Solid state drives are faster, quieter, and more durable than hard drives, so it’s no surprise that most laptops and many other PCs ship with SSDs instead of HDDs these days. But hard drives still offer more bang for your buck when it comes to storage capacity, and hard drive makers keep pushing the technology to allow users to store more and more data on a single disk.

So it’s easy to think of SSDs as ideal for performance, while HDDs are better for archiving data for long-term storage.

But Seagate has come up with a way to increase hard drive speeds that could keep them in the performance game.

In a nutshell, Seagate’s new Multi Actuator technology can read and write data up to twice as quickly as a traditional single actuator.

Hard drives store data on physical platters, and the actuator the part that moves a set of heads over the surface of that platter to read and write data. Usually there’s a single arm with multiple heads… but since those heads are connected to the same arm, they move together.

Seagate’s new system has two actuators, each with its own set of heads. That means they can act independently and read and write data to a different part of the drive at the same time… giving you up to twice the performance.

Theoretically adding even more actuators could speed things up even more, but Seagate is starting with dual actuator systems.

The company says a computer will essentially treat a single drive with dual actuators as if it were two drives writing data to and from both of them simultaneously, while reporting the drive as a single device to the user (so you’d see a C drive, not a C and D drive, for instance).

Seagate isn’t saying when the first Multi Actuator drives will be ready to go, but it’ll probably be a while before you see this kind of technology in consumer laptop or desktop products… if you ever do.

Seagate is initially targeting data centers and other operations that require high performance, high-capacity data storage. Multi Actuator drives still won’t offer the kind of speed we expect from solid state drives, but they’ll help users work with large amounts of data more quickly.

via Tom’s Hardware

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8 replies on “Seagate’s future hard drives could be (up to) twice as fast”

  1. In a nutshell…when you stop and think about it, there looks to be no increase in speed. They have just partitioned the platters into separate drives….boring! You can’t increase speed unless you improve the actuator read/write times (or invent some new kind of PMR) or..(drumroll please!) add a second set of actuators! Something I visualized several years ago. I’m no HDD designer but I would imagine it wouldn’t be that hard to implement (I was thinking of using it as a back up for crashed heads, like a DIE HARD battery for a car). But now with SSDs being all awesome and stuff, no one cares! I’m going home, been here too long, night!

  2. sounds like a good old fashioned kludge to me being hyped in advance by marketing. Anyway with my past experience of unreliability of Seagate’s products I can’t see me buying any of these.

  3. Reading the blog post on Seagate, this will improve random I/O, but not necessarily sequential performance.

  4. I don’t get it. They don’t read data from each platter at the same time now? I assume the platters spin in sync with other in both single and dual actuator cases.

    I’m obviously not a hard disk drive expert.

    1. Depends on the MTBF for the actuator arms compared to other components of the drive. But it does seem like the failure rate would be higher.

    2. I’ll bet it doean’t significantly increase failure rate, if main sources of failure are heads, heads crashing on discs, or disc drive motors/bearings. Think of it as splitting an actuator that moves say 8 heads in half, so 2 actuators each move 4 heads.
      But I am not clear why they can’t use a single actuator and read data in parallel from all heads at once, so an 8-head drive would get the equivalent of an 8-fold rpm increase.

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