M1 Mac SSDs Could Be Working Overtime

But don’t worry, it’s probably nothing

Key Takeaways

  • A popular drive analysis tool shows that M1 Macs are writing a lifetime’s worth of data to their SSD in just months.
  • SSDs can only be written to a finite number of times.
  • It’s possible the Macs are just reporting incorrect data.
photo of optical hard disc drive in black and white
Patrick Lindenberg / Unsplash

Apple’s M1 Macs may be overworking their internal SSDs. They’re swapping so much data that drives designed to operate for 10 years might only last a few months.

Something weird is going on inside the new Apple Silicon Macs, and the problem may be "swap files." Swapping happens when a computer runs out of available RAM, or just figures that some data kept in RAM would be fine on the slower SSD until needed. Whatever the cause, the operating system is writing way more data than normal. But should M1 Mac owners be worried?

"Just use the computer as you expect to use the computer," writes MacRumors forum user deeddawg. "Evaluate the situation as you near the end of your warranty coverage, whether that is one year or three."

How to Check Your SSD Usage

For a quick look at your SSD usage, you’ll need the Activity Monitor app, where you can see data being written in real time, as well as the total number of bytes both read and written.

If you want deeper stats on your disk use, you’ll need to open Terminal, the text-based window into the Unix underbelly of the Mac. You’ll also need to install something called S.M.A.R.T. Monitoring Tools, which is most easily done by the package manager Homebrew.

If you run the right command, you’ll see an output like this:

That readout shows 150TB written 432 hours of use. That’s 18 days, if the computer was actually on 24/7.

Should You Worry About Excessive SSD Use?

Should this worry you? Yes and no. First, your M1 Mac might not even be doing this. And even if it is, a modern SSD is equipped to withstand quite a lot of use. They even have additional "hidden" sectors set aside to be pressed into use only when the in-use sectors start to wear out.

Still, if your Mac really is tearing up its own SSD, you will shorten its life. Each cell of memory can only be written to a certain number of times. The more you write, the faster you reach that limit, and some users report that their usage already has reached 10% of their limit after just a few months.

blurry photo of a a pair of samsung 970 EVO SSDs
Marc PEZIN / Unsplash

Another possibility is that the SMART data tools are reporting incorrect usage numbers. According to Apple Insider, Apple is aware of the issue, and knows that the S.M.A.R.T. data is incorrect. That is, the S.M.A.R.T. Monitoring Tools are apparently working fine. It's the Macs that are reporting incorrect data.

What Can You Do Right Now?

If you’re worried—or just curious—about this, then you should install the S.M.A.R.T. tools and take a look, then wait. If this is just a reporting error, there’s nothing to worry about. If it’s a real problem, and the Mac’s SSDs really are going wild, then it will be a warranty issue, and you should check again closer to the end of your warranty period.

Either way, don’t panic. Whichever way this ends up, you should be covered.

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