HGST Announces World’s First Helium-Filled 10TB Hard Drive

If you are looking for a big basket to carry your ever-increasing computer storage needs, and you have an extra $800 to burn, then this could become the right choice for you. HGST, a subsidiary of hard drive giant Western Digital, has recently unveiled the curtain on the industry’s first helium-filled 10-terabyte hard disk drive: the Ultrastar He10.

It’s not the first 10TB hard drive made by HGST – the Ultrastar Archive Ha10 was first launched earlier this year, but HGST improves on the previous model with Ultrastar He10’s greater reliability, and overall faster read speeds.

The Ultrastar He10 is an enterprise-grade hard disk drive with a hermetically-sealed enclosure, filled with helium instead of air. The hard drive owes its namesake from its helium-filled drive enclosure, hence “He10”. Helium won over the air in the manufacture of this hard drive since helium has a lower density than air. A lower fluid density translates to less friction on the drive’s moving parts, which also means less generated heat for the drive platters to function normally even at high usage.

The choice of HGST to make this drive filled with helium also owes to the fact that the drive has a 10-terabyte capacity – the drive must have high tolerances for failure at this tremendous amount of data it could handle. HGST successfully crammed seven disk platters into a standard-height 1-inch (25.4-mm) hard drive, making it compatible not only for enterprise and server use but also for mainstream consumer use like in PCs and desktop Macs.

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HGST built the Ultrastar He10 to utilize the standard perpendicular magnetic recording (PMR) instead of shingled magnetic recording (SMR), the latter being used as the data writing technology on the Ultrastar Archive Ha10 – Ultrastar He10’s predecessor, which also had a 10TB disk space. The use of PMR has been widely adopted in all manufactured hard drives for the last decade.

SMR has been the latest used writing technology in new hard drives, especially for large-sized drives, thanks to its nature of overlapping magnetic tracks to increase data writing density and storage capacity. However, SMR has some disadvantages such as having a very small space between overlapping magnetic tracks which translates to slower read and write speeds.

SMR is better suited for archiving use rather than 24/7 always-on recording use. HGST has been successful in pushing the limits of PMR technology in the Ultrastar He10. Its rival company Seagate has also released a similar hard drive based on PMR but maxes out at only eight terabytes of capacity.

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Both HGST and Seagate are working on their development efforts for the next thing in data writing technology in hard drives, which is called heat-assisted magnetic recording (HAMR). HAMR works by using a laser to create a heated area on the hard drive that is being written on with data at any moment.

The generated heat displaces the superparamagnetic effect on the magnetic grains within the drive platter, which effectively increases writing density and space. HAMR tech will come to future hard drives in 2016, carrying even greater storage spaces of up to 20TB in size.

HGST hasn’t announced the official pricing for the Ultrastar He10, but tech website Ars Technica notes that the drive could carry a price tag of $800.

Image Credits

Featured image: HGST/PC World

Supporting images: 1) Seagate/Ars Technica, 2) HGST/Ars Technica