Dec 03, 2015

What’s the advantage of a helium filled hard drive?

A new HDD just came out that is supposedly filled with helium. How does helium improve a hard drive’s performance and/or service life?
Due to less drag/friction it allows for two things:
1. Lower fly height of the read/write heads over the platters
2. Thinner platters (thus more per drive).

It's the same principles that make your vocal chords run faster when you breath in helium (less friction to contend with, thus faster vibrating). Or in the case of a HDD less overall internal vibration to contend with while writing data at a microscopic level.

The overlapping of tracks that Sveta mentions is called SMR, and actually has nothing at all to do with Helium. In fact current helium drives generally aren't SMR drives, and more current SMR drives are simply air filled. However it's expected that soon the two technologies will both be used together to make for drives in the 12-20Tb range.

Most air filled drives are capped at 4-5 platters, while many helium ones are 8 platters.
The main advantages of a Helium filled drive are energy efficiency and higher storage capacity.
Helium inside the hard drive reduces vibration and friction which should make the drive more durable. With that, the power consumption is reduced, allowing it to operate at lower temperatures. Also all above benefits allowed to increase storage capacity by overlapping and minimizing the spacing between tracks.
Take a look at the article from ComputerWorld, it goes into greater details of how the drive works.
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