Seagate 3TB drive raises storage to new heights

Melissa J. Perenson
30 June, 2010
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For hard drives, it feels like we’ve been stuck at 2TB forever. Not anymore: Seagate has announced it’s shipping the industry’s first 3TB hard drive, the FreeAgent GoFlex Desk External Drive.

Not only is the FreeAgent GoFlex Desk the first to break past that limitation, it does so at a reasonable cost per gigabyte: the drive, with a USB 2.0 connector, will sell for US$250 (around $294), which works out to US$0.08 per gigabyte. By comparison, Seagate sells its 2TB GoFlex Desk External Drive (also with a USB 2.0 base) for US$190 (around $223), or $0.09 ($0.10) per gigabyte. As with other drives in the GoFlex line, you can swap out the USB 2.0 base for optional USB 3.0 or FireWire 800 modules, which will provide better performance.

That’s a lot of storage for a single drive. While the company doesn’t specify its file parameters, it does say its 3TB drive can store up to 120 high-definition movies, 1,500 video games, thousands of photos, or “countless” hours of digital music. Already, I’m thinking about how many 18-megapixel RAW images I can store on a single drive.

As enticing as 3TB sounds, though, this won’t be the end of the line for increasing 3.5-inch hard drive storage this year. Storage analyst Tom Coughlin, of Coughlin Associates, notes “I expect we will see up to 750GB to 800GB per platter on 3.5-inch drives before the end of this year. That would give us 3TB or more with a four-platter drive, or approaching 4TB with a five-platter drive.” Expect more advances in areal density for 2.5-inch drives, too; there, Coughlin expects us to see a two-platter, 1TB drive that will fit in a standard z-height notebook computer later this year.

The drive comes formatted using the NTFS file system. Seagate provides its NTFS drive for Mac software, a driver you install on your Mac that allows you to write to the FreeAgent GoFlex Desk without reformatting the drive (without the driver, Mac OS X 10.3 or later can read but not write to NTFS drives). To use the drive with OS X’s Time Machine, the drive must be reformatted using HFS+.

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