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Reliability of PC Flash SSDs? 467

Posted by timothy
from the failure-is-failure dept.
An anonymous reader writes "SATA and IDE flash solid-state disks are all the rage these days — faster and, allegedly, more reliable than traditional spinning-rust disks. My organization dipped its toe in the flash-disk waters, buying a handful for some PC and Linux boxes. Out of 8 drives from various manufacturers, 3 have failed in the space of four months! Some are reporting bad blocks, others just crapped out and stopped responding entirely. (And no, this isn't a wear-leveling issue, nor were these machines in particularly harsh environmental conditions, nor were all failed drives from the same manufacturer.) So I ask you, the readers of Slashdot: what has your experience been like with basic, consumer-grade SATA or IDE flash drives? Are they failing for you too, or are we just unlucky? It's starting to remind me of the claims about long-lifetime compact fluorescent light bulbs that, in reality, have turned out to be BS!"
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Reliability of PC Flash SSDs?

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  • by HermMunster (972336) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @11:18AM (#29885015)

    I have avoided investing any money into those types of drives for that very reason. As a small business owner I see customer units come in that make use of those types of devices and I see a lot of failure. I'm still being patient.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      We've not being seeing widespread failure of Ipods or other keydrives, even though they use the same F-RAM technology. I'm kinda surprised to hear any reports of failure in the new solid state PC drives, unless it's an issue of making the cells too small to be reliable.

      Aside - I have two traditional hard drives in my PC. They've been spinning almost-nonstop since 2003. Any idea how much longer I have until they crash?

      Aside #2 from the Summary -

      - The savings on CFLs is trivial. I might switch my bulb fr

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by cellurl (906920) *
        Until I see a graph from consumer reports [consumerreports.org], I don't believe anything.

        Donate time, not money [wikispeedia.org]
      • by jggimi (1279324) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @12:07PM (#29885683)

        Any idea how much longer I have until they crash?

        While nothing is ever a certaintly -- a tool for your OS that inspects SMART data from your drives' electronics would answer that question, at least from a trend perspective. I like smartmontools [sourceforge.net], but you may prefer something else, or it may not be applicable for your OS.

        See Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] for some background information on SMART, and what it can tell you.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Znork (31774)

        - The savings on CFLs is trivial.

        You're missing the really good part of using CFLs; they make it practical to quadruple indoors lighting. Go from 1 60W bulb to 3 20W CFL's and you get significantly more light, making for a nice change in darker climates. And compared to using 400W, 60W actually becomes a significant saving. Of course, it doesn't actually reduce electricity use...

        The warm up time is also less of a problem if you use multiple CFL's. With enough powerful ones you quickly get more light than th

        • by bradley13 (1118935)

          ...you just have to buy quality stuff. About 10 years ago, we bought five standing lamps, each with 3x32watt dimmable bulbs. The electronics in the lamp are specifically designed to dim CFLs, and the CFLs are designed to be dimmed. The total price for each lamp (they are nice lamps) was several hundred dollars. However, in 10 years, we have replaced only one bulb. The warm-up time is negligible and the light quality is excellent.

          Hot-wire bulbs are a throw-away product. You just can't look at CFLs the same

  • eee ssd (Score:5, Interesting)

    by selfabuse (681350) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @11:18AM (#29885025)
    The junky 4gb ssd that came with my eee 900 died inside of a month. The 16gb OCZ SSD that I replaced it with has been going strong for a year now though /me crosses fingers
    • by sconeu (64226)

      So far I'm happy with the 32GB RIDATA that I upgraded my 900 with. I probably should have gone with the SATA version rather than the PATA version, but my wife resents every penny I spend on computer related stuff.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by hairyfeet (841228)
        What you need to do with her is start talking ROI, or as I like to call it "blinded with a combo of tech speak and BS". If she isn't a techhead start throwing "mean time between failure" and lots of tech speak in there and watch her eyes glaze over. Trust me, girls love to "save" money, which is why a sale at the clothing store can break you. Make it sound like you are "saving" a larger amount in the long run and all is golden.
    • Re:eee ssd (Score:4, Insightful)

      by bzipitidoo (647217) <bzipitidoo@yahoo.com> on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @11:59AM (#29885593) Journal

      Same problem here. The 4G SSD in my eee 901 went bad the 2nd month. I sent it to Asus and they replaced it. The new one has been working since, but I don't store any critical data on that PC.

      I'd also like to see optical media go away. Burns take too long, are too likely not to work on another drive or even the same drive, have one little bad spot that spoils everything, and drives go bad all the time. I'll take SSDs over DVD-RWs. Wish more Linux distros were set up for easy installation onto and from flash memory drives.

      I bought a dozen of those LED night lights. That's a much cheaper way of trying LED lighting than going for regular lights. 4 of them failed early. Their brightness varies hugely even between the same models. That's life for beta testers. Have had better luck with CFLs. Only one early failure so far, and it wasn't real early-- lasted 5 years. Manufacturers have done a very poor job of informing people that most CFLs do not work with dimmer switches. Last time I went looking for a CFL for dimmers, I couldn't find one. Took a while to go through the fine print on all the models and confirm that none could hack a dimmer switch.

    • by Zerth (26112)

      For once I don't feel bad about buying early and getting a 7** eee, as I haven't had any problems with its SSD, although I do most of my writes to SD cards.

      • by Ant P. (974313)

        Same here, my 701's 2 years old now and running fine despite going through a dozen kernel compiles.

        I was thinking of getting the newer model but it seems there's a complaint about almost every component inside it. I can live with the small screen and short battery life, at least until ARM netbooks take off.

  • by A little Frenchie (715758) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @11:20AM (#29885039)

    your not saying what chipset and what kind of usage you did.

    if you are going to put a MLC drive for a gentoo distribution which is compiling 24/7, you will kill it in no time

    if you got first gen micron chipset... you will have bad experience too

    try again with indilinx or intel drive with SLC and come again

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @11:25AM (#29885093)

      Hi, I was the guy that posted the original question. Thanks for your response. I didn't give details simply due to space constraints. The drives were:

      1. FHM16GF25H = Super Talent MasterDrive 16GB under linux
      2. Transcend TS32GSSD25-M under Windows/XP
      3. Patriot Warp v2 32GB under Ubuntu 8.04 with ext3

      The machines were not super heavily loaded (i.e., no compiles 24/7), and we did the "obvious" things like turning off atime updates to the filesystems, etc.

      • by initdeep (1073290) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @11:43AM (#29885353)

        I'd be more looking at the fact that all of those are JMicron based controller drives and are shitty examples of SSD's in the first place.
        http://www.anandtech.com/storage/showdoc.aspx?i=3531&p=17 [anandtech.com]

      • Patriot? Transcend? Super Talent? Those are not household names. Perhaps you have the all-too-common problem of shoddy workmanship by second-tier factories in Taiwan or China.

        When you buy Intel or Seagate or Maxtor SSDs and they fail, then I'll take note.

      • by TheKidWho (705796)

        Those are all bad SSDs, get an intel or OCZ drive instead.

        That's what happens when you try to go cheap.

        • by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @12:08PM (#29885707)

          Apparently, the JMicron controller that's been faulted for at least two of the drives in questions is also found in 3 OCZ SSDs. At least, that's what anandtech reports, and they've been very good with these kinds of investigations in the past.

          I'd suggest to apply the same technique that should be applied to all new technologies: get a thorough understanding of the technology and the involved manufacturers before buying one. And any price that's too good to be true probably is - cutting edge technology never is cheap, and SSDs are still cutting edge technology.

      • by Concern (819622) * on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @12:04PM (#29885657) Journal

        Thank you. The brands/models were the critical piece of information.

        You're probably aware that SSD's have been in the server space, at a very different price point, for a few years now, without any extraordinary reliability debacles. To some extent, this is a case of getting what you pay for. I did a moderate amount of research on SSD drives, relying especially on the independent review sites, and quickly eliminated all of the brands you described.

        As is frequent in fairly new markets, there are a few smaller and less well-run companies trying to dive in, and their first customers get to beta test their v0.* and v1.* offerings.

        The prevailing wisdom seemed to me (and to people like i.e. Torvalds) that Intel was far and away the top of the heap in terms of performance and reliability, and some drives based on a newer Samsung controller (i.e. OCZ Summit) were a perhaps credible alternative. Other brands were clearly struggling to even be in the game, with frequent firmware updates and outright debacles (i.e. Indilinux, Micron) and we're in the process of shaking out who will make it and who will not.

        I have only fielded a few consumer-grade SSDs over about the same amount of time as you, but going with Intel's G1 and G2 MLC products has so far yielded zero failures.

        If you are already in the market for an SSD, and you are ready to spend premium money for premium performance, you should go the whole distance and go with Intel, the current market leader. See also the latest news on these models. [tomshardware.com]

  • Don't Defrag (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @11:20AM (#29885041)

    Make sure you turn of the scheduler for defragging in Windows or whatever OS you are using. Defragging those types of drives will effectively kill them.

  • by rolfwind (528248) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @11:22AM (#29885055)

    in my everyday desktop are working fine since January, and they are the most used drives of the system, the smaller one being used to boot the system and store programs, the other storing program data and some DBs.

  • by joocemann (1273720) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @11:22AM (#29885061)

    then to say "Some are reporting bad blocks, others just crapped out and stopped responding entirely..." is misleading.

    You know the numbers, so tell them. If the total is 3, then you can't use a plural for two separate types of failures "some this, others that". That is just logically impossible if the number of failures is 3. Think about it.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by NoYob (1630681)

      then to say "Some are reporting bad blocks, others just crapped out and stopped responding entirely..." is misleading.

      You know the numbers, so tell them. If the total is 3, then you can't use a plural for two separate types of failures "some this, others that". That is just logically impossible if the number of failures is 3. Think about it.

      I think all of us understood what the poster meant.

      Think about it.

      That's a condescending thing to say. Whenever someone says "Think about it", it's always with the air of superiority - as if they have this insight that the lesser people haven't seen or unable to see.

      My response to that order is "I'll spend every waking moment thinking about it." - then I forget about it.

  • by adisakp (705706) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @11:22AM (#29885065) Journal
    Can you at least tell us which 3 of your 8 drives failed ? Perhaps there is some similarity in controller or Flash memory used?

    FWIW, I have 2 of the Intel Drives and 1 OCZ drive and I haven't seen any problems.
  • No problems here... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by thesameguy (1047504)
    I've got a pair of Dell Mini 9s, one with a 4gb SSD and the other a 32gb. Neither have had problems, although they only see maybe 1-2 hours of use daily. We also run a pair of Dell XPS laptops - one 1340, one 1640, both with the 128gb Samsung (IIRC) SSDs. Those systems are on and working 6-10 hours a day every day, no problems. All four of these systems run XP; the 4gb Mini 9 runs a lightened version. I've also got a home-built HTPC made out of mostly ASUS components running Win7RC on a Patriot 64gb SS
  • Linus says... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @11:26AM (#29885113) Journal
    http://torvalds-family.blogspot.com/2008/10/so-i-got-one-of-new-intel-ssds.html [blogspot.com]

    He sorta knows what he's talking about more often than a random average slashdotter.
  • I LOVE my flash drives in my desktop (OCZ) and Thinkpad (Samsung) I'd hate to go back to legacy spinny storage, but I had 2 USB flash drives crap out recently. A 32GB OCZ and a 1GB no name recently failed without being abused. I would be hesitant to place consumer ssds where there is no backup in place or where replacement is an issue. The CFL reliability story is apropos: it is easy to slap a 10,000 hr rating on a bulb or a 1,000,000 hr MTBF rating on a SSD. In the real world, it might not work that way.
  • by Kenja (541830) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @11:30AM (#29885173)
    Cheap SSD drives fail more often then good, expensive ones. This is not shocking news. Or at least it shouldn't be. But the vast majority of consumers never look past the capacity and purchase price.
    • When stuff has come down in price over time because of improved manufacturing et al, it will usually have a fairly good quality (see cheap ATA drives), when it starts cheap it will have a high failure rate because not enough was invested in manufacture/design/testing.

      tl;dr Cheap new stuff, last less time than Cheap old stuff, news at 11

  • Sounds like you are unfamiliar with what a product warranty is for. Complex products (especially new ones) are going to fail at a pretty good rate. If it breaks, get it replaced. This serves you (you get a new, working one) and the vendor (they get to figure out why it broke and avoid it in the future.)

    I could dig up a dozen recent "reviews" of traditional hard drives where the reviewer claimed an outrageous failure rate. Yep, magnetic platter disks just aren't ready for prime time, just like compact fl

    • by TheSHAD0W (258774)

      Of course, it also means the vendor gets a copy of whatever is on the drive... Confidential company information, personal data, furry pr0n...

      • by jeffmeden (135043) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @11:47AM (#29885401) Homepage Journal

        Of course, it also means the vendor gets a copy of whatever is on the drive... Confidential company information, personal data, furry pr0n...

        Clever, in a completely unrelated way. What if a company (say they were operating out of a country not completely allied with the US) were to create a SSD device that had logic to "incapacitate" itself at some rate after it had been used to store enough information, before the warranty had expired, and not often enough (across the population) to raise suspicion. The disk could be a sort of new age Trojan horse, sneaking in, and back out with valuable, undetected all the while.

      • by geekoid (135745)

        So? if they were to look at it or use it in any way they would shortly stop getting orders.

      • This is why you use filesystem encryption on any disk containing potentially sensitive information.
  • One of 7 Transcends (Score:5, Interesting)

    by lcreech (1491) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @11:31AM (#29885183)

    I have 7 Transcend SATA SSD's, 3 32GB and 4 192GB, one of the 192GB drives is flakey, random bad blocks and file curruption issues of files that had been fine but gone bad and have not been written to since their creation some months ago. I've reloaded it several times but eventually had to remove it from service because of its poor reliability.

    • by poptones (653660)

      My experience with transcends has been they are absolute crap. This is based on a sample of a mere three devices, but none of them worked properly. One lasted only an hour or so, the other two were spectacularly slow. I've also had bad experience with transcend sd cards, one in my first Canon was just way too slow. It was faster than the uber crappy adata that came with the camera, but still not fast enough to record video reliably.

      I bought 4 Sandisk sata 5000s to use in a raid0 and they were ok, but even i

  • BS? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Red Flayer (890720) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @11:36AM (#29885259) Journal

    It's starting to remind me of the claims about long-lifetime compact fluorescent light bulbs that, in reality, have turned out to be BS!"

    Bad troll. I read the fine article linked in this claim. The claims are not BS... there have just been problems with the supply-chain doing cost-cutting, and with people using cheap CFLs inappropriately. It's important to note that the Energy Star ratings board has been retesting CFLs and revoking use of the label for CFLs that fail to meet the standard.

    It's not BS... it just needs some refining. Don't use CFLs on a dimmer switch. Don't use them in poorly ventilated enclosures. Don't use CFLs in fixtures you turn off and on a lot.

    A little bit of consumer education goes a long way... but unfortunately so does FUD like the submitter's.

    • LED bulbs are going to render CFL bulbs a flash in the pan

      no toxic mercury, no 30 second wait to dim up completely after turn on, not nearly as fragile, lasts much longer, nicer white glow, similar very low energy usage...

      but currently, they are a little pricey and their lighting wattage is low

      http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/05/06/coming-soon-a-40-watt-led-light-bulb/ [nytimes.com]

      • Yup, LEDs will be great, but they're not there yet. Meanwhile, I've been happily using CFs for about ten years (closer to fifteen if you count the fact that I switched the bulbs in my room at my mother's house before I left home). I'd be surprised if they haven't been largely supplanted by LEDs in ten years, but that's still 25-30 years of use. Not bad when you consider that incandescents with the current design were only introduced in 1964, so have only been around for a bit over twice as long. Hardly

      • LED bulbs are going to render CFL bulbs a flash in the pan

        no toxic mercury, no 30 second wait to dim up completely after turn on, not nearly as fragile, lasts much longer, nicer white glow, similar very low energy usage...

        but currently, they are a little pricey and their lighting wattage is low

        http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/05/06/coming-soon-a-40-watt-led-light-bulb/ [nytimes.com]

        Sorry, I replaced all my incandescents more then 4 years ago and was really happy with the results. Still not happy with the cost of the LEDs. So just go ahead a replace those incandescent lights and wait on the LEDs. I will still be cheaper in the long run.

        And if you're thinking the LEDs don't contain toxic materials; you should do a little research on GaAs and other environmentally friendly semi-conductors.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by QuantumRiff (120817)

        I've been looking like crazy, since the guy that remodeled the house I just bought loved Recessed can lights and dimmer switches. Right now, the only bulbs I see that come close in the LED range cost about $120 each. The CFL dimmables are crud, their lowest setting is still something like 75% of max brightness, so they are very bright when the dimmer is all the way down. I need a replacement LED "can light" in the $30 dollar range, before I can do anything about them. And the ones I have actually seen in

    • by spinkham (56603)

      Also, don't use in rooms with showers.
      I use CFL, and the ones in dry rooms last a long time, but the ones I put in my bathrooms kept dying. Humidity shortening the life of CFLs is a known problem.
      I've since switched to halogen bulbs in the bathroom and they work better for me with some power savings over normal incandescents.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by 1000101 (584896)
      "It's not BS... it just needs some refining. Don't use CFLs on a dimmer switch. Don't use them in poorly ventilated enclosures. Don't use CFLs in fixtures you turn off and on a lot." Except you don't see that up front on the package when you buy it. If the consumer doesn't see that they will expect it to work like a standard bulb.
  • by initdeep (1073290) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @11:38AM (#29885291)

    My first response would be: "What type of computers are these being used in? Desktops? Servers? Laptops? Netbooks?"

    My second response would be: "What systems settings have been changed so the OS is properly set up for an SSD drive?"

    My third response would be: "What exact make and model drives are we talking about here?"

    All of this is important in determining whether this is just another typical anecdotal ask slashtards to make me feel better type question, or whether you are seriously asking.

    Without specifics, this is nothing more than a waste of time.

    If all of the failed drives are of a specific manufacturer's netbook mini pcie based 4GB SSD drives, and all were having the same basic issue, then it's really an indication of a problem with one manufacturer's drives, and not SSD's as a whole now isn't it?

    It's like saying all 1.5TB rotational hard drives suck and lose data becuase at one point seagate had tremendous firmware problems with their 1.5TB hdd's.

    If on the other hand, it's several different drives, in different environments, from several different manufacturers and across several physically different types of SSD's (mini pcie, full size, etc) utilizing several different types of RAM and several different controllers, then it would suggest a more widespread problem.

    You don't even have a large enough data sample to begin to answer these questions.

    Me personally, I've got SSD drives in everything from my home desktop, to my work laptop, to a couple of small file servers, to two different Dell Mini 9's running aftermarket Runcore SSD's

    All have been in use for at least a year (the work laptop is actually a Dell xps m1330 that is almost 2 years old and has a 64GB Samsung SSD in it).
    All are working flawlessly and show no signs of dieing.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The original poster didn't ask you to debug his problem or theorize why he drives failed. He asked you a very simple question: what have your experiences been like with flash drives? You don't need any of the data you're asking for above to do that.

  • by fljmayer (985663) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @11:38AM (#29885309)
    I got an OCZ Vertex 5 months and was very happy with the speed increase. Yesterday the laptop blue-screened and wouldn't boot any more. The BIOS test reported a read error. I am waiting for an RMA number from OCZ.
  • by geekoid (135745)

    Nice troll.

    You link to a story that has nothing to do with the question. Man, this is sloppy even for /. 'editors'.

    The article is using examples of incorrectly manufactured bulbs that fail to spread FUD.
    I couldn't help but notice they don't compare it to the failure rate of cheap incandesents.

    I have never replaced an IFL and I have been replacing my non-dimming regular bulbs for over 5 years and have only replaced one, and that was because I put it in a dimmer to see what would happen.

    Guess what? it's a per

    • Did you read the article you linked to (registration only, but if you google for the URL then follow the link it works because NYT doesn't require registration of the referrer is Google)? It says that CF lightbulbs do generally save money and last longer, but a few Chinese manufacturers were cutting costs and using substandard components, meaning that the bulbs didn't last long. Fortunately, they all come with something like a ten-year guarantee, so if they fail as early as the anecdotes in the article we

  • I have had one on my notebook computer for 1 1/2 years so far with daily usage, no problem whatsoever.

  • I had a Patriot 64gb SSD in a small, low-traffic Ubuntu server (several services were running but no specific tuning options were set) that died this weekend. Sunday afternoon, several Apache processes pegged the CPU at 100% between them (load average climbed steadily up to 40ish, and I was unable to start or kill anything else). Thinking that one of my users had written some bad PHP, I rebooted the machine. It wouldn't restart (Grub loading...please wait...). Booting into System Rescue CD, the partitio

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