Western Digital’s helium-filled 10TB HD and ‘Cold Storage’ drive sneak into view

WD coldstorage drives

There’s a new technology war brewing, but it’s not on the console or mobile phone front. Hilariously, just two weeks after Seagate announced its “world first” 8TB HDD and made such a massive fuss about it, Western Digital has announced a hermetically-sealed, helium-filled 10TB drive that puts Seagate’s offering to shame.

Western Digital subsidiary, HGST, is responsible for the breakthrough which uses “Shingled Magnetic Recording” technology to increase capacity. Here’s Seagate’s simplified definition of the tech:

SMR achieves higher areal densities by squeezing tracks closer together. Tracks overlap one another, like shingles on a roof, allowing more data to be written to the same space. As new data is written, the drive tracks are trimmed, or shingled.

This allows for some astronomically high storage figures without enlarging the 3.5″ form factor, pushing the boundaries of what was previously imaginable. What’s more, HGST’s drive is filled with lighter-than-air helium, reducing friction and wear on the 7200rpm platters which in turn increases drive life and efficiency. And this is on the back of Earth’s current helium crisis; not that HDD companies could be bothered. HGST wants to shelve the shipping of air-only drives by 2017, replacing them with helium. Of course, that is if there is any left.

Nevertheless, Western Digital has also announced its “Cold Storage” Ae HDD range, which promises fossil-like data retention for businesses that need to store a vast array of data, but needn’t access it daily. Western Digital recommends it for photographers or legal professionals, so it may find its way into consumer machines in the near future.

While Western Digital may be winning the current battle, Seagate plans to ship 20TB drives by 2020, so the storage war is well and truly on.

Andy Walker, former editor


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