Tuesday, 20 July 2010

When did hard drives become so big? (SSDs too)

Most people don't pay attention to how spacious their storage drive is until it's running out of room and you have to start deciding which documents aren't important anymore. I don't think we can actually run out of room now.

I was pricing up 2.5” drives the other day, mainly out of boredom but for potential use in my laptop when I inevitably run out of storage. Now I'd like to think I'm up on all the latest developments, and if you're not into computers all that much I'd like to think I appear as a god; however Western Digital were about to make my jaw drop – sitting there nestled amongst the 2.5” drive category was a Western Digital Scorpio Blue with a storage capacity of 1TB! When did this happen? I didn't think we had broken the 750GB mark on 2.5” drives, what with all the attention being focused on SSD developments. Did I miss the memo? I'm genuinely astounded, pleased and a little bit jealous I can't afford one. With that little beauty sitting in my beloved laptop I would ooze smugness as I never ran out of space when even bulky Windows installs wouldn't dent the drive's capacity.

But that's not all either – according to Crunch Gear in 2008 we hit another milestone with the SSDs, as Toshiba announced a cheeky little SSD that smashes the competition by doubling the previous capacity to 512GB – when did this happen and why was I not informed!? That doesn't seem a lot considering I've just mentioned a 1TB drive, and that (as far as I know) desktop HDDs have reached 2TB, but bear in mind that this is solid state and therefore brilliant for just being that. No moving parts, speeds to dream of and now a storage capacity to rival the average desktop's.

As mentioned earlier, desktop HDDs are now roughly in the region of 2TB (unless another development has slipped me by) which is quite astonishing as only a year ago you'd pay for 1TB what you're likely to pay for the two now. My question is this; do we really need THAT much storage space?

The answer, I believe, is yes. We do. Consider the changing trend in how media is transferred and stored, optical storage has become a thing of the past now as even entire Operating Systems can be stuck on a USB drive and installed or ran that way. Films are available in digital formats, sometimes even without DRM and the same goes for music – those that aren't can be legally and quickly turned into a digital movie file. And as people become more and more involved in this digital renaissance its going to take up more and more room on their hard drives; I know of several people who have a separate hard drive dedicated simply to their digital media.

Also consider software. Admittedly as drive-capacity increases so does our ability to produce less bulky and more efficient programs – Windows 7 takes up less space than Vista did (although that wasn't too hard), Linux systems can be tweaked to barely make a footprint and even the latest OS X claims to be able to free up taken up by the previous version. This development in how to write less bulky software is almost cancelled out by the sheer amount of software on an average person's computer – if they're a gamer they'll have games (which can be extremely bulky), not to mention plug-ins and mods for those games, they'll have photo and movie editing software, office software, music software (either a jukebox or an editing suite) amongst other things; there might even be a revolutionary new type of software just round the corner that everyone will end up needing.

So, does this mean we need to push the capacity of our storage drives to the absolute maximum? Even with cloud computing rearing its alien head we still do a lot on our local machines. I think we need to continue pressing onwards, let's hope that by 2015 we're sitting down at our desktop machines with 10TB drives and wondering how we ever coped when we measured in Gigabytes.


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