Western Digital Announces Plans to Build Future Hard Drives with Microwave-Assisted Magnetic Recording (MAMR)

AnandTech.com has an interesting look at Western Digital’s recent announcement that it will be moving forward with production of mechanical hard drives using microwave-assisted magnetic recording (MAMR).

Essentially what MAMR does is add a device to the write head of the hard drive to generate microwaves. The microwaves make it easier to write to smaller areas of the hard drive, allowing for capacity increases on the platter.

In its press release hype over the technology, Western Digital claims that MAMR will allow it to increase hard drive sizes to eventually reach a 40TB 3.5″ hard drive by 2025.

VeraCrypt

With the demise of TrueCrypt and the abandonment of DiskCryptor, VeraCrypt is the best remaining free, open source disk encryption solution. It is a fork of TrueCrypt project that made a number of changes designed to address limitations of TrueCrypt.

I’ve been gradually migrating all of my encrypted hard drives over to VeraCrypt and have been very pleased with its performance and ease-of-use.

Storing Data in DNA

Interesting article in Science looking at the current state of using DNA to for large-scale data storage. The articles notes that DNA storage would be,

Capable of storing 215 petabytes (215 million gigabytes) in a single gram of DNA, the system could, in principle, store every bit of datum ever recorded by humans in a container about the size and weight of a couple of pickup trucks.

The article goes on to profile Yaniv Erlich and Dina Zielinski who have worked to increase the density at which data can be stored in DNA. After converting a couple data files into binary and then splitting that into digital DNA strands,

They sent these as text files to Twist Bioscience, a San Francisco, California–based startup, which then synthesized the DNA strands. Two weeks later, Erlich and Zielinski received in the mail a vial with a speck of DNA encoding their files. To decode them, the pair used modern DNA sequencing technology. The sequences were fed into a computer, which translated the genetic code back into binary and used the tags to reassemble the six original files. The approach worked so well that the new files contained no errors, they report today in Science. They were also able to make a virtually unlimited number of error-free copies of their files through polymerase chain reaction, a standard DNA copying technique. What’s more, Erlich says, they were able to encode 1.6 bits of data per nucleotide, 60% better than any group had done before and 85% the theoretical limit.

The cost, however, is still prohibitive. According to Science, “it cost $7000 to synthesize the 2 megabytes of data in the files, and another $2000 to read it.”

4TB SSD Hard Drives & SSD Costs

Ran across this September 2016 article about Samsung’s plans to drive SSD prices down to magnetic hard drive levels by 2020. As the article notes, magnetic hard drives today cost about 4 cents per gigabyte, whereas SSDs cost 20 to 50 cents per gigabyte storage.

For example, I can go on Amazon and buy a 4tb magnetic hard drive for about $110 (3 cents per gigabyte). Samsung makes a 4TB SSD, but it currently costs $1540 (39 cents per gigabyte).

On the other hand, SSDs have a lot of advantages over magnetic hard drives, though not enough to warrant paying 13 times as much (at least for my intended usage). If SSD prices do fall to current HD prices by 2020, that would be a major game changer.

Pro Storage 18 Review

Back in June, I blogged about the Pro Storage 18, a foam hard drive storage system that was designed to be stored in a standard file box or a file drawer.

Getting one of these proved more difficult than I thought–the first seller I ordered one from on Amazon basically lied about having these in stock. Then, by chance, I was looking at Amazon a few weeks ago and Amazon itself was selling them. This was apparently a fluke, because now I notice the product is being listed as being available only from third party sellers at a 35%+ markup. It’s weird how hard this thing is to find.

Anyway, here’s a picture of the foam storage unit in my office drawer at work where it currently holds 16 hard drives. A few of these are older 2tb hard drives, so that’s roughly 50tb of hard drives there, nicely protected by foam.

Overall, I was extremely impressed by the quality and the usefulness of the Pro Storage 18. Obviously this is an extremely niche product, but if you have a lot of hard drives that need to be stored safely nearby for quick use, this is pretty much the way to go IMO.

Hard Drives