Apple Mac M1 users seeing excessive SSD wear and tear

Posted on Wednesday, February 24 2021 @ 9:24 CET by Thomas De Maesschalck
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I'm a big fan of the Apple MacBook Air M1 but worrying reports are popping up about excessive disk usage. Over the past week, various users of Apple devices with the M1 report they're seeing alarming statistics in SSD health readings.

Solid state disks are a lot faster than hard disk drives but one of the downsides of this technology is that NAND cells wear out over time. One simple metric that offers a clue about how long a disk will last is terabytes written (TBW), which is the total amount of terabytes of data that an SSD can write before it reaches the end of its promised lifecycle. SSD firmware tries to spread the load evenly over all cells, but after a certain point an SSD can no longer reliably store data.

Various figures are flying around Twitter, with lots of users reporting that even with limited use, M1-based Macs have already consumed several percent of the maximum warrantable total bytes written (TBW) value over the course of two to three months.

In the most severe cases, users are reporting their M1-based Mac has already used 10 to 13 percent! The implication here is that if this SSD behavior continues, some of these disks may last under two years. And as the disk is soldered to the PCB, it can't be easily replaced.

MacRumors reports it's unknown whether the high SSD consumption is by design -- or whether it's a bug. The site writes there are some messages that indicate it may not be limited to the M1-based devices, and that Intel-based Mac systems could be affected too:
The reported wear is so extreme on some ?M1? Macs that it suggests the problem is due to a bug rather than the expected behavior of the ?M1? chip, but it is unclear if the problem pertains to erroneous readings or macOS genuinely writing vast amounts of data to the drive. Drive monitoring tools are sometimes unreliable and it is likely that the issue can be fixed via an update to macOS Big Sur.

About the Author

Thomas De Maesschalck

Thomas has been messing with computer since early childhood and firmly believes the Internet is the best thing since sliced bread. Enjoys playing with new tech, is fascinated by science, and passionate about financial markets. When not behind a computer, he can be found with running shoes on or lifting heavy weights in the weight room.

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