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Secondary Storage: Western Digital Caviar Green 3 TB

Tom's Hardware's 2010 Gift Guide: Part 1, For System Builders
By: Andy Patrizio

Mass storage vendors have hit a wall in terms of hard disk capacity, and for once it's not their problem. Some parts of the PC architecture are positively ancient, one of them being the limit of logical block addressing (LBA), which dates back to the 1980s. Right now, we're looking at a 2.2 TB limit imposed by Microsoft's Windows operating system.

It's actually somewhat humorous that we're in the situation we're in today, as >2 TB hard drives shouldn't have come as a surprise to anyone. However, if you want to boot from a hard drive larger than 2.2 TB, you need a motherboard with UEFI support and a 64-bit OS. There's no way around that. Unfortunately, as you probably know already, there aren't very many boards out there with UEFI yet. Motherboard vendors have frustratingly dragged their feet on this one. The good news is that, starting in 2011, we should be seeing a much more rapid adoption--already we know for a fact that many of the P67-based platforms expected to launch during CES will offer UEFI implementations. 

More good news: the way we're recommending you use Western Digital's Caviar Green isn't as a boot drive at all. Instead, we want the fast OCZ RevoDrive X2 loading Windows and hosting our performance-sensitive apps. A pair of Western Digital's disks step in after that to hold our important information--documents, music, videos, and so on. Three terabytes is a ton, so there's no shame in putting these in RAID 1 to protect all of those irreplaceable zeros and ones.

To that end, Western Digital bundles its 3 TB disk with a PCI Express-based AHCI-enabled HBA that allows 64- and 32-bit operation systems to create and recognize the drive's total capacity. You'll need Windows Vista or 7, but that shouldn't be a problem. As an added bonus, Linux and Mac OS X 10.6 are supported, too.

Western Digital's highest-capacity drive achieves its record-breaking 3 TB figure using 750 GB platters. It features a 64 MB data cache, and still uses the SATA 3Gb/s interface. Don't expect that to be a bottleneck, though. As you already know, it takes a high-end SSD to tax interface bandwidth. WD doesn't give specific details on this disk's rotational speed, but we do know its IntelliPower technology throttles somewhere between 7200 and 5400 RPM. According to the company, RPM control, transfer rate adjustments, and caching all fall under the IntelliPower feature set, balancing power and performance. 

The 3 TB unit draws 6 W during read/write operations and 5.5 W at idle, while the Western Digital Blue family, which is more performance-intensive, burns 6.8 W during reads and writes, and 6 W when idle. The high-end Black lineup draws 10.7 W during use and idles at 8.2 W. We're looking at a relative power-sipper here, though perhaps that matters less in the context of our high-end graphics cards and 130 W CPUs.

With the operating system and performance-sensitive apps on an SSD, the 3 TB drives should provide you with plenty of storage for whatever it is you probably shouldn't be downloading. And the RAID 1 setup ensures all of that data will remain safe, even if the Feds drop one disk when they exercise their warrant.

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