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S.M.A.R.T. (for Self-Monitoring Analysis and Reporting Technology) is a wonderful technology to detect hard drive failure before it really happens.

But is S.M.A.R.T. relevant for SSDs?

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5 Answers

up vote 20 down vote accepted

Yes, they have it, and yes, it's useful.

Flash drives do develop errors over time, usually in the form of bad flash blocks - not unlike bad sectors in regular hard drives.

Just like regular hard drives, the drive controller keeps track of these bad blocks and re-maps them to 'extra' blocks that were saved for this purpose. Whenever the computer requests data from a bad block, the controller intercepts it and gives it the correct data from the re-mapped block.

Eventually you'll run out of extra blocks and will start getting real errors, at which time you'll need to replace the drive - SMART will keep you on top of this so you can take care of it before you start losing data.

The one major advantage SSDs have over regular drives in this is that the extra blocks in a regular drive require head seeks to another track, so as the drive ages it gets slower. In an SSD the remapping is done almost transparently, and so no additional time is wasted seeking to the remapped block and then seeking back to read the rest of the data.

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+1 S.M.A.R.T should be even more useful for SSDs as it will be more accurate/consistent in warning you about a drive failure before it happens. –  Oskar Duveborn May 20 '09 at 13:38
    
Can you provide examples of SSDs that have S.M.A.R.T.? –  J. Polfer Jun 30 '09 at 13:45
    
The first one I looked up has it: samsung.com/global/business/semiconductor/products/flash/ssd/… S.M.A.R.T. has been around for a long time. Is there a new SATA or PATA HD that doesn't include it? –  Adam Davis Jul 1 '09 at 18:27
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According to many SSD Specification I've seen, yes SSD have S.M.A.R.T support.

But if it's relevant to have it on an SSD, from my point of view I'll say yes whether SSD is kind of protected for "mecanical" failure, flash chip can also become bad with time. Actually I think this technology is still to young to have a great ideas about the frequency of failure, but MTBF are way higher on SSD than on standard HD.

So, S.M.A.R.T on SSD? I'll say yes it's a good thing.

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Not all SSDs have SMART support, so it pays to check before you buy if you're concerned.

The Intel models definitely do, and the Supertalent models don't (or at least, the ones i've seen - duradrive and ultradrive).

Somewhat amusingly, the Intel X25-E drive still reports the "spin up time" and "start/stop count" SMART attributes, even though these are never updated and have no practical relevance for non-spinning media.

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Super Talent drives do have SMART, they use the smart tools to calculate life expectancy for the drive.

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If an SSD doesn't support SMART, it hopefully supports some more powerful and hardware-specific mechanism of getting this sort of information. It really should still support SMART so that it integrates with standard tools better.

If you can't get this data from your SSD at all, I wouldn't trust it. There are a lot of very poor SSDs on the market, and one that gives you no information about its health is very suspect. Not knowing how many blocks have failed is pretty dangerous. Treat such an SSD as a toy and nothing more.

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