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article imageSpotify took years off SSD lifespans with huge junk data writes

By James Walker     Nov 11, 2016 in Technology
Spotify has patched a serious bug in its desktop app for Windows, Mac and Linux that has been reducing the lifespan of users' SSDs. Spotify's client has been writing huge amounts of garbage data each day, taking years off the expected life of an SSD.
The issue was first reported by users back in June. Several Spotify customers said they had observed the program writing extraordinarily large amounts of data to their primary hard drive. The thread has now grown into 29 pages of complaints.
Spotify's client has been caught writing as much as 100GB of data every hour. One user observed it dumping 3.4GB onto their drive in just 50 minutes. The app was idling at the time and no music was playing. During the same period, the Firefox web browser with seven open tabs wrote 290MB.
The vast amounts of data being written pose a significant threat to solid state drives (SSDs). SSDs are found in most newer devices and offer much faster storage speeds than the mechanical hard drives (HDDs) they are replacing. They contain no moving parts, using flash storage in place of the spinning platters of HDDs.
Solid state drives offer noticeable performance benefits but come with a limitation. The flash chips inside have a finite write capacity. Once this is exceeded, no more data can be written, even after reformatting the drive.
The write capacities of modern SSDs are so high that it's extremely unlikely a consumer would ever exhaust their drive. Tests of recent consumer-grade SSDs have demonstrated that even budget ones can write well over 100TB before failing.
Over a typical ten-year lifespan, the user would need to write over 200GB of data a day before running into any issues. Spotify has been getting close to that mark though, potentially taking years of life off the drives inside customers' computers.
The volume of data being written is still insufficient to cause a drive failure anytime in the near future. It will have an impact on the SSD though, significantly shortening its life. While consumers are still unlikely to reach the write capacity, Spotify's lack of support for the issue has left its app wearing SSDs down for the past five months.
The problem gained attention this week as The International Business Times published a report looking into the issue. In a separate article today, reporters at Ars Technica observed the app writing "5 to 10GB" of data in less than an hour. When left running for over a day, 700GB was present on the drive.
It isn't clear what Spotify is storing. Some users speculated it could be a cache of everything the user has played. The continued activity when the program is idle makes this less likely though. Other users have contradicted this characteristic, suggesting the write activity does stop when no music is playing.
Five months after users first reported the bug, Spotify today acknowledged the app's behaviour. Seemingly in response to the media reports, the company has published a new update in the past 24 hours that fixes the bug. Spotify version 1.0.42 is available now on Windows, Mac OS X and Linux, although users are reporting problems downloading the update.
"We've some questions in our community around the amount of written data using the Spotify client on desktop," said Spotify to the International Business Times. "These have been reviewed and any potential concerns have now been addressed in version 1.0.42, currently rolling out to all users."
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