Toshiba has announced a storage breakthrough that it will demonstrate today at a conference in San Diego. By using a technique called bit-pattern recording, the prototype to be shown boasts an areal density of 2.5Tb per square inch. That's about five times more than the company's existing products, meaning three-platter 10TB hard drives are entirely plausible, and Toshiba is working on doubling that density to 5Tb per square inch – just when we thought HDDs were on their way out.

Today's drives have a uniform magnetic coating that makes up the recording surface and each bit of data is stored in hundreds of grains across the disk. Bit-pattern media is more efficient. It breaks that recording surface up into numerous magnetic "bits" consisting of a few magnetic grains. Each "bit" holds one bit of data and they are organized into rows. The gaps between those rows act as markers, allowing data to be located quickly. Toshiba expects the technology to appear in hard drives as early as 2013.