Western Digital launches helium-infused HDDs, offers greater storage and lower energy usage

Hard Drives are certainly getting cheaper but there’s not much innovation going on on the inside, and with the recent rise of SSDs some might consider the regular HDD a thing of the past. And while that may hold true for some folks it doesn’t work at all for companies that need to store incredible amounts of data.

And this is where Western Digital’s new type of hard drive comes in. The company is announcing today they’ve created a new type of HDD, one that uses helium to optimize storage, energy efficiency and life-time.

Most people don’t think about it, but hard drives are comprised of disks that spin thousands or even tens of thousands of times every minute -having to overcome air drag and natural deterioration. Of course this creates a lot of wear and tear over time and that’s why hard drives fail. But Western Digital has now created hermetically sealed hard-drives that are full of helium instead of normal air.

Yes the gas used to float up balloons, make squeaky voices and power the Sun is also a perfect fit inside hard-drives. It offers a lot less resistance compared to regular air and it’s also completely inert, this opens up the possibility of creating HDDs with more disk platters – 7 instead of 5 – that use less electricity, are cooler, make less noise and possibly have a longer lifespan; and because of the way they're built they are also waterproof which means they’re a good fit for immersion-cooled data centers.

Western Digital is announcing today a new HDD that will launch with 6 TB of storage, instead of the usual four. The new type of hard drive is aimed at enterprise consumers and a few important companies are already testing it out, including HP for their server products, Huawei and CERN.

While this has a limited impact on regular consumers, it might not take too long before our regular desktop machines come equipped with helium-infused hard drives.

Source: AllThingsD | Hard drive image via Shutterstock

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45 Comments

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better they concentrate with SSD technology to make it cheaper and compact.. That is the future, not these conventional mechanical devices.

They do make SSD, but the densities on spinning drives are so much better they will be on the market for a long time to come. $100,000 for a storage array sounds a lot better than a million.

"Hard Drives are certainly getting cheaper but there's not much innovation going on on the inside"

The fact that they're getting cheaper means there is innovation going on in the inside. It's not by magic.

I'm confused, H/Ds have air-vents, so how would a drive filled with helium retain the helium, surely it'd always be losing it?

n_K said,
I'm confused, H/Ds have air-vents, so how would a drive filled with helium retain the helium, surely it'd always be losing it?

Presumably these drives won't have air vents

Shirley a drive with air vents would allow dust in, a much greater problem than letting helium out.

In any case, any such vents would be outside the sealed part and act as heat dissipators.

mrbester said,
Shirley a drive with air vents would allow dust in, a much greater problem than letting helium out.

Current hard drives have filters that will block particles down to a fraction of a micron.

/and don't call me Shirly

Ryano121 said,
Yes, in a drive made in 2002...

So hard drive technology advancement has now meant they can do away with the vent hole because they've managed to defeat friction and thus breaking the laws of physics or did your comment really mean absolutely nothing?

Ryano121 said,
Yes, in a drive made in 2002...

Hard drives made in 2013 have air vents too, what is your point? They are there for a reason.

Odom said,
From the article:
"But Western Digital has now created hermetically sealed hard-drives"

Yes, the new ones using helium. They don't require the air vents and of course couldn't work if they had them since the helium would escape. Standard hard drives still have vent holes though.

Soldiers33 said,
the lhc is just waste of time and rescources.

If you're against scientific research I suggest you disconnect from the Internet and turn off your Computer, after all they are products of scientific research.

Soldiers33 said,
the lhc is just waste of time and rescources.

Nonsense. Its work in confirming the existence of the Higgs boson has been hugely important in our scientific understanding of the universe. I'd rather helium was used for that than being wasted in party balloons.

Soldiers33 said,
theres a difference between doing something useful and firing particles at each other.

And scientific research classes as "doing something useful", which is exactly what the Large Hadron Collider does.

Soldiers33 said,
theres a difference between doing something useful and firing particles at each other. As if that would ever bring any good.

If your not being sarcastic you are an obvious troll.

Soldiers33 said,
the lhc is just waste of time and rescources.

amongst the top 100 of the most stupid comments i have ever read.

Soldiers33 said,
the lhc is just waste of time and rescources.

I agree. I think putting you inside the LHC and throwing you like a particle would be much more productive. Who knows...we might even find the ultimate Idiots Boson particle ^_^

That, and is it really responsible to be using helium? Academics have long been warning of the shortage of helium, which is used for essential devices like MRI scanners and research projects like the Large Hadron Collider. Unless serious changes are made we risk running out of it within 30 years, which could have a serious impact on human health and scientific research.

Dushmany said,
How would that work, for instance, against a vacuum sealed hdd?
/curious

A vacuum is harder to maintain and there would be nothing to float the drive heads. They need a cushion of air to keep them from crashing into the platters. There are also the thermal issues to consider; it would be harder to keep the drive cool with no air in them to conduct heat away.

As for wasting helium, I think the amount used for all the hard drives they make would be a tiny drop in the ocean compared to what we throw away on all of those silly party balloons each year.

Edited by Bonfire, Nov 4 2013, 10:18am :

TRC said,

A vacuum will not work, there would be nothing to float the drive heads. They need a cushion of air to keep them from crashing into the platters.

I didn't know that, I always thought the heads were 'mag levved' for lack of a better way of explaining it, thank you

theyarecomingforyou said,
That, and is it really responsible to be using helium? Academics have long been warning of the shortage of helium, which is used for essential devices like MRI scanners and research projects like the Large Hadron Collider. Unless serious changes are made we risk running out of it within 30 years, which could have a serious impact on human health and scientific research.


I'd forgotten about that. Thanks for reminding me what a precious commodity it is. I'll be buying the Seagate drives at 5 and 6TB next year instead. Gotta do your bit

The Ramen Master said,
helium is the second most abundant element in the universe, most of it in the Earth's atmosphere bleeds off into space

That it is an abundant element is meaningless if it cannot be utilised. For instance, the sun is made of hydrogen and helium but there's no way for us to utilise that.

The Ramen Master said,
There is no helium shortage. There is tons of them. It's just companies that stop producing them.

That simply isn't true. Helium is a nonrenewable resource and we only have limited amounts of it, trapped in impermeable rock formations. The US helium reserves account for about 1/3 of the world's supply of helium yet the US government has pursued a policy of selling it off at a recklessly low price, endangering scientific and medical usage in favour of short-term gain.

theyarecomingforyou said,

That simply isn't true. Helium is a nonrenewable resource and we only have limited amounts of it, trapped in impermeable rock formations. The US helium reserves account for about 1/3 of the world's supply of helium yet the US government has pursued a policy of selling it off at a recklessly low price, endangering scientific and medical usage in favour of short-term gain.

I thought there was a way of making helium, from hydrogen via some sort of method (I don't know the method)

Dushmany said,
I thought there was a way of making helium, from hydrogen via some sort of method (I don't know the method)

Small quantities of helium are produced as a byproduct of radioactive decay at nuclear power plants but it is not economically viable to retrieve it.

Dushmany said,
I thought there was a way of making helium, from hydrogen via some sort of method (I don't know the method)

That would be fusion. Sadly the fusion reactors we have at the moment produce very little helium.

"theyarecomingforyou said,
Academics have long been warning of the shortage of helium," "Unless serious changes are made we risk running out of it within 30 years, "

Man, in 30 years, the advance in technology will make it impossible to have shortage of helium. When we went to the moon, we found out there was more helium trap in regolith there then on earth. So ounce we get rid of Obama and his stupid policy of wasting our money on Solyndra and lining the pocket of his friend, we will be refunding NASA appropriately and in 30 years, we might just be mining the moon for helium.

M4x1mus said,
That would be fusion. Sadly the fusion reactors we have at the moment produce very little helium.

It's mostly because we have very little helium 3 here compare to the helium 4 which we have plenty. Ounce we go mine the moon, there plenty of helium 3 there, those fusion reactor will humming.

theyarecomingforyou said,
That, and is it really responsible to be using helium? Academics have long been warning of the shortage of helium, which is used for essential devices like MRI scanners and research projects like the Large Hadron Collider.

How about we just stop having party balloons instead? I'd opt to use it for a Hard Drive that is used for productivity instead of wasted. You argue the LHC is important but miss the fact that they are 1 of the organizations testing and using it. Your a bundle of contradictions.

Captain555 said,

It's mostly because we have very little helium 3 here compare to the helium 4 which we have plenty. Ounce we go mine the moon, there plenty of helium 3 there, those fusion reactor will humming.

Fusion reactors run on hydrogen. They make helium by fusing two hydrogen atoms. If we go to the moon and get helium 3 that will make no difference to how well our fusion reactors work. As it stands, we don't have any that remain operational for more than a few seconds.

M4x1mus said,
Fusion reactors run on hydrogen. They make helium by fusing two hydrogen atoms. If we go to the moon and get helium 3 that will make no difference to how well our fusion reactors work. As it stands, we don't have any that remain operational for more than a few seconds.

Exactly, that why they want to switch to Helium fusion instead of Hydrogen. Google it.