Error Characterization, Mitigation, and Recovery in Flash-Memory-Based Solid-State Drives

Yu Cai, Saugata Ghose, Erich F. Haratsch, Yixin Luo, Onur Mutlu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


NAND flash memory is ubiquitous in everyday life today because its capacity has continuously increased and cost has continuously decreased over decades. This positive growth is a result of two key trends: 1) effective process technology scaling; and 2) multi-level (e.g., MLC, TLC) cell data coding. Unfortunately, the reliability of raw data stored in flash memory has also continued to become more difficult to ensure, because these two trends lead to 1) fewer electrons in the flash memory cell floating gate to represent the data; and 2) larger cell-to-cell interference and disturbance effects. Without mitigation, worsening reliability can reduce the lifetime of NAND flash memory. As a result, flash memory controllers in solid-state drives (SSDs) have become much more sophisticated: they incorporate many effective techniques to ensure the correct interpretation of noisy data stored in flash memory cells. In this article, we review recent advances in SSD error characterization, mitigation, and data recovery techniques for reliability and lifetime improvement. We provide rigorous experimental data from state-of-the-art MLC and TLC NAND flash devices on various types of flash memory errors, to motivate the need for such techniques. Based on the understanding developed by the experimental characterization, we describe several mitigation and recovery techniques, including 1) cell-to-cell interference mitigation; 2) optimal multi-level cell sensing; 3) error correction using state-of-the-art algorithms and methods; and 4) data recovery when error correction fails. We quantify the reliability improvement provided by each of these techniques. Looking forward, we briefly discuss how flash memory and these techniques could evolve into the future.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number8013174
Pages (from-to)1666-1704
Number of pages39
JournalProceedings of the IEEE
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Data storage systems
  • error recovery
  • fault tolerance
  • flash memory
  • reliability
  • solid-state drives

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering

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