World’s biggest hard disk drive goes on sale

Western Digital has announced that it’s now shipping the HGST-branded Ultrastar He12, a helium-based (‘HelioSeal’) 12TB hard disk.

This is a fourth-generation 3.5-inch helium hard drive which is built using PMR (perpendicular magnetic recording) technology and made for supreme reliability, which isn’t surprising seeing as it’s aimed at the enterprise arena – but it gives us a good flavour of what’s coming to the consumer world, too.

The disk boasts an impressive rated MTBF (mean time between failures) of 2.5 million hours.

Western Digital claims that it’s the world’s first 8-platter design, and compared to the 7-platter previous generation, it can cram in 20% more capacity – hence reaching 12TB versus its 10TB predecessor.

It’s also very frugal with power requirements, with the company claiming that the wattage used per terabyte when idling is 54% lower than an 8TB air-filled drive.

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It’s also worth noting that the Ultrastar He12 is available with either a SATA (6Gb/s) or SAS (12Gb/s) interface, and is a self-encrypting drive that also benefits from an ‘instant secure erase’ feature for fully wiping out data before redeploying the disk.

As for the core specs, the He12 is a 7200rpm hard drive with an average latency of 4.16ms and it’s capable of a sustained transfer rate of 255MB/s.

Seagate also has a 12TB helium-based drive which is about to emerge – with a very similar spec – but it hasn’t started shipping yet. We can expect to see larger helium drives before long, with HGST planning a 14TB SMR flavour of its helium drive which should be out mid-year, and Seagate preparing a 16TB model for 2018.

As we hit the end of the decade, we can expect helium drives to reach 20TB capacity. SSDs, on the other hand, can get much bigger already.

Western Digital has previously said that it expects helium drives to become mainstream, meaning the average user will be able to get their hands on large capacity disks offering plenty of bang for buck.

Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).