What could be better than a two terabyte drive?
Actually the answer may not be as simple as a 3TB drive. Seagate senior product manager Barbara Craig confirmed the massive HDD's existence to Thinq late last night saying "we are announcing a 3TB drive later this year", but it comes with two huge caveats.
1. Only 64bit Windows 7, Vista, Mac OS X and "modified versions of Linux" will be able to read drives larger than 2.1TB. According to Seagate this is because - brace yourself for the sciency bit - the LBA (logical block addressing) standard built into the original version of DOS (yes, it's apparently still a factor) cannot assign enough addresses (identifiers) to all the sections of a drive beyond 2.1TB. In 64bit systems a 'Long LBA' circumvents this.
So say goodbye 32bit OSes and - even worse - these OSes can't even see 2.1TB if a 3TB drive is fitted. Instead Craig points out just 990 megabytes is recognised based on their tests, so it's a complete fail. The problem also affects RAID setups with Long LBA compatible drivers also required and don't even get started on the complexities of NAS support.
2. Even if you do have a 64bit OS, you won't be able to use a 3TB HDD as a boot drive unless you have a GUID partition table (GPT) which is currently limited to UEFI capable motherboards. UEFI has been knocking around for ages, but widespread support is still some way off. Does your mobo support it?
Yes the demand for 3TB hard drives is going to be niche initially, but more worrying is that the tech sector seems horribly unprepared for it. Given that we reviewed our first 2TB HDD (the Western Digital Caviar Green back in January 2009), you'd have thought the industry would have done more to get us ready.
Perhaps the most interesting knock-on effect in all this could be the boost this bottleneck gives to SSDs. With HDDs' rise beyond 2.1TB seemingly hamstrung for the near future it gives solid state drives time to both increase capacity and come down in price, time HDD manufacturers must be dreading...