Solid-state drives, or SSDs, have always had super-speed data transmission. However, the application was limited to non-volatile memory, such as RAM, until the invention of flash storage.
Flash memory technology changed the game for secondary storage. Its use in Solid-state drives had the capability to replace traditional hard drives. And now, with the drop in the price of flash storage, we have seen it happen.
But, SSD is not only about flash storage, and flash memory is not completed by SSDs alone.
Here, we discuss the difference between Flash and SSD storage.
Flash storage uses field effect transistors to write data in the memory cells. These transistors, known as MOSFETS, store the electrons in a floating gate, allowing them to retain the information even in the absence of power. Hence, it overcomes the limitation of data loss after a power cut in the volatile storage technology, categorizing itself as non-volatile storage.
We can see flash storage implemented in USB drives, memory chips, and Solid state drives used in PC as secondary storage.
- Non-volatile storage
- Wide range of applicability
- Comparatively cheaper
- Relatively less durable
- Comparatively slower than DRAM, and Optane
SSDs, or Solid-State Drives, took over the market with the identity of one of the fastest secondary storage devices for a PC. SSD storage does not contain any moving parts and works via the movement of electrons, lowering the latency seen in traditional hard drives.
Most SSDs incorporate flash memory to store the information in MOSFETS. But there is another much faster storage technology, Dynamic Random Access Memory (DRAM), used in SSDs. However, DRAM is a volatile memory and requires a power source to retain the data. So, the SSDs use the DRAM alongside the flash memory to act as a cache for speeding up the system.
And adding onto it, Intel and Micron produced 3D Xpoint storage technology (now known as Optane), which is non-volatile as well as much faster than flash storage.
- Non-volatile Storage
- Reduced Latency due to the absence of moving parts
- Comparatively more durable
- DRAM and Optane storage faster than flash
- Relatively inflexible in use
The similarities between flash storage and SSD storage lie in their technology. Most solid-state drives use flash memory for storage. So, technically they are also flash drives. Similarly, a flash drive does not consist of any moving parts and carries information in charge. So, they are also Solid-state drives.
Apart from this, with their faster performance and easy availability, both types of storage are the most popular at present as the permanent type of storage media.
Flash Vs SSD Storage – Features
Flash is a storage technology, while SSD is a storage medium. SSDs can use multiple technologies, such as Optane and DRAM, in place of flash storage. And Flash storage can be incorporated into different devices, such as USB drives apart from SSDs. Thus, there are a few differences between them depending on the technology and the media of use.
Let’s look at them below.
Usage, Form Factor, and Portability
As the Flash technology is adopted by several storage drives, it has a multitude of uses. From phones to computers, almost all devices employ flash storage.
The most common external storage device, the USB drive, utilizes flash storage. You can also find it in the external memory card used in your phones, such as SD (Secure Digital) or MicroSD cards, and the embedded eMMC. Even most solid-state drives used in PC store files using flash technology.
The diversity in its usage has also led flash storage to provide varying form factors, such as USB, SD, and MicroSD. In fact, the SSD using flash storage is also a form factor of the flash drive.
And the variation in form factors has made flash drives the most portable storage medium. Even better, the universalization of USB provides around-the-globe availability of flash drives. Almost no other storage media come close to the smaller-sized and easily available USB flash drives.
However, the use of SSD storage is limited to the computer. The SSD in mobile devices is embedded inside from the start. So, if you want to use SSD storage, you can only choose from the 2.5 or 3.5-inch SATA, mSATA, M2, and PCIe.
This has restricted its use to mostly as internal storage devices, making it not so portable if you look at its ease of use. Furthermore, the SSDs using Intel’s Optane technology only supports recent motherboards. Nevertheless, we now have the option to use it as an external Hard drive through HDMI and USB connections if you want to expand your system’s memory.
The capacity of flash storage devices varies from 1 GB to 2 TB in the case of USB drives. The 1 TB and 2 TB USB flash drives are rarely used, while others are available in the market right now.
But, when we look into the flash storage available in solid-state drives, a capacity of up to 100 TB has been achieved, with SSD up to 2 TB being more common.
Regarding SSD storage, most SSD drives consist of separate DRAM cache memory as well in order to improve their performance, apart from the flash storage. Currently, in the market, the DRAM memory of 40 GB is available in an SSD produced by Samsung for regular use. Using SSD with only DRAM memory becomes too costly to use for our normal purpose.
And Intel has brought its Optane SSD with a maximum capacity of 1 TB. However, because of their higher price, 16 GB, 32 GB, or 64 GB SSDs are more common right now, and the larger ones are employed in data centers. These less-capacity SSDs are used alongside the flash SSD to improve their speed.
Both NAND and NOR Flash storage has improved read/write speed in comparison to earlier technology. However, NOR Flash storage can read data faster than NAND flash storage, while the latter has faster erasing and writing speed.
Nevertheless, the speed of flash memory depends on the device and ports using it. For instance, if you use a USB 2.0 flash drive, it has the ideal file transfer rate of 480 Mbps. However, for flash storage, utilizing PCIe 3.0 channels, such as SSDs, the speed can go much higher.
But, the speed of SSDs does not just depend on flash memory speed. The bandwidth of DRAM storage of the SSD outshines the flash storage as it does not need to perform erase cycle to write data on it.
In the same way, SSDs using Optane technology are even faster with the least latency due to their ability to modify data directly at the byte level. It acts as a cache memory itself and stores the data even after power loss, eliminating the need for reading and writing to the separate cache memory. Thus, it improves the speed significantly.
Reliability and Durability
Since flash memory can store information even after cutting the power, it is the most reliable for permanent storage than volatile memory such as DRAM. However, its reliability also depends on the quality of controllers used to drive the MOSFETS.
The USB flash drives and similar memory units incorporate low-quality controllers in comparison to the SSDs using flash memory. On top of that, their read/write cycles are also quite low, which is the determining factor for the flash storage’s life. This makes them not only unreliable for large and sensitive data storage but also nondurable.
Talking about durability, USB flash drives also do not have the wear leveling technique as seen in SSDs that improves the life span of the Solid-state drive. As a result, they perish faster than SSDs. Furthermore, as Intel’s Optane SSDs work by the change in phase of the material inside of charge storage, they are much more durable than flash SSD storage.
You can find flash storage devices such as USB drives and memory sticks at a cheaper price. However, their capacity is comparatively less. In fact, if we look at the USB flash drive and flash SSD drives, the SSD drives cost less.
But, SSD drives that include a DRAM cache costs much more than a DRAM-less SSD. Moreover, the recent Intel Optane storage has a price range between the DRAM and NAND flash.
Differences Between Flash and SSD Storage
|Flash Storage||SSD Storage|
|Stores the data in electrons at the floating gate of MOSFETs.||Uses MOSFETS in flash memory, capacitors in DRAM, and phase-changing material in Optane storage.|
|Has universal usage from phones to computers, internal to external storage.||Can mostly be used externally on computers only.|
|Has USB, SD, MicroSD, eMMC, SATA, PCIe, and other form factors.||Has only the SATA, PCIe, M2, and mSATA form factors.|
|Compatible with almost all systems||Optane SSD only compatible with newer systems.|
|Has comparatively less storage capacity||Has relatively more storage capacity|
|Relatively slower than DRAM and Optane SSDs.||Comparatively faster.|
|Less reliable and durable||More reliable and durable|
|Comparatively cheaper||Relatively costlier in the case of DRAM and Optane|