TLDR: In 2014, SSDs were unreliable but cool and new. They've become more reliable over the years, but going into 2024, they're showing a streak of unreliability again. I've had had an SSD fail, an enclosure fail, and an SSD+enclosure which seemed to break eachother.

The worst offenders are SanDisk, Western Digital, Samsung. Backblaze reports roughly confirm this. See their full stats page here.

I didn't even know Dell made SSDs, but BackBlaze reports Dell as the lowest failure rate.

My first piece of external storage was a 512MB USB 2.0 flash drive, which I made good use of in elementary school.

I made sure to keep backups of everything, everywhere, all the time, until one stressful day in junior year that I lost a 16GB flashdrive. I had hours of homework completed on it, fighting for a competitive GPA-based scholarship where every point mattered. I sobbed having had lost it. My fault for not keeping a copy.

I've fastidiously maintained backups of my backups, ensuring to have no single point of failure (short of a house fire) since then. For these purposes I recommend SyncThing, a FOSS tool to sync files between your devices in a peer-to-peer manner.

This paranoid commitment to data integrity finally held up in 2023, the year of atrocious SSDs.

I've had the following SSDs and enclosures fail on me in the past year:

  • Either the Plugable USB C M.2 NVMe enclosure (B07N48N5GR) or a WD_Black 850 drive.
    • After use, the 850 drive wouldn't respond in any other enclosure, and I wasn't willing to test any drive in the Plugable.
    • There had been reports that the Plugable enclosure fried drives, so I'm inclined to blame the enclosure.
  • The Sabrent Utlra Slim USB 3.0 to 2.5 inch SATA aluminum enclosure (B00LS31KQG), which simply stopped reading disks after one use. The disk is still fine:
  • The SanDisk 2TB Extreme PRO Portable SSD (B08GV4YYV7), due to problems impacting every single one of these

Of these, the greatest betrayal was the SanDisk 2TB Extreme Pro. I had my failure in January 2023, and now (December 2023), people are still suffering failures (Reddit Feb 2023, The Verge August 2023, TomsHardware Nov 2023), despite Western Digital's insistence that it's been fixed. Everything I put on the SanDisk were files I considered "non-critical", but I miss them now. Old photos, homeworks, notes, server logs, and project repositories.

Everything lost. And Amazon is still selling them.

Now, looking for a new SSD feels like walking a field of landmines. I can't trust SanDisk, I can't trust Western Digital, I can't trust Samsung (who has reported problems with the 870 Evo and 970 Evo and the 990 especially, per The Verge), and you can't trust Amazon, which is notoriously full of counterfeits.

SSDs were notoriously unreliable a decade ago, and that was a price people accepted for the performance benefits they offered over HHDs. (It was amazing to watch Windows 7 boot in seconds rather than minutes. In 2014, I was proud of my one-minute Ubuntu boot time!).

BackBlaze, famous for reporting their experienced HDD reliability, has started reporting SSD reliability. Their stats confirm a trend others have observed: SSDs over the past few years have had some bad design flaws and some bad batches.

From what I see, Dell looks like the most reliable SSD manufacturer. I didn't even know Dell made SSDs, but I think I know where I'm going for my next purchase.