A tape drive is a storage device that reads and writes data on a magnetic tape. It is mostly used for offline, archival data storage. Tape media is generally cost efficient and has a long archival strength.
In contrast to a disk drive which provides random access storage, a tape drive provides sequential access storage. This takes the tape drive a substantial amount of time between winding tape between reels and reading individual data, which is much longer than a disk drive. Consequently, tape drives have very slow average seek times. Despite the time, tape drives can stream data to and from tape very quickly.
Tape drives can range in size from a few megabytes to hundreds of gigabytes of data.
There are some problems with tape drives. Shoe-shining can occur during read or write operations if the data transfer rate falls below the minimum transfer time. When the transfer rate becomes too low, streaming is no longer possible. Therefore, the drive must slow down, stop the tape, rewind it, restart it, position it back to the point at which streaming stopped, and finally, resume the operation. Another problem that can occur is when drives no longer operate at a single fixed linear speed and start performing at various speed levels.
The media inserted into a tape drive is called a tape. Magnetic tape is housed in a plastic case called a cassette. The cassette contains the tape to provide various audio contents using the same player. The plastic outer shell allows users to handle the fragile tape, making it much easier than having loose or exposed tape.