.: S.M.A.R.T., or Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology is a monitoring system for internal storage that tracks health-related drive data and reports to users. Today, gaming SSDs, such as Viper Gaming's VPR400, will support S.M.A.R.T. as a means of being able to check and track data and watch for any errors.
TBW (Total Bytes Written): TBW (Terabytes Written) is a metric that tells users how much total data can be written to the drive over a given period of time before the possibility of performance decline or failure. Denoted in terabytes (TB), drives are tested and assigned a specific TBW within or past a warranty period for how much total data can be written across its entire lifespan. For example, with Viper Gaming's aforementioned VPR400, the 512GB unit can sustain 400TBW (or 400 total terabytes), while the 1TB unit can sustain 800TBW (or 800 total terabytes). S.M.A.R.T.-supported SSDs will also track this data over time to monitor the total data written over the course of an SSD's life.
Wear Leveling: Wear leveling is an important component that helps to evenly distribute writing to all blocks on a given SSD to ensure that all cells are maintained where all data is written evenly. This helps to avoid uneven writing and cause any certain cells to experience issues.
When both looking for a long-lasting SSD on the market and maintaining it over time, paying attention to these keywords can be helpful in understanding your SSD's functionality in attribution to its health.
Checking your SSD's Health
One helpful way to check your SSD's health is using free, open-source Windows applications such as CrystalDiskInfo that can give you a full view of your SSD. When using CrystalDiskInfo and running the application, users can get a direct view of their drive's overall health, temperature and total host read/writes that will give a full view at your SSD's health. This can all fit into an overview with a Health Status that CrystalDiskInfo can break down into three categories of overall performance: "Good", with everything running smoothly, "Caution", with potential decline or failure and need to replace the SSD soon, and "Bad", with the SSD likely having failed or experiencing some significant issue.
SSD Health Tips
After learning more about SSD health, here's a few tips to stay on top of your performance:
1. Check your SSD health often
Checking your SSD health on a normal basis is a good habit to build for tracking its life over time. When exploring your SSD's current outlook and getting an idea of its TBW and current health. Using applications like the aforementioned CrystalDiskInfo often and making a habit of looking, regardless of normal or abnormal performance, can be key in avoiding total failure.
2. Check the specifications of your SSD
Specifications are a helpful indicator of your SSD's ideal lifespan and what to expect out of its ideal lifespan as described by the manufacturer. For example, with Viper Gaming's aforementioned VPR400 featuring respective TBWs of 400TBW and 800TBW, this is a figure to keep in mind when scanning the market for upgrades or understanding your SSD. This is also important to track over time when conducting routine SSD health checks and ensure your performance has remained stable over time and see warning signs before any problems.
3. When it doubt, back up your data
If you begin to have doubts about the longevity of your SSD or begin to notice signs of decline or potential failure, it's never a bad idea to back up your SSD's data elsewhere, such as another SSD, HDD, or other flash memory. It's much better to be safe and back up your data to avoid the alternative of potentially looking all of your data and never getting it back.
So, When Should I Upgrade my SSD?
After everything we've discussed, the best answer to when you should look to upgrade your SSD is that it depends on the user and your SSD's current remaining lifespan.
As we previously mentioned, the write cycles of your SSD and ideal TBW can be major factors in its range of lifespan and when it might be time to replace it if it's dying or slowing down. After considering this and looking beyond at the SSD market, cost and performance with their technological growth in the past decade, it can be normal to upgrade your SSD to a faster one every 5+ years or so. Much like upgrading DRAM and other components, keeping your SSD up to speed with the rest of your system can be helpful in getting the most out of the entire system and keeping it running smoothly.
Ultimately, having a grip on your SSD's lifespan is the most important thing to understand when the right time to upgrade truly is.