M-series Macs: storage controllers, reliability, and upgradability

I think I’ve realised something interesting about the expected reliability of Apple’s M-series flash storage.

Since I hadn’t heard much about this historically, I did some quick research today, as I wondered what might be giving Apple the high confidence in the reliability of its flash storage usage in new M-series Macs, given its all soldered on board and they charge a lot per-TB for it, relative to other sources (like the many speed varieties of the current favourite, M2 NVMe blades).

While I’m not technically versed in such matters, I read just how important controllers are as the key element in how storage is managed between the flash storage chips themselves. Seemingly they make the difference between reliability or otherwise, and more interestingly, are important in how a machine handles memory swaps between RAM and storage – when machines run-out of memory and have to move stuff in memory to storage without the machine slowing to a crawl in the meantime.

Something I hadn’t realised, as Apple don’t like to advertise company purchases, is that over a decade ago Apple made a vital purchase of a company called Anobit (back in Dec 2011) who specialised in flash memory controllers.

While it is never entirely clear on the nature of what they bought and why, it’s probably safe to say this purchase was committed to for non-Mac devices, so began with iPhone flash storage needs, then iPads, Watches etc., and has slowly spread all the way to the final M-series Macs we’ve seen in the last couple of years.

Though Apple don’t like to talk about such things presumably for business secrecy reasons, these controllers they use are clearly proprietary of their own in-house designs, and are likely the reason for Apple’s confidence in the reliability of their storage and decent handling of swaps – and also why we hardly ever hear of storage failures with them.

Beyond the simple maximising profit motive of all companies, this also might help explain why Apple feel confident in their much higher than average per-TB pricing ($300-400 per TB), that everyone and their brother has moaned about since forever. They likely see their storage as significantly better engineered in its long-term reliability versus the competition, who either make themselves (or use inside their machines) off-the-shelf NVMe blades, without the backing of controller compatibility which helps reliability.

Of course, whether this completely justifies the significantly higher price of Apple’s storage is open to debate. But interesting nonetheless when people are making their buying decisions.

EDIT: 5 minutes later I found this… where, low and behold, someone else recently made the same argument.


Funnily enough, another (sort-of) related video about M-series Mac storage upgradability, that rounds-up all the previous multitude of cross-internet attempts, popped-up in my YouTube feed through the algorithm…

So does this mean storage is replaceable or just very unlikely?

EDIT: related thread found…

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