Chia mining can wreck a 512GB SSD in as little as 6 weeks

(Image credit: SP)

Chia is one of the newest cryptocurrencies on the blockchain, and with a current valuation of over $1,000, you might be tempted to put your mining hat on and get to work. Before you do, however, be warned that you'll potentially go through storage drives at a breakneck pace. Due to how Chia operates, you could ruin a 512GB SSD in just 40 days.

Unlike most cryptocurrencies, Chia leverages a 'proof of space and time' model, which essentially means you farm it on unused storage space.

"Users of the Chia blockchain will 'seed' unused space on their hard-disk drive by installing software which stores a collection of cryptographic numbers on the disk into 'plots'. These users are called 'farmers'. When the blockchain broadcasts a challenge for the next block, farmers can scan their plots to see if they have the hash that is closest to the challenge," Chia's FAQ explains.

Chia farming is a write-intensive activity. Speed matters, so the most common strategy is to use an SSD for creating plots, because SSDs are much faster than HDDs, and then transfer them to an HDD once completed.

The thing about SSDs, though, is that the NAND flash memory cells are only good for so many write operations before they wear out. This is not a huge concern when using an SSD for gaming, or for most activities—a recent study by Backblaze, a cloud storage provide, indicates SSDs fail less often than HDDs under normal use.

Chia is a different animal, though. According to MyDrivers, mining Chia can trash a 512GB in 40 days, while a 1TB SSD lasts twice as long, and a 2TB SSD can give up the ghost in just 160 days, or barely over five months.

The site didn't mention which specific drive models fail at that rate, but those are undoubtedly consumer SSDs, likely with typical TBW (terabytes written) ratings. Most enterprise models are more durable.

Same goes for TeamGroup's recently announced T-Create Expert, which boasts a 12,000 TBW rating for the 2TB model. To put that into perspective, Addlink's S70, one of the best SSDs for gaming, is 'only' rated for 1,600 TBW in 2TB form.

It will be interesting to see if drive makers adjust their warranty terms in response to Chia farming. TeamGroup advertises a lengthy 12-year guarantee on its super durable T-Create Expert, but when I asked the company for details and specifically if it covers Chia mining, I was told the warranty terms on all of its SSDs are based on whether the warranty length or TBW limit occurs first.

The TBW of the T-Create Expert is 7.5 times higher than the Addlink S70. Assuming MyDriver's stats are based on a typical SSD like the S70, then the T-Create Expert might last a little over three years. Not bad, albeit well short of the max warranty period. Also, most consumer SSDs are nowhere near as durable.

Fingers crossed that Chia doesn't lead to a storage shortage.

Paul Lilly

Paul has been playing PC games and raking his knuckles on computer hardware since the Commodore 64. He does not have any tattoos, but thinks it would be cool to get one that reads LOAD"*",8,1. In his off time, he rides motorcycles and wrestles alligators (only one of those is true).