Nov 06, 2013

How are helium filled HDDs more efficient with larger capacity than other HDDs?

Western Digital is releasing a 6TB HDD that is supposed to be more energy efficient and have greater capacity than other HDDs. How does being filled with helium improve on the efficiency of a HDD?

Why filling hard drives with helium can boost storage capacity by 50%

"The latest trick in adding extra capacity to our computers doesn’t rely upon ‘5-dimensional memory crystals’ or price-drops in SSDs but on the second most abundant element in the universe: helium.

HGST (a subsidiary of Western Digital) have revealed a new type of storage medium, the world’s first “hermetically sealed, helium hard drive”. By replacing the air in a hard drive with helium (a gas that is seven times less dense than air) the disks inside create less turbulence when they spin, meaning more discs can be packed into less space and use less power."

Because helium has just one-seventh the density of air, using it reduces the turbulence caused by spinning disks and the heads that constantly move above them to read and write data. That, in turn, means lower power consumption and less waste heat in the data centers where these drives are designed to be used. Specifically, WD said the power used per terabyte drops 49 percent.


The lower turbulence also increases the drive's capacity because more platters can be squeezed into the 3.5-inch housing. Today's 4-terabyte models use five platters and top out at 4TB, but the Ultrastar He6 has seven platters and reaches 6TB of capacity. That's also useful for data centers where space is at a premium.” - Steven Shankland, CNET

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