If recently reviewed solid-state drives, such as the OCZ Vertex 3, are notable for their extreme speed and high cost per gigabyte, the Seagate Barracuda XT is distinguished by its extreme storage space and affordability. The drive offers up to 3TB, the largest hard drive currently available, at just around $240 or 8 cents per gigabyte, and its performance is excellent for a traditional platter-based hard drive. Supporting the latest SATA 6Gbps (SATA 3) standard, in our testing it was one of the fastest consumer-grade hard drives we've seen.
If you're looking for a quiet hard drive that offers top capacity, backward compatibility, and fast performance, at a price that won't break your bank, the Seagate Barracuda XT is the way to go. The drive works well as either the main or the secondary hard drive for a desktop, especially one with built-in support for SATA 3 and an EFI-based motherboard.
Design and features
|Drive type||3.5-inch hard drive|
|Connector options||SATA 3Gbps, SATA 6Gbps|
|Available capacities||2TB, 3TB|
|Product dimensions||3.5-inch standard|
|Capacity of test unit||3TB|
|OSes supported||Windows, Mac, Linux|
The Barracuda XT is the 25.4-millimeter-thick, 3.5-inch standard size, like most other SATA desktop hard drives. On the inside it comes with 64MB of cache memory and spins at 7,200rpm. In addition to supporting SATA 3, the drive also works with the existing SATA standards, including the popular SATA 2 (3Gbps) and SATA (1.5Gbps).
The Barracuda XT isn't the first 3TB hard drive on the market but it's the first that comes with convenient support for Windows XP. Due to legacy standards, Windows XP- and BIOS-based computers can only manage storage devices of up to 2.19GB. For this reason, other hard drive vendors, such as Western Digital, offer a special controller card enabling older operating systems to fully recognize hard drives that are larger than 2.19GB. Seagate Technology, however, takes a different and easier approach.
With the 3TB Barracuda XT comes Seagate's free downloadable DiscWizard software, a rebranded version of Acronis' Disk Director suite that, among other things, enables a Windows XP system to recognize the new 3TB hard drive as multiple partitions or logical drives that have combined total storage of 3TB. Note that the software is not necessary with the 2TB version of the Barracuda XT, which is natively supported by Windows XP.
We tried out a 3TB hard drive with Windows XP and found DiscWizard an easy and interesting fix. We first used the drive as a secondary hard drive and later as the main hard drive hosting the OS. Note that hard-drive vendors use a decimal system for measuring storage space while computers use binary, so what a vendor calls a 3TB hard drive actually offers only about 2.8GB of storage space. This is why the numbers won't seem to add up in the review.
When used as the secondary hard drive, the 3TB Barracuda XT was initially recognized as a 0.73TB drive by Windows XP. Once DiscWizard had been installed on the system, however, Windows XP now recognized the 3TB Barracuda XT as two separate hard drives of 0.73TB and 2TB. These drives could then be formatted and used just like any other hard drives of those capacities.
When we tried making the 3TB Barracuda XT the main hard drive of the computer, the installation process of Windows XP again saw it as one hard drive of just 0.73TB. We proceeded normally and waited till the installation of the operating system was complete to install DiscWizard. After that, the hard drive was now recognized as two separate hard drives as described above. However, the 0.73TB partition (aka logical drive) that hosted the operating system was considered part of the 2TB drive and it wasn't possible to extend it to take over the rest of the unallocated space. The only way to use this space is to turn it into another 1.3TB partition, which we did. In the end, we ended up with three separate partitions: the bootable 0.73TB (for the OS) and the 1.3TB are on the first "physical" hard drive. The third 0.73TB partition belongs to the second "physical" drive.
While this may seem a little confusing to those unfamiliar with the process, it's the easiest way for Windows XP to take advantage of a 3TB hard drive. If you feel this is too much work, however, you can avoid this by using the 2TB version of the Barracuda XT.
(Note that if you move a 3TB Barracuda XT that has been "fixed" by DiscWizard to another computer, it won't be recognized the way it's intended to be until DiscWizard is installed on that computer also.)
Unlike with Windows XP, the 3TB Barracuda XT works very well with Windows Vista and Windows 7. You do need to format it using a GPT partition if you want to use it as a secondary hard drive, and the OS will prompt you to. In order to use the 3TB Barracuda XT as the boot hard drive with its full storage space being recognized as one logical drive, a system with EFI-enabled motherboard is needed.