Why do Flash Drives fail and become smaller in total storage over time?

NAND technology has had a huge impact on many of the gadget-based luxuries we enjoy today. By creating breakthroughs in storage methods, NAND flash has revolutionized our phones and our digital cameras; maximizing the amount of space we have available to store a range of media.

 

Plugging removable flash disk

 

There have been various types of NAND technology over the years, allowing us to reach the point we’re at today (and it will only keep improving – just imagine the amount of pictures, videos, and more you’ll be able to store on your phones and tablets five years from now). The first, SLC (Single Level Cell) was designed to store one data bit in each cell; this graduated to MLC (Multi-Level Cell) technology, which was powerful enough to store two bits of information in one location. On this basis, MLC NAND is approximately half the cost of SLC NAND, per GB. This is why SLC NAND is generally regarded as being the higher-end choice.

 

However, as anyone with extensive experience of using NAND flash down the years will testify, problems can occur with this technology over time. At eProvided, we’re passionate about providing you with all the information you need to get the most out of your storage devices, and to give you the best data-recovery service we can, we make it our business to explore the benefits and restrictions of each.

 

Below, we take a look at why flash drives degrade over time.

NAND Flash Drives and Low Endurance

To offer high-quality performance, all flash devices are able to cope with a limited number of program/erase cycles (otherwise known as writers and erasures) – depending on how often you use your flash drive, and how many files you store & update, your limit may well run out faster than you expect. Generally, as MLC NAND stores double the data in a single space, the maximum endurance it provides is lower than that offered by SLC NAND. This means that the more you use your MLC NAND flash drive, the sooner – and more regularly – you’ll need to replace it.

 

So, what happens inside your flash drive during program/erase cycles? Well, when data is written and erased again and again, in standard use, there is a physical effect: an oxide layer which separates the ‘floating gate’ from the ‘substrate’ degrades, which limits its capability to maintain a charge over a long time. Every SSD (Solid-state Storage Device) is able to cope with a finite number of degradations before it begins to perform in a sub-par manner i.e. increased failure rates and reduced storage capability.

 

Ways to Deal with Flash Drive Failures

While it’s inevitable that your flash drives will begin to perform at a lower level over time, you should take the necessary steps to keep your data safe. Always back-up important files – work documents, precious photos & videos, essays etc. – to another storage location, such as internal hard drive, an external hard drive, or the cloud. This is an essential precaution, ensuring you can access those essential files even if your flash drive has corrupted data or fails to be recognized by your device.

 

You should also ensure it remains in the best physical condition: keep it covered with the cap when not in use, to prevent dust entering through the connector and clogging internal components – if you’ve lost the cap, find a replacement or keep the drive itself in dry, clean space. You should also avoid exposing your flash drive to any extreme temperatures or high-humidity locations – this can affect its performance over time.

 

Be sure to remove the drive from devices properly: select the ‘eject’ option to ensure no data is being written or erased when you remove it; take great care when doing this – if you pull the drive from the USB port with too much force, you could cause internal damage, risking your data.

 

eProvided has an experienced team of experts on-hand to retrieve data from your storage devices, whatever they may be. By following the above advice, you can help your flash drive remain at its best, but if you experience any problems, feel free to give us a call on 1 – 866 – 857 – 5950.