Apple M1 Macs appear to be chewing through their SSDs

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Since Apple has released their new M1 chip Macs there have been growing concerns regarding the life-span of SSD in the laptops. The new Operating System that runs on M1 chip has been actively using the swap files, which leads to excessive writes to the SSD. SSD drives have a notoriously short life span especially when they are constantly written to. Compounding the problem with M1 Mac because the SSD is soldered to the motherboard, which prevents them from easily being replaced if they do fail.

If the problem with excessive writes to SSD persists, the Mac laptops could fail in two years. The numbers from tests scenarios paint a worst case picture, but it is still a worrying trend that could render an expensive machine dead. The way SSD works is that they have a limited number of rights that can be performed over the life-span of the drive. Once that threshold is passed the SSD can become unstable and eventually unusable. In most case scenarios and general usage this is not a problem. But when an SSD is constantly written to over a period of time it could lead to deterioration of the drive much quicker than manufacturer recommends.

Total Bytes Written which is measured in terabytes, is used by manufacturers of SSDs to approximate the lifespan of their drives. The warranties for these types of drives are generally in the range of five (5) years. But if the drive is forced to perform extensively over and above the manufacturer estimations, these drives can deteriorate faster. If a 256GB SSD has a TBW of upto 150Tb, this translates to 30Tb a year over a period of five years. Some users are reporting hitting 30Tb in four to six months. This in turn leads to the SSD hitting its maximum recommended usage of 150Tb within two years.

The new Operating System swap file requirements seems to be a problem across all new Apple laptops. If these reports are true there could be a slew of dead Apple laptops being brought in to be repaired. Of course these reporting tools that are being used to track the lifespan of the machines are not always correct. There could always be discrepancies that need to be corrected when it comes to tracking software. There could also be misreporting due to the new architecture of M1 and the OS. Apple can help with these misconceptions by providing better smart tools to track these issues.

SSDs have a definite life-span, but they don’t just stop working after the TBW reach the end of their cycle. Although you do risk that the warranty on your SSD will no longer be covered. The manufacturers of the SSDs tend to be very pessimistic and realistic regarding the maximum numbers their SSDs can handle. It can be months or years before the actual SSD fails, nonetheless, the owness is on the owner of the SSD to keep track of the lifespan of their SSDs.