What you need to know before getting a 3TB hard disk

So you decided to spend some of your hard-earned cash to purchase another hard disk. One that can support your growing collection of movies and photos for eons to come. And what’s the largest capacity available to consumers right now? 3 terabytes! That can hold around 4500 movies (assuming a movie is 700MB in size).

western digital 3tb caviar green

But wait! Before you get excited, here are some things you need to know before getting that 3TB drive. It’s not as simple as slapping it inside your machine and connecting the necessary cables. There are some restrictions and additional stuff to be done before you can freely use a hard drive that is larger than 2.2TB.

Here are the restrictions you need to know when using drives that are larger than 2.2TB:

  • Windows XP (both 32-bit and 64-bit) doesn’t like to play with >2.2TB storage
  • 32-bit Windows Vista and Windows 7 can only support >2.2TB as secondary drives, no problem with 64-bit
  • Linux OS have no problems at all
  • Mac OS 10.5 and 10.6 won’t have any problem although it won’t work with Apple Bootcamp
  • If you wish to boot on a >2.2TB drive, you need to have a Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) firmware on your system and a 64-bit OS

Host Bus Adapter (HBA) card required

Even if you have Windows 7 and a new system, there’s still one critical component that you need and that’s a Host Bus Adapter card. HBA cards are bundled with 2.5TB or 3TB hard drive purchases. If you’re buying a second hand drive, make sure you ask for the HBA card as well.

Host Bus Adapter

The HBA card has the following roles:

  • Avoids incompatibilities with system BIOS and 3rd party storage drivers (Intel and NVidia not capable today)
  • Ensures protection to the users existing Primary drive by not disturbing its configuration during installation
  • HBA provides UEFI support for enabling boot support for 64 bit OS when Motherboard also supports UEFI

>2.2TB Compatibility Chart

Sounds complicated? Here’s a chart I got from Western Digital (click to enlarge) to help you understand much better:


*1 Presently WD does not directly provide support for these applications. We have worked extensively with our partners and solutions may be available. HBA and RAID Controller vendors may have developed solutions for these applications.
*2 Linux solutions are available. Please consult your Operating System provider for use with Large Capacity drives.
*3 An available PCI-E slot for the HBA is required. Supported by using the native Windows Advanced Host Controller Interface (AHCI) drivers only.
*4 Apple Bootcamp is presently not supported. Support is limited to the operating system only.
*5 Boot support requires a system with UEFI Support and a 64 bit version of the OS.
*6 Check with USB Bridge provider to verify if and how Large Drives are supported.

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