Seagate Claims HDD Storage Capacity Record

Seagate and Hitachi play leapfrog with areal density world records in hard disk drives. The latest champion will hold 2.5TB on one platter.

Seagate Technology, citing major research and development strides in improving areal density of hard drive disks, claimed on Sept. 15 that it has set a data storage world record of 421G bits per square inch in revealing the results of a magnetic recording demonstration.

A hard drive with that kind of areal capacity could carry as much as a 2.5TB of data—enough to store 41,650 hours (1,735 days, or 4.75 years) of music, 800,000 digital photographs, 4,000 hours of digital video or 1,250 video games.

However, Seagate spokesman David Szabados said the company anticipates that hard drives at these density levels probably wont be available until 2009.

"We [Seagate] are seeing about a 40 percent increase in disk drive capacity each year, and thats pretty significant," Szabados said.

Dr. Mark Kryder of Seagate announced the findings during his keynote presentation at Idema DiskCon in Santa Clara, Calif.

All the major hard drive companies are commemorating the 50th anniversary of the release of the first commercial hard drive, IBMs 305 RAMAC, in September 1956

Seagate, based in Scotts Valley, Calif., claimed the data storage feat surpassed the most recent areal disk density mark reported earlier this month by Hitachi of 345G bits per square.

Seagate, IBM and Hitachi all have been highlighting their work in improving areal density, or the number of bits of data that can be recorded onto the surface of a disk or platter using PMR (perpendicular magnetic recording) technology.

PMR is a newly implemented technology for data recording on hard disks that was first demonstrated in Japan in 1976.

The technique is believed to be capable of delivering up to 10 times the storage density of conventional longitudinal recording—on the same media.

There were some attempts to use PMR in floppy disks in the 1980s, but it was not reliable enough. Today there is renewed interest in using it in HDDs, which are quickly reaching their space limits.

Hitachi Global Storage Technologies said this week that hard drives could soon hold 1TB of data and that it expects the average home to have between 10-20 hard drives in the next five years.

At the demonstrated density level, Seagate expects the capacity ranges to result in new HDDs ranging from 40GB to 275GB for 1-and 1.8-inch consumer electronics drives, 500GB for 2.5-inch notebook drives, and nearly 2.5TB for 3.5-inch desktop and enterprise class drives.

The world record demonstration used perpendicular recording heads and media created with currently available production equipment, Szabados said.

"Todays demonstration, combined with recent technology announcements from fellow hard drive companies, clearly shows that the future of hard drives is stronger than ever," said Seagate CEO Bill Watkins.

"Breakthroughs in areal density are enabling the digital revolution and clearly indicate that hard drives can sustain their advantage to meet the worlds insatiable demand for storage across a wide range of market segments."

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Kryder explained that future technologies designed to extend magnetic recording beyond perpendicular including HAMR (Heat Assisted Magnetic Recording) and bit patterned media techniques.

Using these recording methods, Seagate researchers have estimated capacities to reach or exceed 50 terabits per square inch, Kryder said.

Demonstration technical details

Seagate reported that the areal density of 421G bits per square inch was demonstrated using 10 E-3 off-track bit error rate criteria with 5 percent squeeze and meeting a 10 percent off-track capability at a data rate of 735M bps.

The track density was 275,000 tracks per inch, and the linear density was 1.53 million bits per inch for a bit aspect ratio of 5.6.

The demonstration was conducted using a product channel, perpendicular head and thermally stable media created with current production equipment.

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Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...