With a hard drive’s physical size not getting any larger, there comes a point that you can only see up to a certain amount of drive space. Drive platters have a limited areal density and manufacturers have already reached its capacity.
But does this mean we cannot see drives exceeding 2TB? Or larger space on a 2.5″ hard drive? Not really, thanks to Western Digital’s Advance Format Technology.
Currently, hard disk platters use chunks of 512 bytes with each having its own Sync/DAM and ECC, header and tail sectors if you will, that cuts the amount of usable space of a disk by about 7-11%. This architecture is ancient and can still be improved.
With Advance Format Technology, each sector is increased to 4096 bytes instead of 512, thus decreasing the overheard required by the legacy architecture.
What does this mean for the consumer really?
Right now, the only possible advantage of having Advance Format Technology on your drive is the increase in efficiency which improves error rate capability thanks to the longer ECC or error correct code per sector.
Consequently, this technology enables manufacturer to cram more space into a single platter so we can expect larger capacity in the future which will lower the price of current drives.
Another big advantage is improved performance. A Western Digital Caviar Green (low-rpm) with Advance Format can perform closely with a Caviar Black (7200rpm) which is a high performance drive. [Source]
So if you’re planning to buy a new disk soon, look for one with Advance Format Technology. Do note that if you’re using Windows XP, you need to download a supporting software to align the drive. Other OS are Advance Format-ready.
Let’s just hope that other manufacturers will follow suit.