Western Digital's newest hard drive is a 26TB monster

Two huge HDDs in the cloud.
(Image credit: WD / Andrew Holt)

Western Digital has announced its upcoming 22TB Ultrastar DC HC570 and 26TB Ultrastar DC HC670 UltraSMR HDDs, the first of their kind. But in an age of super speedy SSDs, you might wonder what the point of coming out with yet more hard disk drives can do for us, as a species—particularly us gamers.

HDDs may not be as speedy as the SSDs of today, but the capacity is still miles ahead. And with WD spearheading the movement, those numbers are now reaching unprecedented heights. Within a decade we're likely to be seeing 30TB, even 40TB capacities hitting servers.

Given the chance, us mere mortals could fit 104 copies of the 250GB DCS World, or 152 copies of Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond, which is a whopping 170GB. But these bad boys aren't for accomodating your massive game library, full of unprecedented storage hogs. These drives are meant to live for the cloud.

"As a longstanding partner of the industry’s leading cloud providers, we understand their unique requirements in building next-generation cloud infrastructure," Ashley Gorakhpurwalla of WD explains. The company, as such, has "invested in several HDD innovations we developed alongside our areal density technology."

The plan? "Deliver on a roadmap that would also support the evolving economics of their data centers for decades to come." It comes as a sequel to the announcement of WD's 20TB OptiNAND HDD monsters last year, and works much the same way but with some spicy new installments.

The journey has involved launching energy-assisted PMR (ePMR), which allowed WD to jam more bits per inch onto their platters; OptiNAND, the lovechild of HDD and NAND tech; and now WD has come in with UltraSMR.

Peak Storage

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(Image credit: Future)

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SMR, which stands for Shingled Magnetic Recording, isn't a revelation in the HDD space. Shingled storage has been around since Seagate introduced it in 2013, and upped potential storage capacity by about a quarter of what it was.

WD says the new UltraSMR has improved the tech by adding in "large block encoding along with an advanced error correction algorithm that increases tracks-per-inch (TPI) to enable higher capacity."

That's all wonderful, but unless you have access to a server room with spare HDDs, us plebs are unlikely to get ahold of 26TB HDDs anytime soon. Not that we really need them. I mean, how many of us swap between 100 or more storage-hogging games on the regular?

Katie Wickens
Hardware Writer

Screw sports, Katie would rather watch Intel, AMD and Nvidia go at it. Having been obsessed with computers and graphics for three long decades, she took Game Art and Design up to Masters level at uni, and has been demystifying tech and science—rather sarcastically—for three years since. She can be found admiring AI advancements, scrambling for scintillating Raspberry Pi projects, preaching cybersecurity awareness, sighing over semiconductors, and gawping at the latest GPU upgrades. She's been heading the PCG Steam Deck content hike, while waiting patiently for her chance to upload her consciousness into the cloud.