Seagate wants to help you build your own Library of Alexandria--or maybe just store your entire Steam library locally. According to a company roadmap published by Hexus, the company plans to introduce 50TB hard drives "early next decade," with HDDs boasting capacities up to 100TB expected to arrive sometime around 2025.
Those future high-capacity HDDs would be made using Seagate's Heat Assisted Magnetic Recording (HAMR) technology. Or at least HAMR would be used to establish the foundation--the proposed 100TB drives would have to combine the technology with bit-patterned media to create the Heated-Dot Magnetic Recording (HDMR) technology that promises to enable even greater storage density at the cost of a much-less-catchy acronym.
HAMR essentially uses tiny lasers to rapidly heat recording bits over 400C, making it easier to magnetize the media. The bits cool just as rapidly--they're only subjected to the heat for a nanosecond--but the effects linger. (See more on HAMR and how it works in our previous coverage.) In 2017 Seagate announced its plans to release 20TB drives in 2019 and 40TB drives in 2023. Now those expectations are even higher.
Not that Seagate's the only company pushing HDD capacities over the next few years. Western Digital has a competitive technology called Microwave Assisted Magnetic Recording (MAMR) that offers similar promises of massive amounts of storage. The company doesn't plan to bring MAMR hard drives to the consumer market, though, with its focus remaining on high capacity HDDs for enterprise use and SSDs for consumers.
The enterprise market is where these high-capacity hard drives are likely to have the most impact anyway. Many consumers have shifted over to SSDs in recent years for several reasons, including declining prices and their appeal to our collective impatience. HDDs still have their place--especially when it comes to backing up large amounts of data. But unless you have several terabytes of files that you need to store locally, we still recommend SSDs for most consumers.
Still, it wouldn't be surprising to see these high capacity HDDs trickle down to consumers eventually. As people continue to shift to digital media and accumulate decades of family photos and video, hard drives will still have their place because they offer the best dollars-to-data ratio. We'll know more about these future bit buckets as Seagate and Western Digital's HAMR and MAMR (and eventually HDMR) hard drives get closer to reality in the coming years.