Way To Check Writes/Wear Level On USB Flash Drive?

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Way To Check Writes/Wear Level On USB Flash Drive?

Postposted on Tue May 20, 2014 7:01 pm

Hey all. I just recently bought a Corsair 64GB USB flash drive on Newegg for what seemed like a really good price. Upon receiving the item today, I was a little disturbed to see a "Factory Reconditioned" logo on the packaging. Now I can occasionally miss things, but I swear that Newegg never had anything about being refurbished on the product page (which has since been updated). That's typically something I will always notice. Even my order confirmation and invoice emails don't say anything about being refurbished/reconditioned. The price seemed a little low in retrospect, but I still feel like I've been bait and switched.

Anyhow, I'm debating whether to pop this thing open. It was a good price and I don't feel like dealing with the hassle, but flash also has a limited number of write cycles (even if it's unlikely to be an issue), and Corsair only gives it a 30 day warranty. I'd feel better about it if there were a way for me to test the drive.

Is there any software out there which can test the number of writes/wear level of various types of flash devices?
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Re: Way To Check Writes/Wear Level On USB Flash Drive?

Postposted on Tue May 20, 2014 9:47 pm

I'm not aware of one for thumbdrives. Doesn't mean there isn't a way to do it, but I wouldn't count on it.
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Re: Way To Check Writes/Wear Level On USB Flash Drive?

Postposted on Tue May 20, 2014 10:08 pm

There's no such software. If I were you - I would return it and get a new one with a full 1-year warranty.
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Re: Way To Check Writes/Wear Level On USB Flash Drive?

Postposted on Wed May 21, 2014 8:28 am

F3 (http://oss.digirati.com.br/f3/) can be used to test flash drives for bad sectors under Linux.
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Re: Way To Check Writes/Wear Level On USB Flash Drive?

Postposted on Wed May 21, 2014 8:35 am

Flatland_Spider wrote:F3 (http://oss.digirati.com.br/f3/) can be used to test flash drives for bad sectors under Linux.

While that would be of some use to tell the OP if the drive has already failed, it seemed to me he was more interested in finding out whether it had significant wear (e.g. a potentially shortened lifespan) due to being used/refurb.
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Re: Way To Check Writes/Wear Level On USB Flash Drive?

Postposted on Wed May 21, 2014 10:41 am

just brew it! wrote:While that would be of some use to tell the OP if the drive has already failed, it seemed to me he was more interested in finding out whether it had significant wear (e.g. a potentially shortened lifespan) due to being used/refurb.


Figuring out the thing isn't totally borked is probably the best that can be done. The smart tools probably won't help since it's behind a USB interface.

Anything used is buyer beware, and we'll never know why it was returned. With that being said, flash is a lot hardier then it used to be, and I wouldn't feel squeamish about a factory refurbed flash drive anymore then I would a factory refurbed mechanical drive (They would both a 5 on the confidence scale with a used drive of unknown origin being a 3.).
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Re: Way To Check Writes/Wear Level On USB Flash Drive?

Postposted on Wed May 21, 2014 12:52 pm

I don't know anything really about the controllers used in thumb drives but it's quite possible that information isn't even available. In an SSD, the controller tracks writes to inform its wear-levelling routines. But USB flash drives don't do wear-levelling (AFAIK) so they may not bother keeping track of total writes. (And it they do, it's probably for diagnostic purposes at the factory in case of warranty returns, etc, so would require breaking open the case and attaching test equipment.)
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Re: Way To Check Writes/Wear Level On USB Flash Drive?

Postposted on Thu May 22, 2014 6:36 am

USB NAND is usually TLC. The only TLC I know cycle counts for are Samsung and Toshiba, and worst-case is 1000 cycles but Samsung have stated that some of the TLC is now rated for 2500 cycles.
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Re: Way To Check Writes/Wear Level On USB Flash Drive?

Postposted on Thu May 22, 2014 8:27 am

UberGerbil wrote:I don't know anything really about the controllers used in thumb drives but it's quite possible that information isn't even available. In an SSD, the controller tracks writes to inform its wear-levelling routines. But USB flash drives don't do wear-levelling (AFAIK) so they may not bother keeping track of total writes. (And it they do, it's probably for diagnostic purposes at the factory in case of warranty returns, etc, so would require breaking open the case and attaching test equipment.)
:(

Flatland_Spider wrote:Anything used is buyer beware, and we'll never know why it was returned. With that being said, flash is a lot hardier then it used to be, and I wouldn't feel squeamish about a factory refurbed flash drive anymore then I would a factory refurbed mechanical drive (They would both a 5 on the confidence scale with a used drive of unknown origin being a 3.).

True of course, but keep in mind that I didn't knowingly or intentionally purchase a refurb. My decision is whether I find it acceptable for roughly half the price. I'm leaning towards Yes, as being a 64GB it would likely take some time and effort to put any significant wear on the flash.
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Re: Way To Check Writes/Wear Level On USB Flash Drive?

Postposted on Thu May 22, 2014 8:48 am

USB flash drives must do at least *some* wear leveling, though I'm sure the algorithms aren't as sophisticated as on a full-blown SSD. Otherwise they would fail almost immediately, since the areas containing file system meta-data get updated every time a file gets written or updated.
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Re: Way To Check Writes/Wear Level On USB Flash Drive?

Postposted on Thu May 22, 2014 1:36 pm

just brew it! wrote:USB flash drives must do at least *some* wear leveling, though I'm sure the algorithms aren't as sophisticated as on a full-blown SSD. Otherwise they would fail almost immediately, since the areas containing file system meta-data get updated every time a file gets written or updated.
Good point. They're not going to be doing any background wear-leveling / garbage collection, though. And they could achieve much of the same effect with a simple LRU/MRU list (which, if you're being cheap, doesn't even have to include every block of storage, which would allow you to use the same limited controller regardless of the capacity of NAND it's attached to -- certainly not ideal from a reliability standpoint, but we're talking cheap USB thumbdrives here).

Anyway, the upshot is that it's possible only the factory can tell you how many writes the NAND has seen... and maybe not even then. (Though I imagine there are low-level tools that can actually "see" the damage to the NAND)
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Re: Way To Check Writes/Wear Level On USB Flash Drive?

Postposted on Thu May 22, 2014 6:50 pm

Flatland_Spider wrote:F3 (http://oss.digirati.com.br/f3/) can be used to test flash drives for bad sectors under Linux.


From your link there is mention of a Windows utility called H2testw. But again it can only detect failed sectors. The executable file needs no installation and can be directly run.
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Re: Way To Check Writes/Wear Level On USB Flash Drive?

Postposted on Sat May 24, 2014 5:56 pm

Well, I weighed the pros/cons and decided to pop open the clamshell package and give it a shot. The drive is bad. It fails during file transfers, and fails during format attempts. I'm not even going to screw with it beyond that.

So basically, I got a bait and switch from Newegg, a defective product, and then Newegg expects me to eat the return shipping cost. I could probably get a free label, but it's not worth the aggravation. I'm not really upset about the deal, just more saddened by the state of Newegg. They used to be my #1 electronics dealer, and I would often purchase from them even if they were a couple dollars more. These days I'm nervous about purchasing a little $30 thumb drive. I'm lucky to place a couple small orders per year now, and that number may drop further.
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Re: Way To Check Writes/Wear Level On USB Flash Drive?

Postposted on Tue May 27, 2014 4:14 am

If you're sure it being "re-conditioned" (what ever that means for a flash drive) wasn't mentioned, I would give them hell about false advertising. Either its new or its not.

Its a shame this thread hasn't turned up any way to test wear level on a flash drive.
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Re: Way To Check Writes/Wear Level On USB Flash Drive?

Postposted on Tue May 27, 2014 5:09 am

The Egg wrote:Well, I weighed the pros/cons and decided to pop open the clamshell package and give it a shot. The drive is bad. It fails during file transfers, and fails during format attempts. I'm not even going to screw with it beyond that.

So basically, I got a bait and switch from Newegg, a defective product, and then Newegg expects me to eat the return shipping cost. I could probably get a free label, but it's not worth the aggravation. I'm not really upset about the deal, just more saddened by the state of Newegg. They used to be my #1 electronics dealer, and I would often purchase from them even if they were a couple dollars more. These days I'm nervous about purchasing a little $30 thumb drive. I'm lucky to place a couple small orders per year now, and that number may drop further.


Newegg been in a "sad state" for years. Next time shop at Amazon before anywhere else. Or at least use "Hover Hound" browser add-on if you'll still be forced to visit Newegg ;-)
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Re: Way To Check Writes/Wear Level On USB Flash Drive?

Postposted on Tue May 27, 2014 10:02 am

Dirge wrote:If you're sure it being "re-conditioned" (what ever that means for a flash drive) wasn't mentioned, I would give them hell about false advertising. Either its new or its not.

Its a shame this thread hasn't turned up any way to test wear level on a flash drive.

I'm quite confident that it didn't say reconditioned anywhere at the time of purchase, but they've since updated the product page and I'd have a very difficult time proving it. I doubt it's worth my time or aggravation. I'll just send it back via the cheapest possible US mail option, and just consider it a lesson learned. The lesson is not to buy from Newegg except as a last resort.
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Re: Way To Check Writes/Wear Level On USB Flash Drive?

Postposted on Tue May 27, 2014 10:35 am

Contact Corsair first, and see what they can do for you.
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