HDDs are not dead, they accounted for over 1ZB (a lot) of shipped capacity last year

Hard Disk Drive
(Image credit: Pixabay)

The hard disk drive (HDD) might be dead to some people, now that solid state drive (SSD) pricing is on a pedestrian level, but don't go throwing dirt on the mechanical storage medium's grave. As a whole, HDDs are still very much alive and well—storage makers for the first time ever collectively shipped more than a zettabyte of HDD storage in 2020.

A zettabyte is 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes (or 1 sextillion bytes). To put that into perspective, a zettabyte is equivalent to a million petabytes, a billion terabytes, or a trillion gigabytes. It's a lot of data, in other words.

Toshiba revealed the staggering stat in a press release championing its lead in average capacity growth for the nearline HDD market, high capacity drives that are mostly bound for the data center.

"Our rapid increase in capacity shipped per unit, as well as increasing total exabyte shipments almost ninefold in just five years, is a testament to the hard work and effort by our HDD team here and abroad to grow our cloud data center scale while continuing to broaden in the enterprise, and is a reflection of our key customer partners’ trust in our products and support," said Kyle Yamamoto, vice president, HDD marketing and business operations at TAEC.

Toshiba's HDDs top out at 16TB spread across nine stacked platters, in a helium-sealed chassis. It would take 62.5 million of these drives to reach a zettabyte, by the way.

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Incidentally, while Toshiba is leading the way in nearline HDD capacity growth, it actually trails Seagate and Western Digital in HDD market share, according to Coughlin Associates (via Forbes).

The main advantage of HDD storage is cost. These days you can find a 1TB HDD for as little as around $40. In contrast, the cheapest 1TB SSD on Newegg right now is a Team Group GX2 model on sale for $82.

That's not to say you should build a PC around an HDD, even a performance oriented model. Upgrading from an HDD to an SSD for primary storage chores is one of the best ways to make a system run and feel faster, as it effects everything from just navigating Windows and moving files around, to game load times. 

Be that as it may, the HDD clearly isn't disappearing anytime soon.

Paul Lilly

Paul has been playing PC games and raking his knuckles on computer hardware since the Commodore 64. He does not have any tattoos, but thinks it would be cool to get one that reads LOAD"*",8,1. In his off time, he rides motorcycles and wrestles alligators (only one of those is true).