Hard drive corporation Seagate has announced that it will be selling a 3TB, 3.5-in Constellation ES hard disk drive this year. Those of you who are ecstatic about the prospect of purchasing this large hard drive should be happy about this development, unless you own a 32-bit operating system.
Seagate spokespeople have indicated that the disk drive will only be usable by PC’s and servers with upgrades that will allow them to handle hard drives over 2.1TB. According to Hardware News:
The snag is due to an antiquated limitation in the PC architecture, which runs from the notebook to the server in the x 86 environments. When Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) and IBM (NYSE: IBM) devised the original DOS standard back in the 1980s, they set the logical block addressing (LBA) on mass storage to 512-byte sectors. That’s the smallest physical block of data on a hard drive.
Now, capacity is a multiple of LBA, cylinders, heads and sectors on the drive, but there’s a second element. The master boot record (MBR) on PCs is limited to 2.1TB. The maximum a PC can see is 2.1 terabytes, and that’s with a 64-bit OS.
In order to be able to access the new 3TB drive, motherboard manufacturers will have to raise their MBR capacity in the BIOS and also raise the LBA (logical block addressing) capacity. Microsoft and other vendors must develop new device drivers. And without the larger LBA, 32-bit operating systems like Windows XP will only be able to access one third of the space of the new 3TB drive.
The expanded LBA is also a non-issue for 64-bit operating systems such as Windows 7 and Vista versions. According to gizmowatch:
… Mac users should be able to utilize the full capacity of the drive without any special configurations or software.
There has already been a lot of work done to-date to address the LBA limitation, including the creation of a Universal Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) that defines how software interfaces within operating systems should deal with the LBA limitation. Also updates to standard hard disk drivers are being tested by Seagate and Intel.
Eza Gottheil, senior analyst with Technology Business Research, feels that implementing the new 3TB hard drive will not be a problem for large IT shops. According to Gottheil:
Given that the majority of large IT shops don’t do hard drive upgrades but buy whole new systems that are integrated and tested, this won’t be a major issue in the professional IT space.
This means that if Seagate does begin shipping their new large 3TB drive by the end of the year it will be selling them primarily to large shops that can afford to buy entirely new systems.
The new drive is part of Seagate’s Constellation ES lineup and will feature a 6Gbit/s SAS interface and have a spin rate of 7200 rpm.