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In this article we will discuss the next big breakthrough in HDD storage technology: Helium-sealed hard disk drives.

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Apr, 19

Helium HDDs: How and Why?

Solid State Drives are a relatively new technology and are way too expensive to implement as an enterprise-level storage option. Hard drives have always been the go-to solution for large-scale storage needs. As the other computer components got better, the hard drives were not able to keep up with their rate of innovation. Researchers were simply running out of space where to put new platters into the standard 3.5-inch form factor.

Western Digital has come up with a solution to this problem in a very unexpected way. They decided to fill the Hard Drives with Helium, a gas that has a density of one-seventh of air. That may sound like a marketing gimmick at first, however it is not the case when talking about an enclosed space with multiple tightly-packed moving parts. So, what does the helium do?

air vs helium hdd

Helium creates less drag and turbulence, allowing for less vibrations to take place when the platters are spinning. This in turn, also allows for thinner platters to be used. With the thinner platters, it is now possible to fit more of them into the 1-inch height of the regular HHD casing. In fact, Western Digital was able to fit 8 platters instead of the standard 5 into their 12GB Helium sealed HDD. At the time of its release, it had a 50% capacity improvement over any air-filled competitor on the market.

HDD gif

These thinner disks and the reduced drag (air resistance) also require less power to spin at such high speeds, meaning smaller, more energy efficient motors can be used. These smaller motors consume up to 23% less power, run at four to five degrees cooler and substantially more quietly. According to Western Digital, the storage density results in a lower cost per gigabyte, as well as lower total cost of ownership.