Seagate plans giant hard drives

You can walk into your local computer dealer and buy an EIDE hard drive with up to 28GB of storage. That may seem large, but hard drive makers are working hard to make it look puny.

Last week, Seagate Technology announced a breakthrough in packing data: It jammed 105,000 concentric tracks of data onto 1in of a hard drive platter.

That's about eight times the density of today's hard drives. To picture just how tiny those tracks are, imagine trying to write 420 rows of text on the edge of a standard sheet of paper.

But don't expect to see hard drives based on this technology at your local dealer soon. Seagate's storage feat remains in the lab for now, and a spokesperson says it will be two to four years before such products are ready for your PC.

Laser precision

Seagate uses Optically Assisted Winchester technology, which combines conventional magnetic read/write heads and a low-intensity laser beam. The beam travels through optical fibre to the read/write head, where it's reflected onto the disk surface by a tiny micromachined mirror. This laser technology provides the ability for precision placement of the head.

And instead of the conventional all-metal disk platter used in current hard drives, Seagate's technology uses plastic platters coated with an extremely thin layer of transition-metal alloy.

OAW technology allows disk platters to hold up to 36GB, and since drives usually have two to six platters, capacities of up to 216GB are possible. But you won't necessarily find drives that large available from the start. Seagate spokesperson Tyson Heyn says what ships will depend on what applications require at the time.

Duelling drive densities

Meanwhile, other major developers of hard drive technologies aren't exactly planning to eat Seagate's dust.

IBM is pushing the limits of its current Giant Magnetoresistive Head technology, used in many of the company's high-capacity hard drives. (It has demonstrated densities approaching OAW's in the lab, as has Fujitsu)And Big Blue is working on some truly exotic storage technologies.

Holographic storage uses a laser beam to store data in a crystal-lattice structure the size of a sugar cube. In a recent test, IBM crammed the equivalent of about 10,000 pages of text into a cube, and forecasts much larger capacities.

Further out, IBM's Atomic Force Microscopy uses technology similar to an electron microscope. Theoretically, it could read and write data at densities of up to 300 Gbits per inch. If this technology ever comes to market -- which is far from certain -- it could result in hard drives packing more than 100 times the capacity of today's crop.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Stan Miastkowski

PC World
Show Comments



Victorinox Werks Professional Executive 17 Laptop Case

Learn more >



Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?