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Helium, Shingles, and other Tricks of the Trade in High-Capacity Hard Drives


The storage capacity for hard drives has steadily increased year after year. Ten years ago, the market saw its first 1TB drive hit the market. Today, a 4TB is a baseline purchase for even personal users. As the bar continues to rise, the tech industry races to design hard drives that hold more without sacrificing speed and stability. Here are the industry’s top 3 largest high-capacity hard drives and why bigger keeps getting better:

  • The Ha10 is a 10 TB hard drive that is the latest addition to the Ultrastar collection. Ultrastar drives are in a class of their own because helium is used to seal the drive within its case. Since helium is thinner than air, the drives can spin with greater ease and speed. Ultrastar drives clock faster performance rates and use less energy. The Ha10 drive boasts another trademark secret with its shingled magnetic recording (SMR) to maximize storage space. Rather than the traditional stacked tracks of drives, the SMR overlaps like shingles. The overlap allows more tracks to squeeze into a smaller place. Speed is compromised, however, because the overlap mandates data to be written on each track. The Ha10 10 TB hard drive is recommended for users who need to store an enormous amount of data in its original state with few edits.
  • The Seagate 8 TB also uses SMR to increase its capacity but its traditional sealing methods keep the cost down compared to the Ha10 drive. Writing speed is somewhat compromised with the SMR method but this drive may be a more economical option for a user in need of “cold storage” to dump data that will be archived for long periods of time.
  • The PM1633 from Samsung is currently the world’s largest hard drive boasting 16 TB of storage in a 2.5 inch solid state drive (SSD). At $7,000 a piece, this monster is not likely to be within the reach of even the most storage hungry consumer but it can give us a glimpse into the future for enterprise and server capacity hard drives.

Innovation continues to support the ongoing expansion of hard drive capacity. With the growth in storage comes faster speeds, greater reliability, increased editing capabilities, and guarantees for stable data curation for decades to come.

Photo credit for Samsung’s 16 TB hard drive: Marc Sauter

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