Hard Drives

Hard drive prices won't fall until 2014

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The price of traditional hard drive storage isn't likely to come down to the levels seen in the first half of last year for at least 18 months. That's the opinion of industry analysts at IHS iSuppli, who have released a report today on the subject.

It's almost a year since the floods in Thailand which damaged many key factories owned by Western Digital and the like, which caused the cost of drives to double and even treble at retail as stocks ran short. While prices have fallen in recent months, they're still considerably more expensive than they were this time last year, and you can expect to pay up to £100 or for a decent 1TB drive still.

Even the cheapest terabyte drives are around 25% more expensive than they were at their lowest cost.

Hard drive shortages to last until March

Adam Oxford at

The water may be starting to recede, but devastating floods in Thailand are going to affect the cost of computers and components for at least another six months, according to analysts at IDC and IHS iSupply this week.

Prices for hard drives have rocketed in the last few weeks as a result of factory closures in Thailand as the country has been battered by storms since July. The cost of storage has more than doubled at UK online retailers, and the US is following suit. Consumer prices are rising faster than business costs due to the rapid buying up of any surpluses by IT channel companies keen to guarantee the best deals for their customers.

Hard drives are six times bigger with seasoning

Adam Oxford at

Cooking fans rejoice: hard drive capacity can be increased more than six fold, and all it takes is a pinch of salt. Wired is reporting that a research team from Singapore has been experimenting with the world's favourite condiment. They've come to the conclusion that sodium chloride can turn a normal 500gigabit/inch drive platter into a massively dense 3.3terabit/inch one.

The future of hard drives is hot

Adam Oxford at

World of Warcraft, 15GB. Rage, 11GB. Steam, potentially hundreds of gigabytes: game installs are getting bigger, and along with HD movies and lossless music make it as easy to fill up a brand new hard drive as it has ever been.

Wonder where you're going to be storing those enormous data files of the future? Try an excitingly named 'energy assisted' or 'heat assisted' hard drive.

Normally, when it comes to PC components, the received wisdom is to keep things as cool as possible. Not so for hard drives, says Western Digital: they're about to get much hotter, with tiny laser or microwave furnaces integrated into the read/write heads to intentionally increase the temperature in certain zones.

Speaking at Western Digital's European Partner Conference, senior vice president for marketing Rich Rutledge told PC Gamer that spinning disk hard drives based on perpendicular storage are reaching their physical limits: "In terms of delivering on future technologies," he said, "We're at the point now where we're required to do that."

That something new isn't going to be flash-based SSDs. They'll remain considerably more expensive than traditional drives for some time Rutledge believes, and therefore used sparingly. For bulk storing all those game and files, magnetic drives will continue to be the storage of choice.

The problem for increasing capacities much beyond their present size is that each activity performed by a drive works best at different temperatures. That becomes more important as bit-sized sites on a drive platter become smaller. By heating up an area under the head, it's possible to increase the accuracy of the write needle. When it cools, it's good for reading. The upshot will be data densities around 10 times what they are today, or around five gigabits per millimetre squared.

Western Digital won't confirm a time scale for the introduction of heat assisted hard drive, but expect to double capacities every two years. An all-industry steering group, the Advanced Storage Technology Consortium is trying to develop a common industry roadmap.