Drive manufacturers normally characterize the lifespan of a solid-state drive (SSD) in total bytes written. The estimated range usually covers 20 to 40GB a day for the span of a three- or five-year warranty. However, there is no way of telling how much abuse the SSD can take.

Recent SSD models were tested to know how many writes they could survive before they burned out. These include Intel 335 Series, Corsair Neutron Series GTX, two Kingston HyperX 3K, Samsung 840 and Samsung 940 Pro.

Four of the drives failed the test. The ones that did pass, which are said to have been capable of reaching two petabytes of data writes, were the Kingston HyperX 3K and Samsung 840 Pro.

The test, otherwise known as the SSD Endurance Experiment, was started over a year ago by a curious team from The Tech Report. The chosen SSDs were made to undergo a repetitive and numerous cycle of writing, rewriting, deleting and rewriting 10GB of static data on the drives in order to find out just how long they would last.

SSDs are said to come in three variants. Their difference relies mainly on the write latency under sustained load and the Total Bytes Written (TBW).

Consumer drives are designed to handle a number of reads and 50 to 150TB of writes with no TRIM. They are not designed for write loads that are permanent, although they are perfectly fine for usage on a consumer level. However, some server usages that have 24 over 24 and 365 over 365 writes will cause the drives to perish within a few years. They are believed to have a fast degradation rate in their write performance.

"Pro" drives are built to handle around 500 to 800TB of writes with no activated TRIM. They are also more capable of handling sustained writes. Their cost is about twice the cost of consumer products.

High-performance drives are designed for production servers. They have around 10,000 to 15,000TB of write with no TRIM. The best models are said to have a sustained write latency of about 10ms.

A typical user may write a couple of terabytes of data per year on an SSD. Small and fast, SSDs can tolerate rough handling better than mechanical drives. This makes them look appealing for mobile devices.

However, SSDs also have a dark side. One side shows a robust flash memory. The other side reveals that such memory is also fundamentally weak. Their individual memory cells' nano-scale structure tends to get eroded by writing data. This creates a drive life ceiling, which is usually measured in terabytes.

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