Facts About USB Flash Drive Wear Leveling

By · Friday, May 20th, 2011

Flash Drive Wear Leveling Flash drive wear leveling is a method that can extend the longevity of your USB.  Data can be written to a flash drive only X number of times (X being anywhere between 10,000 to 100,000 on average).  Without wear leveling, however, the longevity of your USB flash drive can diminish faster because these digital writes and rewrites repeatedly happen on the same memory blocks.

A simple comparison would be a user having a library filled with blank notebooks to write in and going back to the same few when content needed to be erased and added.  Eventually, pages tear or go missing and your words are hard to decipher with all your pen and eraser marks.  Instead of moving on to the other blank notebooks in the library, you end up ditching the entire room completely.  Wear leveling tries to combat this by allowing your flash drive to be used longer and more efficiently through even distribution.

Should you use wear leveling, there are two different types that are used:

-    Dynamic wear leveling.  It’s the most commonly used method for custom flash drives.  Data is written to free blocks of memory by rotation.  These data blocks are selected based on how many write cycles each one has gone through.  This technique will direct new written data to blocks used less frequently.  Flash drive dynamic wear leveling is characterized by its fast write speeds.

-    Static wear leveling.  The entire flash storage device is used for the even distribution of wear leveling.  It’s typically featured in SSD technology.  It operates at a slower rate than its dynamic counterpart, but it beats it out in terms of life span.  It essentially wears all the memory blocks evenly, no matter if they’re storing data or not.

Check to see if your flash drive includes wear leveling.  If it’s not built into the controller, it can be achieved through software downloads of file systems.  One disadvantage is that you cannot add encryption to a USB flash drive that already uses wear leveling due to the need for partitions.

Thoughts on wear leveling?  Do you think it is an important feature to your USB flash drives or do you look for other storage features when making a decision?

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