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Ready Or Not, Hard Drives Are Evolving

March 9, 2010

Computer hard drive technology is about to change in a big way, and while the changes should be positive for consumers using state-of-the-art gear, experts believe it could cause problems for individuals using older user interfaces such as Windows XP.

Early next year, all new hard drives manufactured will be switching to a new storage system dubbed “advanced format.” These new HDDs will eschew the decades-old 512-byte blocks system for a 4k system, which should cut down on the amount of disc space wasted by dividing larger hard disks into such small fragments and having a dedicated error-code reporting system in each.

According to BBC News technology correspondent Mark Ward, the larger advanced format HDDs will result in “about eight times less wasted space” while doubling the space dedicated to correcting errors within each dedicated block.

The technology was first announced by California-based hard drive developer Western Digital back in December 2009. According to the company’s website, advanced formatting will allow developers to create larger capacity hard drives while also allowing each to contain more data within the space available. Hard drive manufacturers and the International Disk Drive Equipment and Materials Association (Idema) have announced plans to switch to the 4k drive format before February 2011.

According to Ward, Windows 7, Vista, Snow Leopard, Linux, and most other popular computer systems will support the advanced format. However, Windows XP and older systems do not support the 4k HDD system. However, there will be “cloning software” available to XP users that will allow the 4k drives to simulate the old-style 512-byte block format.

David Burks of hard drive manufacturer Seagate Technologies told BBC News that simulating the old-style HDDs could result in slower hard drive performance. He warns that there will be a “noticeable”¦reduction in performance” and claims that, in extreme cases, hard drive speed could be reduced by as much as 10-percent.

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