I was wondering whether the memory storage of a single memory area in computer semiconductors is limited in terms of the number of times it can be used. I'm also wondering what will happen to the data in memory when it is nearly spent - will it stop working (RAM) or destroy its data (HDD)?

What is the limit on the number of times data can be stored to digital memory? Can we know how much time is left before it is too late?

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    \$\begingroup\$ This probably belongs on the electrical engineering stack exchange or the like. \$\endgroup\$
    – Chris Drost
    Sep 3 '15 at 21:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ Are you asking if these memory devices are wearing out? The answer is "yes, but". Semiconductors and magnetic films are subjected to physical mechanisms that do alter their structure over long time scales, e.g. electro-migration and radiation damage in semiconductor devices. The effective lifetime of such a device is usually not limited by the read and write mechanisms, though, but by environmental stress like temperature and radiation etc.. \$\endgroup\$
    – CuriousOne
    Sep 4 '15 at 5:01

You want to be more specific about which memory:

  • For regular RAM there is no practical limit on number of times you can store the data. The chips will wear out, but this is mostly affected by power supply voltage, ambient temperature, background radiation and other things.
  • FLASH chips (for example, the ones in solid state disks) do wear out. There is a lot of articles around it -- google for "flash endurance" or "SSD endurance". The individual flash chips can be overridden between 1000 and 100_000 times, depending on technology. Commercial SSDs have 'spare' flash cells and complex algorithms to use spare cells instead of the ones which failed.
  • 'harddisk' are not semiconductors, but they still wear out because they have mechanical parts -- motor, moving arm, etc..

If you care about devices used in the computer, you may want to ask the questions in the other stackexchange sites. For example:


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