Hitachi takes PC hard drives to 500GB

Hitachi takes PC hard drives to 500GB

Hitachi Data Systems' new Deskstar 7K500 drive marks several milestones in the storage industry: It's the first desktop hard drive to reach 500GB and one of the first to use the speedy new SATA II interface. In terms of how it stores data, though, the Deskstar may be among the last of its kind, as drive manufacturers begin to approach the limits of how densely they can pack data using today's standard recording technology.

Demand for greater capacity continues to rise due in large part to a growing need for music and video storage on PCs and consumer electronics devices.

To meet that need, storage vendors are turning to new recording technologies. The first of these, perpendicular recording, will debut from Toshiba this year.

Hitachi's 500GB drive will be available in two versions: one featuring the older parallel ATA interface and an 8MB data buffer; and another with a 16MB buffer that uses the 3Gbps Serial ATA II interface. Shipping versions should be ready in the second quarter of this year. Hitachi estimates the five-platter 500GB drives will be able to store up to 56 hours of HDTV depending on compression rates.

The drive uses longitudinal recording, which writes data tracks in concentric circles using particles magnetised horizontally on the surface of the disk.

Hard-drive vendors may be able to squeeze as much as 250GB per platter out of longitudinal recording. Desktop drive capacity will top out at about 1TB by late 2006, before running into technological problems in maintaining data stability.

To get beyond such limitations, drive makers are moving to perpendicular recording, which magnetises the particles vertically. Such drives should appear in desktops sometime in 2007, research manager for hard disks at IDC, John Buttress, predicted. And there was no need for a new motherboard or adapter card to use the drives.

Toshiba will begin mass-producing the first perpendicular recording drives later this year but they won't go into desktop PCs. The new technology is slated for the iPod-sized, 1.8-inch hard drives.

The company plans to offer two perpendicular recording drives: a 40GB model only 5mm thick and an 80GB unit that should be the largest-capacity 1.8-inch hard drive to date. By comparison, Toshiba's current largest 1.8-inch model holds 30GB of data.

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