Tuesday, April 29, 2008

ausTech news Episode 91: HARD DISK DRIVE SPECIAL

Episode 91: Hard Drive Special

This episode I go through what Makes a Hard Disk Drive tick, and show you what to look for and some golden rules in looking for one both today and in the future. Take note!

Also, Zeptos plans for a power rig of a gaming laptop.

Besides the large special on Hard Drives, A free game (trackmania nations forever), and a Video that you just can't miss if you liked the Animatrix series.
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A new raptor hard drive claws away
storagereview.com - review

Battlefield heroes trailer and info
gamespy.com -source
Beta: may 6th, Client download is 250meg! Customization wahoo

COD4 Map Pack: 10 Million in 10 days
au.xbox360.ign.com - source
Now out on Ps3

Zepto brings out the punches
A growing Laptop company, Zepto just unveiled the first of a few new additions to its laptop line. This one is called the Notus, and is a 12inch Laptop that boasts Spill and Drop resistance, as well as a solid 8 hour battery life. Woohoo!
Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

Video of the week:
Batman: Gotham night Trailer
You have to see this to believe it - its like the Animatrix, albeit for the
Batman series. Excellent music score too!
Go watch on youtube

Tip of the Week:
Free game: Trackmania Nations forever

Tip of the week:
Hard Disk Drive Special
Hard Disk Drives are still currently the most dangerous, volatile and fragile part of a pc (short of a cpu with no fan I guess) - but without it we wouldn't be where we are today, because it holds all of the information and data we get. It's given the computer a personal face, by allowing people to put much more redundant stuff on theirs, to customize their system.

Inside, a needle seeks across a platter which looks like a tough cd and is called a platter. The platter is what holds all your stuff, and the speed and capacity of your hard drive depends on it. To make the seek time lower, drive makers can up the rotational speed (a bit like how cd burners go at different speeds), Beginning at 5,400rpm, to the common desktop speed of 7,200, on to 10,000 and even 15,000rpm. To increase the amount of stuff you can hold, pack the magnetic data tighter (such as perpendicular recording where the bits are turned sideways), or have more platters. The Hitachi Deskstar out at the moment in 1 Terrabyte for example, has 5 Platters, each with 200gig. Note that a hard drive head must never touch the platter surface, or it can do some big damage the surface. On earlier models, drives that made physical contact would shatter in places and be pretty dramatic. The actual head itself must be extremely close to the surface to be able to correctly pick up the magnetic pattern, so its a delicate balance held up only by a thin pocket of air. To put it another way, if you were to scale up the inside bits of a hard drive, so that the platter was the size of the world - the seek head would be similar to the eiffel tower. Now imagine that tower, with the current technology we are using today, to be used in a hard drive would have to spin at a height of less than one inch from the ground. Or according to the IDEMA hdd industry back in 1999, flying a 747 plane .63mm height off the ground. so you can see why these parts are extremely fragile, but in todays world are for the most part able to last many years with good care.

So having said all that, it should be more obvious why people say to not move your case while its on, or especially not to bump it - you don't want a broken platter now!

Choosing a hard drive for your computer is fairly easy these days, and comes down to three major companies: Seagate, Western Digital and IBM. Maxtor was bought by Seagate, and Raptor drives, were bought up by western digital a long time back, and are regarded as one of the no holds barred fastest drives you can buy for the moment.

Although you can look up reviews for HDD's and I recommend it, when you are tightly pressed for time, most drives perform similar, but there are a few specs to keep an eye on.
Seek Time is how long it takes from the PC saying "hey get this", to the HDD spinning to that part of the platter. Common times are between 6 to 8milliseconds, Although really compared to the other factors its probably the last part you should be looking at.

Next up is the cache size. This is a small ram buffer on the disk, to help get recent files much quicker. Naturally a bigger one helps, but you can obviously only buffer stuff you've already asked for, so the benefits are more for getting the same file again and again. 8meg is common and good, 16meg is a sweet spot. This isn't to be confused with Hybrid Hard Disks, which tend to have upwards of 256meg as a cache - these are a bit of a hybrid (duh) between solid state disks and traditional ones.

Most important though, and I can't stress this enough, is the cost to size ratio. This is how much the drive costs, compared to what you are getting. Taking a recent look at the MSY Price list, a 500 Gig Western Digital Hard Drive is worth $102. If you take the price, and divide it by the capacity, you can work out how much you are paying per gigabyte. In this example, you pay about 20cents per gig. A 1 Terrabyte (1000gig in HDD world) Western Digital is worth $256 or 25cents, making it a good buy for the value and large amount of space you get. On the not so good side, a Seagate 160gig Drive, is $62. That makes it over 38cents per gigabyte. So although you save in the short run $40, you get burned by a higher cost per gig, and the worry of needing to purchase an extra disk in the future if you fill that one up (and possibly moving everything to it). Personally, the sweet spot for HDD's and what I recommend are 500 and 750gig drives, although I love the headroom terrabyte drives are.

Oh and almost forgot - if you get a choice between IDE and SATA as a connection type, always go for SATA. This is because the cables are much smaller and easier to route through your case, and they also allow for more headroom for your hard drive to go faster (will be taken advantage of in the future)
The future looks to eventually replace HDD's as we know it, with Solid State Disks that essentially use flash memory and no moving parts to get rid of most of the downfalls of a mechanical medium. This also means seek times don't exisist anymore, and battery life will increase due to the lower power drain. Currently though, their extreme price ($15 a gig) and small capacities (again, a top of 64gigabytes vs terrabyte for a HDD) make them not practical.

Having talked all about this storage space, an important issue is backup. In short, the bigger a hard drive, the more you can lose. One thing I've learned is to never trust one too much, as they can fail anytime, without much warning. So, in a future episode I'll go through how you can effectively back up, and avoid the potential for some major heartache.

Hope you enjoyed my write up :)

Our email address is austechnews@gmail.com . However feel free to leave a voice mail for feedback and comments on the show as well. Thanks for supporting the show and listening to it!

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