How much data can be stored on a single hard drive

18.12.2013 Roberto Arduous
Remember the way we stored data in the mid-90s? (sorry kids, this unfamiliar intro will be over in a second) Every PC had a floppy disc entry point, and a shoebox of floppies neatly stacked somewhere in the room. We all marveled at the genius behind the medium with an incredible storage capacity of up to 21MB in its golden years, and were positively flabbergasted when such alternatives as optical CDs and USB flash drives were first introduced. Now, new research is keen on putting all of those nostalgic memories to more shame than ever, so let’s talk about two major ways our data is about to be improved in the upcoming years: longevity, and of course, size.

First, with most of our methods of storing data lasting only a few decades at the very best, scientists have challenged themselves with the task of preserving our data for a bit more than that. Say, a billion years? If we are to judge by the last century and a half, a lot of things can happen in the time frame of a billion years, the death of humanity possibly being one of them. If that does happen, and a sea of data becomes all that is left behind us, wouldn’t it be nice for another advanced futuristic society to take a look at all the things we’ve accomplished? Well, a team comprised of German and Dutch thinks so, and has recently made an optical disk that is able to ‘survive’ for a million years. The disk is made of elemental tungsten, since its melting point comes at about 3,422 celsius. Due to the malleability of the material, silicon nitride was also added to help stabilize the disk. So yeah, if you’re tired of changing your hard drive every few years, how does changing it every few eons sound?

Next, say goodbye with ‘gigabyte’ as the term we use to describe big data and large storage capacities. Enter terabytes for commercial purposes. Florida University found a way to add a third dimension to a magnetic hard drive storage, thus effectively enabling the manufacture of hard disks of 100+TB of data in the coming decades. But if you don’t feel like waiting that long, how about getting a 5TB hard drive right now? A company called Seagate patented and is currently shipping hard drives with a so-called shingled magnetic recording, which is basically just a more effective way of storing data on an optical disk. Nevertheless, if you ever dreamed of owning every song and movie made in the entire human history on a single drive, that time has come, and probably even passed as of now.

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