Aug 04, 2014

How long is the service life of flash memory?

Flash memory is generally stable and reliable, but nothing last forever. How long does flash memory last before it becomes unstable? Is this purely a function of read/write cycles or does simple passage of time also play a role?

What’s the life expectancy of a flash drive?

"The flash memory is most likely rated for at least 10,000 write cycles before blocks start to go bad. Writing stresses the chips. Reading data from them does not put nearly the stress that writing does, so if you have data on a thumb drive and you want it to last, “write protect” the drive. Some flash drives have a small switch to turn on write protection, while others come with a utility that does the job."

From a post by CosmicPeter on Tom’s Hardware:


What's happening physically, is each time a block is written, there is a residual voltage buildup. Eventually, this voltage buildup gets so large, the applied voltage to re-write to the block is of comparable size. Thus the block can no longer be changed. So there is no definitive number of write times, nor is it something the manufacturer wants. There is currently a fair amount of research in how to reset or prevent this voltage buildup (which eventually causes the drives to fail, by becoming read only. This is one big advantage over a HDD).

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