EEPROMs, such as flash memory, store data in electronic devices like cell phones, smart cards, SD cards, and solid-state drives. This type of memory can only endure a limited number of writes, it will eventually wear out and it won’t store new data. The Flash Destroyer explores that limit by writing and verifying a common EEPROM chip, rated for 1 million writes, until it burns out.
How long will it take to complete a million write-verify cycles? The Flash Destroyer’s current top speed is about 736 cycles per minute, or 22 hours to complete 1 million writes. Back that off to one write per second (11days) or per 10 seconds (110days) and the time increases dramatically. The Flash Destroyer has several alternative firmwares with different write speeds that can be loaded over USB.
Obviously the chip isn’t intended for this type of abuse. A million cycle ‘limitation’ isn’t bad at the user scale. The EEPROM inside a common SLE4442 smart card, often used in copy shops, has similar limitations. The life span is adequate because even one write per minute, every minute, gives it a 2 year lifespan – that’s a lot of copies. Applications that need to write data more frequently use a different type of memory like SRAM.
How many writes an EEPROM will actually endure is anyone’s guess. Like an overclocked CPU, some will go way over the rated minimum, some will go a little over the minimum, but all should endure at least the rated number of writes. The Flash Destroyer on the live feed is running at about 408 writes per minute. It started at 08:11 GMT May 25, and should reach a million on Wednesday night (May 26), and two million on Friday afternoon (May 28). Can you guess the final count?
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