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Why are major storage vendors filling their hard drives with helium?


Storage vendor Seagate has announced a new hard drive, one with a 10TB capacity, that is filled with helium.

What’s curious is not just that the manufacturer chose to use the noble gas – which scientists have now deemed a non-renewable resource – but also that it’s not the first vendor to do so.

Ars Technica reports that the enterprise-oriented 3.5-inch hard drive, which is not yet commercially available, is similar in scope and function to Western Digital HGST’s own 10TB drive, but the latter has been selling helium-laden devices since 2013.

The reason why helium is significant is that, as it is lighter than air, in a sealed container, it produces less friction, thereby improving power efficiency and reliability.  In Seagate’s drive, this drove Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF) from 2 to 2.5 million hours, and allowed an additional platter to be inserted into the drive, increasing capacity to 10TB in both companies’ products.

Ars reports that two versions of Seagate’s product, at 6Gb/s SATA and 12Gb/s SAS have only limited release to Alibaba and Huawei, but they are expected to cost around $800.