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How does SSD store data without power?

SSDs have completely revolutionized the way we store files on devices. The portable size with relatively more capacity, speed, and agility of SSDs have almost replaced the traditional magnetic disk hard drives. 

SSDs store data in NAND flash devices that store a small quantity of charge on a floating gate when the cell is programmed. This charge is expected to last long without any power backup. This is the main reason behind ssd storing data without any power.

This article primarily focuses on how SSDs store data without any power supply.

Memory chips used by Solid State Drives are NAND flash memory. Flash memory is non-volatile and is electrically programmed. It requires a very low quantity of charge or magnetic field to function. The flash memory cells in the SSD possess high resistance and capacity to store the charge for a longer span of time.

However, the charge on the cells still fades after some time if SSDs don’t get power from time to time. 

Any SSD will lose its data if it remains uncharged for multiple years. The same applies to USB drives and memory cards. Since it is obvious that you will surely check out your SSDs contents at least once a year, the condition of getting no charge for a long time gets void. 

Your SSD will require charge/power after the previous charge slowly fades away. So it is Biased to say that SSDs store data without any power as there is always a small amount of charge on the cells however not from an active source.

Inside a simple-looking SSD, there are transistors arranged in symmetrical columns and rows. These transistors have values 1 and 0 if they carry any charge or no charge respectively. Initially, the value of all the transistors is set to one which is later changed accordingly while saving the data. Since the transistors are arranged in rows and columns at each intersection point two transistors form a cell. One of these transistors is known as a control gate and the other is known as a floating Gate.  

When the charge reaches the control gate the flow of electrons navigates to the plotting gate that creates a positive charge interrupting the current flow. When a precise amount of voltage is applied across the transistor as a unique pattern of ones and zeros comes out

Single level cell NAND has the capacity to store one bit for cell while multilevel land can store 2 bits per cell. Is known to have a higher capacity as compared to SLC but it is more prone to wear.

According to JEDEC standards, data on ssd should be available after 1 year a at temperature of 30 degrees celsius. The enterprise SSDs is expected to store data for a bigger span of time.

As discussed above, SSDs store data by inserting electrons into the NAND gate. The main reason behind the disappearance of data is the leakage of electrons due to the phenomenon of quantum tunneling. Most of the time it becomes impossible to recover data from an SSD if it had no power for several years. 

Precisely, this time is indefinite and cannot be predicted. You can expect your SSD to retain your data for 2-5 years minimum. Manufacturers claim this time period is around 15-20 years but this comes with multiple strings attached. 

A certain statement is that you can’t expect an SSD to store your data for a lifetime without any power. 

RAM might look similar to internal SSDs but the mechanism and working principles differ a lot. RAM is a volatile memory type where data disappears when the power source is disconnected whereas SSD uses NAND flash chips which are non-volatile in nature and retain the data for a longer period of time even without any active power supply.

RAM uses the capacitors to store its data and capacitors tend to lose their power once the charge is removed. Continuous data is required to keep those capacitors charged. This is the reason we generally see Dynamic RAM in our computers. Static RAM doesn’t need regular power to retain its data but it also loses the information once the power is removed.

So, the NAND Flash cells are using transistors which can keep the charges stored even when the main power is removed. This is the reason why our SSDs keep the data without power.

The programmable charge trap cells are responsible for the data storage. Although these cells can hold either 0s or 1s when we combine them in a big number, massive data can be stored inside a single NAND Flash Chip.

These stored charges stay inside the cells for years but if for any reason the cell’s power is not restored, you can hardly do anything to restore that data. Normally, your SSD will not lose that data for around 5 years and that is a huge amount of time.

These NAND Flash Cells or chips are known as non-volatile memory. The main purpose of this non-volatile memory is to retain the data even without the power. So, there is nothing to be very serious about that.

Also, there is nothing you can do to find the exact time of data retention any SSD can offer without the power supply.

The Conclusion

SSDs have really transformed the way we used to look at slow-running hard drives and curse the laptops. Having an SSD with even a small capacity can enhance the performance of your device up to a great extent. 

The external pocket-sized SSDs don’t work on the continuous and uninterrupted power supply. They just need a small amount of charge to retain the data. All this has been explained in the simple language above. 

I hope you loved reading this article. Looking to buy a new SSD or upgrade the existing storage drive, make sure to read this SSD Buying Guide 2022.

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Vishnu Dass
Vishnu Dass
21 days ago

Great article. Nicely explained.