How many writes can a solid state hard drive take? can Windows 11 ‘dead zones’ be fixed | Q&A with Patrick Marshall

Q: Recent articles have told me about my concerns about the use of solid state hard drives (SSDs). I have a SanDisk 1TB external SSD. I use Quicken to manage my bank account and configure it to automatically backup to my SSD. Do these frequent backups to the SSD count as a “write” or “rewrite” to the SSD, for which there is a limited number? If yes, what is the limit? If those backups count as a write to the SSD, I think I’ll get limited SSD usage, which defeats the purpose of having that more expensive HDD.

Ken Stone, Tumwater

A: Yes, SSDs can only do so many writes (or erases) before they wear out and start producing errors. The good news is that a quality SSD can handle a huge number of such operations before it hits the wall. In a recent test of six SSDs, half of them wrote a petabyte of data before they ran out. By the way, one petabyte equals 1,000 terabytes or 1 million gigabytes. This would mean that if you wrote 100 gigabytes of data every day, it would take you over 27 years to reach the number of data writes that caused half of all SSDs to fail.

And yes, those backups to your SSD count as a write. Still, I highly doubt you’ll hit the write limit while backing up your Quicken data.

The question I would ask, though, is whether you want to spend the money on an SSD for this purpose.

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The main advantage of SSDs is that they are fast and very portable. They are also significantly more expensive than traditional hard drives. Unless your Quicken backups are taking a long time, I would consider backing them up to a traditional external hard drive.

I spend a lot of time working with large video files. After shooting, I save the video files in two places. I back up all files to a relatively inexpensive traditional external hard drive. Since I won’t be editing and compiling savegames, speed isn’t an issue, so I don’t need the more expensive SSDs.

I save the video files I’m going to edit on solid state drives because they’re fast and portable. Although editing and compiling these files involves a lot of writing and erasing, once I fill up an SSD, there’s no more writing to do. I haven’t hit the ceiling on an SSD yet.

One final suggestion: don’t store your backup data in the same location as your original data. You don’t want a fire or flood to wipe out both versions.

Q: One of your recent columns discussed a “dead zone” and you advised a fix in Windows 11. I’ve been dealing with a dead zone for the past few months and can temporarily fix it with a reboot. I tried the Windows option you suggested, and although the Windows setting says my computer was up to date, there was a cumulative update available. I installed it and the dead zone disappeared but reappeared a day later. Also, since it all started, I now have a screen that pops up when I restart or install an update that asks me how I want to open the selected file: Notepad, Media Player, or Other App . Since I’m not very computer savvy, I’m totally confused.

Arlene Williams

A: If you’re using the latest version of Windows 11, I suspect the problem is a misbehaving app that loads when you start your computer. To check if this is the case, click the Windows Start button in the lower left corner, then click in the search field at the top of the window that opens. Type “startup” and you’ll see startup apps appear as a match. Click on it and you will get a list of all applications that load when you start your computer. You can enable or disable each application. Disable them all and restart your computer. If the problem goes away, you can switch the apps you want to load on startup one by one until the problem reoccurs.

If that doesn’t solve your problem, it’ll probably take some hands-on troubleshooting to find a solution.

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