WD Gives You Up To 11% More Space With Advanced Format

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News Posted: Tue, Dec 15 2009 7:21 PM
WD (Western Digital) is starting to use a new hard disk drive format that enables 7-11% greater capacity on hard disk drives. The disk expansion technique is known as Advanced Format. This technique takes advantage of changes in the industry in drive sector sizes and consolidates overhead information to free up additional space for data storage. As a result of Advanced Format, a 1TB drive could potentially gain more than 100GB in capacity. Other drive manufacturers are also adopting Advanced Format to squeeze more capacity out of existing hard drive technology.

As WD explains, there are three basic methods to increase the capacity on a hard drive: increase the bit density with Advanced Formatting, increase the number of tracks per inch, or increase the number of disk platters. Since boosting bit density takes advantage of space that's already available on every track of a hard disk drive platter, WD chose this route.

WD explains how Advanced Formatting works:
Each [hard disk] track is composed of a series of sectors. Currently the user data on the media is stored in 512 byte sectors. The storage industry is improving this legacy architecture by changing the size of the sectors on the media to store 4,096 bytes of data rather than 512 bytes of data.

Each sector has a gap, Sync/DAM (lead-in) and error correction information. Legacy architecture is very inefficient for ECC (Error Correction Code). It requires lots of overhead to support multiple blocks of ECC.

With Advanced Format technology we can remove Sync/DAM blocks, inter-sector gaps and 8 separate blocks of ECC, and gain approximately 7-11% in disk space.
As an additional benefit, Advanced Format can increase data integrity by providing a more efficient error correction scheme using longer ECC code words. This improves error correction by 50% according to WD.

WD's Caviar Green drives, which are available in capacities up to 2TB, currently use Advanced Format. WD expects to offer additional models and capacities in the future.

Advanced Format is compatible with Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Mac OS X; it's not optimized for Windows XP or older operating systems. For users with older operating systems, WD's Align software utility can be used to align partitions on the Advanced Format drive to ensure it provides full performance for certain configurations.
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Jeremy replied on Tue, Dec 15 2009 7:52 PM

Is there a performance hit involved in using this technology? I only ask because I find it odd for WD to implement this on their Green series but not the Blue or Black series.

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Marco C replied on Tue, Dec 15 2009 8:16 PM

Technically the tech offers a performance advantage because error correction is more efficient, but we're told the benefit is nearly instantaneous and basically immesurable in any real-world type scenario. The tech is more about laying the groundwork for future drives, with immense capacities that will require the new format.

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acarzt replied on Tue, Dec 15 2009 9:04 PM

Couldn't this tech also be applied to SSDs to free up some space?

I know I sure would like to squeeze out every precious byte of storage from mine :-D

I get tired of having to remove so many things to keep usage to a minimum :-(

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rapid1 replied on Tue, Dec 15 2009 11:06 PM

I may be wrong on this acazt as this is totally new. However; the way I understand it this is still a platter technology. Whereas a SSD drive does not use platters but direct NAND memory technology. Of course that being said I don't know very much about this at all. Where it may not currently have any application on a SSD drive it is still the organization of data on a medium. That being said there may be some future implications on an SSD, in fact they may have adapted this technology from an SSD to a platter platform as well. So I would think if it were adaptable between the two it would take a while, if it is a roll over from SSD technology to platter drives it would seem (an SSD) to have the technology it is just adapted. Either way I don't know anything except what I just read either, but I would not count on it at least not for some time.

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realneil replied on Wed, Dec 16 2009 4:36 PM

Too bad this can't be worked into existing drives.

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So, how does this work in Linux?

Does it just work, or is there a kernel mod required?

Sounds good though, 10% extra free.

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3vi1 replied on Thu, Dec 17 2009 5:08 PM

Should work fine - Linux has supported 4k physical block size for a long time now, and it's the default in Ext3, Ext4, and other modern file systems.

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gibbersome replied on Sun, Jan 17 2010 10:52 PM

Still, this looks like a winner. Extra 10% space is a great boost. Most recent versions of Linux shouldn't have any problems with this, just like Windows Vista Windows 7, Mac OS X.

Drobos and TiVos are another matter. Since both use misaligned partitions, they won't be compatible.

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kbw replied on Tue, Jan 19 2010 9:21 PM

So basically, they can now sell me a hard drive that might actually have the labeled capacity.

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