Friday, March 07, 2008

FLASH! Ah-aah Another thing I didn't know

QUESTION:
In your latest WXPNews you wrote: "What's more, if you defrag a flash drive, you'll shorten its life because flash memory can only do a certain number of writes before it wears out." I didn't know that! I haven't had one die yet. How long might they last? Any difference between brands? Cheers - Jeremy

ANSWER:
I was surprised at the number of readers who wrote to say this was news to them. Typical flash chips last for anywhere from 100,000 to 300,000 "flashes" (writes to the disk) to a particular location in memory, but some older/cheaper flash drives may start wearing out at 10,000 flashes. Reading the memory doesn't wear it out. You can read more details about how this works here:
http://www.wxpnews.com/CRAC5G/080304-Thumbdrive-Memory

This is a concern of many regarding the new trend to substitute flash memory for hard disks in laptop computers. However, the newest flash chips can support up to a million writes per block (with 8000 blocks per chip). With typical use, they'll last for many years. These are the type of flash chips that are being used as solid state memory in computers, and it's unlikely they will wear out before the system becomes obsolete. Read more about that here:
http://www.wxpnews.com/CRAC5G/080304-Solidstate-Storage

With low cost flash cards (as with any media), it's always a good idea to regularly back your data up to another location just in case.

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