The Lifespan of Flash / SSD

Posted on by Larry

Commentary2.jpgWe’ve known for a while that storing projects for more than a couple of years on hard disks which are unplugged is not a good idea; whether they are on a shelf, in a wrapper, or a closet.

However, what I haven’t understood until recently, was the life-span of Flash or SSD media. Last week, I attended the 2016 Creative Storage Conference in Culver City and had a chance to talk with the Micron folks.

The answer to: “What’s the life-span of Flash?” is… “It Depends.”



Since films were first invented, production people have tried to explain to producers that, while we can make films that are good, cheap or fast, we can’t do all three at the same time.

In fact, producers get to pick two.

While this is a bit simplistic – for example, we can spend a ton of money and still end up with dreck – these three variables are an excellent way to frame the entire “how do we spend our resources” discussion.


What I learned was that when engineers design the master wafers from which individual flash and SSD systems are derived, they have several options:

They can:

And, like film producers of old, engineers can only pick two.

Since no one buys flash because they want it to be slower than spinning media, performance is always the first choice.

Because flash is still relatively expensive, when compared to traditional hard disks, resilience, which is the ability to read and write data hundreds and thousands of times, becomes the second choice.

What does this mean for longevity? “It isn’t that we can’t store data for a long time on flash, its just that today’s flash is not optimized to support long-term storage.”


While there is some variation, the consensus of the Micron folks was that storing flash on the shelf, unplugged, would be good for a year or two without losing data. But not long-term.

Sigh… Archiving media is just so difficult!

4 Responses to The Lifespan of Flash / SSD

  1. Why not make flash data with longevity, special for bakup?
    Name it as an archive flash storage.
    Would that be an option?

    • Larry says:


      This is a good question. My only guess, because I don’t know the answer, is that they do not yet feel the market is big enough to retool their manufacturing. And making this change would require a substantial investment.


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