5 Warning Signs Your SSD Is About to Break Down and Fail (2023)

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Solid-state drives (SSDs) are faster, more stable, and consume less power than traditional hard disk drives (HDDs). But SSDs aren't flawless and can fail before their expected life span of seven to ten years.

It's best to be prepared for eventual failure. However, if you know how to tell if an SSD is failing and how to protect yourself, you won't be a victim of SSD problems.

How Do SSDs Fail?

Unlike in HDDs, there are no physical moving platters in SSDs, so they're immune to old hard disk issues. However, while SSDs aren't susceptible to mechanical failure, other components are.

SSDs require a capacitor and power supplies, which are vulnerable to malfunctions—especially in the case of a power surge or power failure. In fact, in the case of a power failure, SSDs have also been known to corrupt existing data, even if the drive itself hasn't failed completely.

The other possible problem with SSDs is that they have limited read/write cycles, an issue that exists with all kinds of flash memory. The question that emerges in this situation is, "How long do SSDs last?"

Typically, SSDs should last many years, likely far longer than you'll need them, so you shouldn't worry or be paranoid. In fact, if you bought an SSD in the last couple of years, research from Backblaze shows that SSDs have lower failure rates than hard disk drives and can be expected to perform for longer.

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Either way, the read/write cycle will affect whether you can write to your SSD. Since you can still read your data, it can all be retrieved. However, you'll still want to know when it is nearing the end of its life so that you can upgrade.

How to Check the Health of an SSD

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There are different ways to check whether your HDD is failing or not. For example, an HDD's constant whirring or ticking may indicate that it is failing. However, unlike HDDs, SSDs won't make a noise to tell you something is going wrong.

So, can you tell if an SSD is failing?

The most hassle-free and reliable way to determine if your drive is running smoothly is to install software that checks it and silently monitors it for flaws.

Figuring out if an SSD is failing is difficult, but there are some signs of SSD failure, like errors, crashes, and other issues that might tip you off before you lose your data.

1. Errors Involving Bad Blocks

Much like bad sectors on HDDs, there are bad blocks on SSDs. An SSD bad block error is an issue where the computer attempts to read or write a file but takes an unusually long time and fails. Due to the long read or write time, the process fails and delivers an error message regarding a bad block.

The common symptoms of bad blocks are:

  1. A file cannot be read or written to the hard drive.
  2. Your PC/file system needs to be repaired.
  3. Active applications often freeze up and crash.
  4. Frequent errors while moving files.
  5. Generally, running slowly, especially while accessing large files.
  6. Random crashes.

If you see any of these symptoms, the best idea is to run drive monitoring software and check the health of your SSD. If there are, back up your files right away and start shopping for a replacement SSD.

You can either back up your Windows PC to the cloud or use one of the best backup programs for Windows to store the backup on your external drive.

2. Files Cannot Be Read or Written

There are two ways in which a bad block can affect your files:

  1. The system detects the bad block while writing data to the drive and thus refuses to write data.
  2. The system detects the bad block after the data has been written and thus refuses to read that data.

In the first scenario, your data was never written to the drive, so it isn't corrupted. Usually, the system will resolve it automatically. However, if it doesn't, you can probably fix this by attempting to save the file in a different location or copying it to the cloud, restarting your computer, and then saving it back to your drive.

Unfortunately, retrieving your data in the second scenario isn't easy. You can try some methods to recover data from a failed SSD, but don't get your hopes up. A bad SSD block usually means that whatever data was stored on those blocks is lost for good.

3. The File System Needs Repair

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Have you ever seen an error message like this on your screen on either Windows or macOS? Sometimes this can happen because you didn't shut down your computer properly (we're not judging—we've all done it!). Shutting down your system incorrectly can lead to errors on an SSD. Unsafe Shutdowns are one of the SSD health metrics that drive monitoring tools track. For example, one of my SSDs has experienced 21 Unsafe Shutdowns, which is 21 times I created the potential for a data error.

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Often, these errors cannot be helped, but at other times, they can be a sign of your SSD developing bad blocks or a problem in the connector port.

Thankfully, the resolution is easy. Windows, macOS, and Linux have built-in repair tools for a corrupt file system. Each OS will prompt you to run its respective tool upon such an error, so follow the steps and repair the file system.

If you're a Windows user, look at some of the best free Windows repair tools for troubleshooting any Windows issue. Whether you're stuck due to outdated drivers or corrupted windows, the tools described in our article will help you fix a broken system.

Unfortunately, there is a chance of losing some data in this process, and recovering it might be difficult. It's yet another good reason to back up all your files periodically.

4. Frequent Crashes During Boot

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If your PC crashes during the boot process but works fine after hitting the reset button a couple of times, your SSD may be to blame. It might be a bad block or the sign of a dying drive, so it's best to back up your data before you lose any of it.

To test whether it's the drive, download and run one of the aforementioned diagnostic tools. If you have backed up your data, you can also try formatting your SSD and reinstalling the OS.

5. Your Drive Becomes Read-Only

An SSD suddenly becoming "Read-Only" is rare, but is a sure sign that your SSD might be about to break down.

When this happens, your SSD might refuse to let you perform any operations that require it to write data to disk. However, the SSD will still work in read-only mode. Your SSD appears dead for all intents and purposes, but thankfully, you can still recover your data if you act fast. That's because right now, the SSD is allowing you to read the data on the drive, meaning you can copy the data to another drive (which is why you should act fast!).

Before you throw away the SSD you think has failed, connect it as an external hard drive or a secondary hard drive to another computer. Make sure you don't boot the operating system from the SSD; you need to use the computer's main drive for that.

If you don't have a second computer or laptop, we strongly suggest running a Linux Live distro from a USB on your existing machine. There are numerous Linux distros you can run from a USB, and booting an alternative operating system will stop your SSD from attempting to launch whatever operating system you were running before and give access to the read-only data on your failing SSD.

How to Extend the Life of Your SSD

If your SSD is on the verge of failure or you've owned one for over five years, the safest thing would be to start shopping for a replacement. Meanwhile, you can do a few things to extend its lifespan till you get a replacement:

  1. Avoid extreme temperatures from affecting the drive. Ensure good cooling in your PC.
  2. Avoid power outages and any electric fluctuations.
  3. Free up extra space on your SSD to move data from bad blocks.

If you're looking for a replacement SSD, consider an M.2 SSD. They offer faster data throughput than standard mSATA and should be your default go-to choice when buying a new SSD if your budget allows. Finally, don't forget to transfer data from your failing SSD to a new drive, whether an SSD or an HDD. Protecting your data is the most important thing!

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