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  (Source: Western Digital)

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UEFI needed for latest generation

Solid State Drives are the speedy choice for many enthusiasts, but most of us still rely on traditional magnetic hard disk drives for our data storage. Even SSD evangelists have to concede that the low cost per gigabyte and large capacities of HDDs mean that it will remain the dominant storage medium for the foreseeable future.

Western Digital Corporation is launching today their latest WD Caviar Green HDDs at 2.5TB and 3TB capacities. These 3.5 inch internal drives have four platters with up to 750GB per platter, and feature 64MB caches and 3Gb/s SATA connections. This is the fifth generation of the company's Green series, which sacrifices some rotational speed and performance for lower power consumption and noise levels.

The largest capacity drives on the market right now top out at 2 terabytes of storage. WD and Seagate have been working on the next generation of HDDs for the last two years, but several problems have held back their market introductions.

Most older operating systems such as Windows XP encounter a capacity barrier at 2.2 TB. The most commonly used sector size is 512 bytes, and those operating systems can only address up to 2^32 logical blocks, limiting the maximum size to 2,199,023,255,552 bytes.

Western Digital tried to introduce Advanced Format (AF) technology using 4 KB (4096 byte) sector sizes, but determined through testing that it is generally not feasible at this time due to application incompatibilities with devices. The current implementation uses disk emulation to report 512 bytes sectors.

The solution being adopted by the industry is to use GUID Partition Tables (GPT), instead of Master Boot Record (MBR) partition tables. This is part of the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) effort by the computing industry to modernize the booting process. GPT provides for up to 18 exabytes (2^64) of Logical Block Addressing.

UEFI capable systems are already shipping, and many more are being designed. However, many current systems do not, so WD is planning to ship the new drives with UEFI and AHCI compliant Host Bus Adapters (HBA) using a PCIe x1 slot. A 64-bit OS is required to boot from the new drives, but 32-bit systems will still be able to use the drives as secondary storage.

The 2.5TB (model number WD25EZRSDTL) and 3TB (model number WD30EZRSDTL) drives are shipping today from Western Digital to distributors and should be available for pre-order. Some retailers will be able to sell them by the end of the week. MSRP for the WD Caviar Green 2.5 TB hard drive is $189 USD and the 3 TB hard drive is $239 USD.

WD Caviar Blue models for the mainstream and  high performance Caviar Black models for enthusiasts are currently being developed, but the company declined to provide guidance on the subject during our interview.

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