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Hitachi announce plans for 4TB desktop

A 1TB notebook drive and a 4TB desktop drive capable of holding a million MP3 tracks could be on sale by 2011, Hitachi has announced.

Storage maker Hitachi has announced that the latest innovations in hard disk manufacturing will allow it to squeeze up to 4TB into a single drive within four years.

These innovations will be made possible thanks to the development of the world's smallest read-head technology for hard disk drives. The heads have been reduced in size, making them 2,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair.

The new technology, current perpendicular-to-the-plane giant magneto-resistive (CPP-GMR) heads, will quadruple current storage capacity limits, and is expected to be implemented into shipping products by 2009 and reach its full potential by 2011.

The rush to push forward the advances in hard disk technology requires developers to put more data bits onto the recording media, demanding that the heads become smaller. Unfortunately, smaller heads create more noise output, compromising the ability to correctly read the data signal.

To fix this problem, Hitachi developed a high electron-spin-scattering magnetic film material to increase the signal output from the head, along with new technology for damage-free fine patterning and noise suppression. These innovations improved the signal-to-noise ration, paving the way for the technological breakthrough.

"Hitachi continues to invest in deep research for the advancement of hard disk drives as we believe there is no other technology capable of providing the hard drive's high-capacity, low-cost value for the foreseeable future," said Hiroaki Odawara, research director at Hitachi's storage technology research centre.

Earlier this year Hitachi began shipping the world's first retail hard drive with a full terabyte, known as the Deskstar 7K1000.

Hitachi will put its accomplishments on display this week at the Perpendicular Magnetic Recording Conference at the Tokyo International Forum.

The CPP-GMR acronym may look familiar to some. That's because GMR technology, initially discovered in 1988, recently won Albert Fert of France and Peter Grunberg of Germany the Nobel prize in physics last week.

These GMR heads have spurred the hard disk's consistent capacity growth, which peaked in the early 2000s when capacity was doubling every year. Today that number has slowed down, and Hitachi believes with the current hard disk innovations consumers can expect the doubling to occur every two years.

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