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Evolution of the Hard drive
Category : General 15 Mar 2010 08:12 AM | Industry News
The world of hard disks is set to change, and the impact could be severe. In the remarkably conservative world of PC hardware, it's not often that a 30-year-old convention gets discarded. Even this change has been almost a decade in the making.
Hard drive space was initially formatted into 512 byte blocks each with a marker that shows its beginning and the area meant for storage of error correction codes. Tiny gaps have to be left between the sectors and this only results in wasted space as no data can be stored in these gaps.
Therefore, the 'advanced format' is set to minimize the wasted space on hard drives while space left for error correction per block will be double the size used in the 512 byte blocks. Western Digital's technical consultant, Steve Perkins explains "you can get yourself into a corner where you cannot squeeze much more onto the disk." Manufacturers are set to benefit from this hard drive evolution as they will be better placed to efficiently use the hard drive's 'real estate'. Perkins states "we can put more data on the disk." He further explains that the efficiency of the format is about 7 to 11 percent more.
The new standard, promulgated by the International Disk Drive Equipment and Materials Association (Idema), which all hard drive makers have committed to adopting, is a 4K block. Besides an eight-fold reduction of the amount of unused space, this standard doubles the amount of error correction per block. Hard drive makers can squeeze out more storage capacity on the same size hardware. Steve Perkins, a technical consultant for Western Digital, estimates the format to be about 7 percent to 11 percent more efficient.
Windows 7 (and Vista), along with Apple’s Tiger, Leopard, and Snow Leopard versions of OS X, and all builds of Linux released after September 2009 are 4K aware--they can handle the new formatting standard, no problem. But XP can’t. It’s stuck, permanently, in the 512 byte block world. Hard drive manufacturers know this, so they have built in emulation for the 512 byte block size. The emulation, however, can result in slower performance. David Burks of Seagate anticipates a 10% drop in performance for XP users.