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Investigation: Is Your SSD More Reliable Than A Hard Drive?

A Peek Into SSD Reliability

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 DrivesReturn Rate2 TB Hard DrivesReturn RatesSSDsReturn 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%Crucial2.25%
Samsung SpinPoint F13.37%Seagate Barracuda LP4.35%Kingston2.39%
Seagate Barracuda 7200.122.51%Samsung EcoGreen F34.17%OCZ2.93%
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 231.24%

Sold Between 4/1/2010 and 10/1/2010, Returns Made Before 4/1/2011
1 TB Hard DrivesReturn Rate2 TB Hard DrivesReturn RateSSDsReturn Rate
Samsung SpinPoint F15.2%Hitachi Deskstar 7K20005.7%Intel0.3%
WD Caviar Green (WD10EADS)4.8%WD Caviar Green WD20EADS3.7%Kingston1.2%
Hitachi Deskstar 7K1000.C4.4%Seagate Barracuda LP3.7%Crucial1.9%
Seagate Barracuda LP4.1%WD Caviar Black WD2001FALS3.0%Corsair2.7%
WD Caviar RE3 WD1002FBYS2.9%WD Caviar Green WD20EARS2.6%OCZ3.5%
Seagate Barracuda 7200.122.2%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 WD10EARS1.2%

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 ReturnsReturn RateTop Three HDD ReturnsReturn Rate
OCZ Vertex 2 90 GB2.8%Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 160 GB8.62%
OCZ Agility 2 120 GB2.66%Samsung SpinPoint F1 1 TB4.48%
OCZ Agility 2 90 GB1.83%Hitachi Deskstar 7K20003.41%
Sold Between 4/1/2010 and 10/1/2010, Returns Made Before 4/1/2011
Top Three SSD ReturnsReturn RateTop Three HDD ReturnsReturn Rate
OCZ Agility 2 120 GB6.7%Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 160 GB16.0%
OCZ Agility 2 60 GB3.7%Hitachi Deskstar 7K2000 2 TB4.2%
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.

  • hardcore_gamer
    Endurance of floating gate transistor used in flash memories is low. The gate oxide wears out due to the tunnelling of electrons across it. Hopefully phase change memory can change things around since it offers 10^6 times more endurance for technology nodes
    Reply
  • acku
    10444003 said:
    Endurance of floating gate transistor used in flash memories is low. The gate oxide wears out due to the tunnelling of electrons across it. Hopefully phase change memory can change things around since it offers 10^6 times more endurance for technology nodes

    As we explained in the article, write endurance is a spec'ed failure. That won't happen in the first year, even at enterprise level use. That has nothing to do with our data. We're interested in random failures. The stuff people have been complaining about... BSODs with OCZ drives, LPM stuff with m4s, the SSD 320 problem that makes capacity disappear... etc... Mostly "soft" errors. Any hard error that occurs is subject to the "defective parts per million" problem that any electrical component also suffers from.

    Cheers,
    Andrew Ku
    TomsHardware.com
    Reply
  • slicedtoad
    hacker groups like lulsec should do something useful and get this kind of internal data from major companies.
    Reply
  • jobz000
    Great article. Personally, I find myself spending more and more time on a smartphone and/or tablet, so I feel ambivalent about spending so much on a ssd so I can boot 1 sec faster.
    Reply
  • You guys do the most comprehensive research I have ever seen. If I ever have a question about anything computer related, this is the first place I go to. Without a doubt the most knowledgeable site out there. Excellent article and keep up the good work.
    Reply
  • acku
    slicedtoadhacker groups like lulsec should do something useful and get this kind of internal data from major companies.
    All of the data is so fragmented... I doubt that would help. You still need to take a fine toothcomb to figure out how the numbers were calculated.

    gpm23You guys do the most comprehensive research I have ever seen. If I ever have a question about anything computer related, this is the first place I go to. Without a doubt the most knowledgeable site out there. Excellent article and keep up the good work.
    Thank you. I personally love these type of articles.. very reminiscent of academia. :)

    Cheers,
    Andrew Ku
    TomsHardware.com
    Reply
  • K-zon
    I will say that i didn't read the article word for word. But of it seems that when someone would change over from hard drive to SSD, those numbers might be of interest.

    Of the sealed issue of return, if by the time you check that you had been using something different and something said something else different, what you bought that was different might not be of useful use of the same thing.

    Otherwise just ideas of working with more are hard said for what not to be using that was used before. Yes?

    But for alot of interest into it maybe is still that of rather for the performance is there anything of actual use of it, yes?

    To say the smaller amounts of information lost to say for the use of SSDs if so, makes a difference as probably are found. But of Writing order in which i think they might work with at times given them the benefit of use for it. Since they seem to be faster. Or are.

    Temperature doesn't seem to be much help for many things are times for some reason. For ideas of SSDs, finding probably ones that are of use that reduce the issues is hard from what was in use before.

    When things get better for use of products is hard placed maybe.

    But to say there are issues is speculative, yes? Especially me not reading the whole article.

    But of investments and use of say "means" an idea of waste and less use for it, even if its on lesser note , is waste. In many senses to say of it though.

    Otherwise some ideas, within computing may be better of use with the drives to say. Of what, who knows...

    Otherwise again, it will be more of operation place of instances of use. Which i think will fall into order of acccess with storage, rather information is grouped or not grouped to say as well.

    But still. they should be usually useful without too many issues, but still maybe ideas of timiing without some places not used as much in some ways.
    Reply
  • K-zon
    with some places* maybe, seems to be happening alot for some reason.
    Reply
  • cangelini
    To the contrary! We noticed that readers were looking to see OWC's drives in our round-ups. I made sure they were invited to our most recent 120 GB SF-2200-based story, and they chose not to participate (this after their rep jumped on the public forums to ask why OWC wasn't being covered; go figure).

    They will continue to receive invites for our stories, and hopefully we can do more with OWC in the future!

    Best,
    Chris Angelini
    Reply
  • ikyung
    Once you go SSD, you can't go back. I jumped on the SSD wagon about a year ago and I just can't seem to go back to HDD computers =
    Reply