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A Peek Into SSD Reliability

Investigation: Is Your SSD More Reliable Than A Hard Drive?
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Unfortunately, no hard drive manufacturer publishes RMA data, and this applies to the SSD vendors as well. However, back in December of 2010, Hardware.fr released SSD failure rate data gleaned from it’s parent company LDLC, one of the top French tech retailers. The Web site provides the following explanation on how it calculates these figures.

The returns rates given concern the products sold between October 1st, 2009 and April 1st, 2010 for returns made before October 2010, namely after between 6 months and a year of use. The statistics by manufacturer are based on a minimum sample of 500 sales, those by model on a minimum sample of 100 sales.

As you can see, these are not failure rates. They are return rates. Ultimately, the French-English language barrier was responsible for how hyped-up this information became. Sites like Mac Observer and ZDNet incorrectly reported these figures as "failure rates" based on a Google Translation.

Sold Between 10/1/2009 and 4/1/2010, Returns Made Before 10/1/2010
1 TB Hard Drives
Return Rate
2 TB Hard Drives
Return Rates
SSDs
Return Rate
Hitachi Deskstar 7K1000.B5.76%WD Caviar Black WD2001FASS9.71%Intel0.59%
Hitachi Deskstar 7K1000.C5.20% Hitachi Deskstar 7K20006.87%Corsair2.17%
Seagate Barracuda 7200.113.68%WD Caviar Green WD20EARS4.83%Crucial
2.25%
Samsung SpinPoint F13.37%Seagate Barracuda LP
4.35%
Kingston
2.39%
Seagate Barracuda 7200.122.51%Samsung EcoGreen F34.17%OCZ
2.93%
WD Caviar Green WD10EARS2.37%WD Caviar Green WD20EADS2.90%

Seagate Barracuda LP2.10%



Samsung SpinPoint F31.57%



WD Caviar Green WD10EADS1.55%



WD Caviar Black WD1001FALS1.35%



Maxtor DiamondMax 23 1.24%



Sold Between 4/1/2010 and 10/1/2010, Returns Made Before 4/1/2011
1 TB Hard Drives
Return Rate
2 TB Hard Drives
Return Rate
SSDs
Return Rate
Samsung SpinPoint F15.2% Hitachi Deskstar 7K2000
5.7%Intel0.3%
WD Caviar Green (WD10EADS)4.8%WD Caviar Green WD20EADS3.7%Kingston1.2%
Hitachi Deskstar 7K1000.C4.4%Seagate Barracuda LP3.7%Crucial
1.9%
Seagate Barracuda LP4.1%WD Caviar Black WD2001FALS
3.0%Corsair2.7%
WD Caviar RE3 WD1002FBYS2.9%WD Caviar Green WD20EARS2.6%OCZ
3.5%
Seagate Barracuda 7200.12
2.2%WD Caviar RE4-GP WD2002FYPS1.6%

WD Caviar Black WD1002FAEX1.5%Samsung EcoGreen F31.4%


Samsung SpinPoint F31.4%



WD Caviar Black WD1001FALS1.3%



WD Caviar Blue WD10EALS1.3%



WD Caviar Green WD10EARS 1.2%




A drive failure implies the device is no longer functioning. However, returns can occur for a multitude of reasons. This presents a challenge because we don’t have any additional information on the returned drives—were they dead-on-arrival, did they stop working over time, or was there simply an incompatibility that prevented the customer from using the SSD?

Sold Between 10/1/2009 and 4/1/2010, Returns Made Before 10/1/2010
Top Three SSD Returns
Return Rate
Top Three HDD Returns
Return Rate
OCZ Vertex 2 90 GB2.8%
Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 160 GB
8.62%
OCZ Agility 2 120 GB2.66%
Samsung SpinPoint F1 1 TB
4.48%
OCZ Agility 2 90 GB1.83%
Hitachi Deskstar 7K2000
3.41%
Sold Between 4/1/2010 and 10/1/2010, Returns Made Before 4/1/2011
Top Three SSD Returns
Return Rate
Top Three HDD Returns
Return Rate
OCZ Agility 2 120 GB6.7%
Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 160 GB
16.0%
OCZ Agility 2 60 GB3.7%
Hitachi Deskstar 7K2000 2 TB
4.2%
OCZ Agility 2 40 GB3.6%
WD Caviar Black WD2001FASS4.0%


This information only presents us with more questions. If online purchases account for the majority of hard drives sold, poor packaging and carrier mishandling can have a real effect on return rates. Furthermore, we also have no way of normalizing how customers used these drives. The large variance in hard drive return rates underlines this problem. For example, the Seagate Barracuda LP rises from 2.1% to 4.1%, while the Western Digital Caviar Green WD10EARS drops from 2.4% to 1.2%.

Alright, so the data really tells us nothing about reliability. What does it say then? Well, there seem to be more satisfied French customers purchasing Intel SSDs and not returning them than any other brand. Interestingly, in private chats, engineers from several SSD manufacturers note that a significant percentage of returned drives are unused and sealed, even though customers claim a compatibility issue. Customer satisfaction is interesting, but it's far less interesting to us than failure rates. Moving on.

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