Western Digital packs helium into new 6 TB hard drive

By on November 4, 2013, 8:30 AM
hdd, storage, western digital, hard drive, helium, hgst, ultrastar

Western Digital's HGST subsidiary has been hard at work developing a brand new helium-filled hard drive, today announcing that the drive has begun shipping. The 6-terabyte Ultrastar He6 is the first of its kind, which sees the disk platters sealed inside a helium-filled (rather than air-filled) chamber, bringing a range of improvements.

Firstly, helium is approximately one seventh the density of air, which helps reduce the turbulence caused by the spinning disks and read-write heads. This in turn allows the hard drive to operate more efficiently, reducing power consumption and heat output; HGST claims the drive consumes 23% less power at idle than a standard 3.5-inch 4 TB drive, and operates 4-5°C cooler.

Secondly, the addition of helium has allowed HGST to cram more platters into the drive. Before today, air-filled hard drives topped out at 4 TB over five platters, however the Ultrastar He6 ups that to 6 TB across seven platters, while reducing the weight of the unit by 50 grams.

Despite increasing pressure from the solid state market, hard drives still offer the best capacity per dollar, and Western Digital wants to keep it that way. The company is looking into combining helium-filled hard drive technology with shingled magnetic recording, and other forms of increasing areal density, to push the capacity of hard drives well beyond the 6 TB seen in the Ultrastar He6.

Until then, we'll just have to make do with the Ultrastar He6, which is now available for enterprise customers at an unspecified price.




User Comments: 9

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VitalyT VitalyT said:

They better start incorporating support for data redundancy, like mirroring. Hard drives aren't good for ever growing in size without providing such redundancy. Otherwise greater capacity will always offer greater potential loss. That's why for now I'd prefer 2x3TB drives instead, since we all know that data restoration from an HDD usually costs more than the data itself.

Skidmarksdeluxe Skidmarksdeluxe said:

So does this mean that the characters in our movie/game collection will sound like Mickey Mouse after breathing helium?

1 person liked this | VitalyT VitalyT said:

So does this mean that the characters in our movie/game collection will sound like Mickey Mouse after breathing helium?

There is such possibility

TheBigFatClown said:

They better start incorporating support for data redundancy, like mirroring. Hard drives aren't good for ever growing in size without providing such redundancy. Otherwise greater capacity will always offer greater potential loss. That's why for now I'd prefer 2x3TB drives instead, since we all know that data restoration from an HDD usually costs more than the data itself.

I wonder if, since these hard disks contain 7 platters, the loss of data could ever be reduced to just a single platter. If a hard drive fails because of a bad read/write head that could always be replaced. So 7 platters/6 terrabytes is about 850MB of data loss at worst if just one platter fails.

I am still waiting on 1TB blu-ray discs for the ultimate storage back up solution. Even 100GB blu-rays would be welcome for now if the price is right.

VitalyT VitalyT said:

I am still waiting on 1TB blu-ray discs for the ultimate storage back up solution. Even 100GB blu-rays would be welcome for now if the price is right.

The whole movie industry is waiting for that one, because current Blu-ray disks cannot accommodate 4K content.

In the meantime, there is a lot of talk about 100GB Blu-ray discs to be released as if for 4K movies, which is an utter BS, because 100GB doesn't come close to what's needed to store a proper 4K movie.

Timescapes - good example, 40 mins video, nice compression, 160GB in x264. A 2-hour movie will barely fit into 300GB by using x265.

What's all that 100GB for 4K movies - I don't get it, it looks and sounds like complete nonsense...

The best quality video that I have on my HDD - Avatar Extended Edition, 60FPS. Outstanding quality, compressed without sacrificing quality. Size: 44GB. And that's not even 3D.

Guest said:

Thanks for the vid, made my day.

Guest said:

Why not just suck all the air out completely. No friction.

Trillionsin Trillionsin said:

Why not just suck all the air out completely. No friction.

Because they are not completely sealed, and would not work in a vacuum environment. That little pinhole is to help even out the pressure, from what I reading, through a "filter"

Now what I actually wonder is; How do they keep the pressure even without losing the helium? Are these type's of hard drives sealed and/or pressurized? Maybe these questions were already answered... but at least it was more in depth than Guest's.

Adhmuz Adhmuz, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Because they are not completely sealed, and would not work in a vacuum environment. That little pinhole is to help even out the pressure, from what I reading, through a "filter"

Now what I actually wonder is; How do they keep the pressure even without losing the helium? Are these type's of hard drives sealed and/or pressurized? Maybe these questions were already answered... but at least it was more in depth than Guest's.

The last article posted on Techspot claimed they were sealed, if I remember correctly. Which would make them even harder to service. If I'm not mistaken hard drives can't be a vacuum, due to the air, or in this case helium, being a coolant, but I may be wrong there.

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