Around a decade ago, I spent a few days piecing together a 1TB networked storage device. It wrecked my then-teenage savings, but I didn’t care; with 1TB under my command, I was the coolest kid on the block (there… weren’t a lot of kids on my block.)
Today, Seagate is announcing a hard drive with 8x the capacity of my little project — a full 8 terabytes. When it ships, it’ll be the first time anyone has crammed that much storage into a 3.5″ drive.
Up until about a year ago, the record for a 3.5″ drive sat at 4TB. Then Western Digital came along and bumped the ceiling up to 6TB using helium to reduce friction on the spinning disks. A few months later, Seagate reached 6TB without the need for helium.
And now they’re up at 8TB – still without needing helium, they say.
So how are they doing it? tl;dr: a really damned clever trick.
Magnetic hard drives use circular tracks of data on a spinning disk. The components that write these tracks are already about as small as they can get — and, thus, so are the tracks they create.
But the components that read these tracks are smaller than the writing components, and can read smaller tracks than the writers can create. So by overlapping tracks – that is, writing a new track partially on top of the one before it — they’re able to force more tracks into less space without compromising the tracks or the data they store. More tracks = more storage.
No pricing has been disclosed yet for their 8TB drive (it’s “shipping to select customers” now, with wider availability in the coming months) – but for reference, the consumer version of the 6TB drive they announced back in April currently goes for around $300. Whatever the announced price is, you’ll really be paying about 2x that… because at 8TB, if you don’t buy a second drive to mirror the first, you’re absolutely bonkers.
BRB, having a panic attack at the idea of losing an 8TB drive full of data.