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New Harddrives May Force Windows XP Upgrades

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 95 comments

A change in hard drive format may force Windows XP users to upgrade to Windows 7.

An article provided by BBC News paints a rather grim picture for Windows XP consumers. It may seem that those still clinging to the fear that Windows 7 will eventually pan out to be another Windows Vista may have no choice but to take the upgrade plunge thanks to the evolution of the hard drive. This won't mean an early death of XP by any means, but more of a performance hit despite other system specs.

Here's how it will work: most hard drives sold in late 2011 may use an advanced format that will make it easier for hard drive manufacturers to produce bigger drives while making them more reliable and less power hungry. Of course, this is a good thing. Bigger games, bigger software, and our addiction to downloadable media means that hard drives need to keep up with the times. Unfortunately, this is where Windows XP comes crashing down in flames.

Current drives are formatted into blocks of 512 bytes in size--this has been standard since the days DOS ruled PCs. By the end of 2011, all new hard drives will be formatted into blocks of 4K in size. Windows XP doesn't know how to handle sectors of that magnitude. To resolve the conflict, the new drives will have the ability to "pretend" they still use sectors 512 bytes in size. Reading data via the emulation isn't expected to be a problem: it's the data writing that may impact performance.

"All other things being equal you will have a noticeable hard drive reduction in performance," said David Burks, a product marketing manager for storage firm Seagate. He also added that it could make a drive 10-percent slower in some circumstances.

With that said, Windows XP users may have some decision-making to do next year if their current drives fail: purchase a new drive and suffer a reduction in performance via Windows XP, or purchase the new drive and a fresh copy of Windows 7.

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  • 22 Hide
    Bolbi , March 10, 2010 2:35 PM
    I recommend the new drive + Windows 7 option. I used XP on several computers and skipped Vista myself (though I did use it some on other computers). All you XP users, Win7 is no Vista! IMO, it combines the usability, eye candy, and security of Vista with the speed, un-annoyingness, and reliability of XP. Plus, on one of my PC's, Win7 was actually faster than XP! In the end, I highly recommend XP users making the switch to Win7. I have and don't regret it.
  • 10 Hide
    frozenlead , March 10, 2010 3:03 PM
    shadow187Considering that Windows 7 forced people to upgrade to an nVidian 7XXX+ or ATI 4XXX+, it makes sense that people will start to realize that their software is out-of-date.


    What are you talking about? No it didn't...besides, those two GPU series aren't even in the same class.
  • 10 Hide
    tsnor , March 10, 2010 3:31 PM
    Tekkie9If you align your partitions correctly, you should not have any problems using the new drives with XP.


    True.

    And some 4K sector drives have a jumper that aligns XP at the total cost of 1 sector wasted to get the correct boundary alignment. This article is not good -- it just promotes fear in XP users who do not follow disk technology.
Other Comments
  • 22 Hide
    Bolbi , March 10, 2010 2:35 PM
    I recommend the new drive + Windows 7 option. I used XP on several computers and skipped Vista myself (though I did use it some on other computers). All you XP users, Win7 is no Vista! IMO, it combines the usability, eye candy, and security of Vista with the speed, un-annoyingness, and reliability of XP. Plus, on one of my PC's, Win7 was actually faster than XP! In the end, I highly recommend XP users making the switch to Win7. I have and don't regret it.
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , March 10, 2010 2:52 PM
    It is Vista its just Service Pack 2. I will admit that it is better. However, to say it is no Vista is inaccurate. Look under the hood its basically Vista that has had a tuneup. This is what Vista should have looked like when it was released
  • -5 Hide
    shadow187 , March 10, 2010 2:53 PM
    If it's only 10% slower, than many people won't switch. Now if, let's say, the hard drives ran at 40+% slower, then perhaps people would switch. Considering that Windows 7 forced people to upgrade to an nVidian 7XXX+ or ATI 4XXX+, it makes sense that people will start to realize that their software is out-of-date.
  • 6 Hide
    jonpaul37 , March 10, 2010 2:54 PM
    completely agree with Bolbi, Win 7 uses the best of both Win XP & Win Vista, wilh no draw-backs. I've not had one issue yet with Win 7 and i have tested since Beta.
  • 6 Hide
    jackward , March 10, 2010 3:02 PM
    late 2011,, that a long ways off really.. and you will still be able to get old school drives for a while I bet.. XP isn't dead yet by a long shot. (And Windows 7 so far isn't all that bad either and out to have the few bugs there are so far wrung out by the end of next year.)

    The big news here is bigger faster drives
  • 1 Hide
    ricardok , March 10, 2010 3:02 PM
    jonpaul37I've not had one issue yet with Win 7 and i have tested since Beta.

    Same here.. Using vista since the Beta (leaked one - before the official release) and all is good.. Can't complain at all.

    I've also skipped Vista on my desktop (but still uses it on my notebook - bundled)..
  • 0 Hide
    OvrClkr , March 10, 2010 3:03 PM
    well there goes my dual boot option.. XP will always be my fav OS regardless, oh well, RIP XP..
  • 10 Hide
    frozenlead , March 10, 2010 3:03 PM
    shadow187Considering that Windows 7 forced people to upgrade to an nVidian 7XXX+ or ATI 4XXX+, it makes sense that people will start to realize that their software is out-of-date.


    What are you talking about? No it didn't...besides, those two GPU series aren't even in the same class.
  • -5 Hide
    Tomtompiper , March 10, 2010 3:03 PM
    Microsoft have been selling XP up until the launch of Windows7, they should support their customers with an upgrade to enable the full use of these hard drives. If not people should buy the drive and install an alternative OS.
  • 8 Hide
    cryogenic , March 10, 2010 3:03 PM
    Last I checked Windows XP can read and write 4k block just fine (actually 4K block size is the default for NTFS for drives above 2GB) http://support.microsoft.com/kb/314878


  • -4 Hide
    Anonymous , March 10, 2010 3:05 PM
    Even bigger problem, the OSs including 7 file system need to be redesigned. Have u ever had an disk issue with just 1 block of 512k byte data. But kills the file table, hundreds of file get corrupted or truncated.

    With 4k block size, it will destroy any chance of minimal corruption to the file system.
  • -4 Hide
    judeh101 , March 10, 2010 3:09 PM
    Hey Kevin, if we needed to upgrade our hard drives, doesn't that mean it's already time to upgrade our OSes?
  • -1 Hide
    jrrdmchls , March 10, 2010 3:09 PM
    Just one more reason to swicth to linux :) 
  • -4 Hide
    gamerk316 , March 10, 2010 3:11 PM
    I can't switch my main OS; I still use 16-bit programs [lets face it: Most modern games stink], so I'm permenantly locked on XP.
  • 4 Hide
    cscott_it , March 10, 2010 3:14 PM
    Well, when they can't play games on XP is when you'll see a nice chunk go to 7.

    I recall seeing the same trend when so many jumped the 98 ship.
  • 2 Hide
    jrrdmchls , March 10, 2010 3:19 PM
    Well I'm personally new to Linux I recently swtiched when my vista box crashed. Ive heard of running windows programs in an emulation mode. Ive never doen it but this possibly may solve your problem. But please dont shoot me if I'm wrong lol.
  • 9 Hide
    kenwheeler77 , March 10, 2010 3:22 PM
    tomtompiperMicrosoft have been selling XP up until the launch of Windows7, they should support their customers with an upgrade to enable the full use of these hard drives. If not people should buy the drive and install an alternative OS.


    XP is 9 years old and has now been deemed a "legacy" OS by Microsoft. Technology is nowhere near what it was 9 years ago. How long do you want a manufacturer to keep making upgrades (not bug patches, mind you)? They have to concentrate on the next level of technology and no matter how much XP is in use, how stable it is, etc., it is not, and does not have the capacity to be the "next level of technology". We'll be going through all this again in another 7-9 years... when XP won't even be a gleam in your eye...

    so get off your duff and quit trying to hold others back that are embracing new technology for all of the goodness that it provides.

    BTW, doesn't this article SUGGEST that a user either deal with the slower access/write speeds or install Windows 7?.... isn't Windows 7 (as you put it) an "alternative OS"?

  • 5 Hide
    Richeemxx , March 10, 2010 3:22 PM
    By the time this actually has any affect on users we'll be running Windows 8, 9 or 10. Even if XP couldn't use the new drives users will still have access to plenty of older drives that will be running far longer than the support cycle for the OS. So IMO this isn't an issue at all!
  • 7 Hide
    Anonymous , March 10, 2010 3:23 PM
    If you align your partitions correctly, you should not have any problems using the new drives with XP.
  • 1 Hide
    war2k9 , March 10, 2010 3:25 PM
    I have no problem to upgrade as long as the next windows is not vista.
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