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Seagate ships Window XP-friendly 3TB hard drive

Seagate announces the standalone version of its 3TB hard drive with software that allows the drive to work with Windows XP.

Seagate's DiskWizard software allows you to allocate the amount of storage that Windows XP otherwise wouldn't recognize on a 3TB hard drive.
Seagate's DiskWizard software allows you to allocate the amount of storage that Windows XP otherwise wouldn't recognize on a 3TB hard drive. Screenshot by Dong Ngo/CNET

Back in June 2010, Seagate shipped the first 3TB hard drive, the Barracuda XT, which was only available in external storage options, such as an external hard drive or the BlackArmor NAS servers. Today the company announced the first standalone version of the same drive that consumers can buy and use with their desktop computers.

Seagate has a good reason for the delay, however. The company says it wanted take time and find an easy way to make the hard drive support Windows XP, which is still popular, including using the drive as the system's main hard drive. Prior to this, both Western Digital and Hitachi announced 3TB hard drives with different approaches to supporting legacy operating systems. Neither allows for booting, however.

The reason for this incompatibility is that 32-bit Windows operating systems generally use only the legacy master boot record (MBR), which has a cap partition size of 2.19TB, to manage the hard drive. This means that the system won't see more than 2.19TB of storage, regardless of how much larger the hard drive's actual capacity is.

On top of that, Windows computers that use BIOS (basic input/output system)-based motherboards, which are the majority of computers on the market, can't boot from a volume that's larger than 2.19TB, either, because of the limitation of BIOS protocols. While this problem can be solved in the near future by replacing MBR with GUID Partition Table and BIOS with the new Extensible Firmware Interface, there are still many existing computers, especially those that run Windows XP, that would miss out on the top storage capacity. Unless they use the new Barracuda XT, that is.

Seagate claims that its new DiscWizard software allows you to use the new 3TB drive's entire capacity, even when the hard drive is used as a bootable main drive. Once the OS has been installed on the new hard drive on a partition that the OS can recognize, which is smaller than 3TB, you can install DiscWizard, which includes special drivers that allow the OS to recognize the rest of the hard drive's capacity and turn that into a second partition.

In other words, you will be able to use the 3TB Barracuda XT with Windows XP, as a main hard drive, in two separate partitions that total 3TB, but not as a single 3TB volume. While this is not a perfect solution, it's a good one, considering that Western Digital's 3TB hard drive requires an add-in card and still can only work as a secondary hard drive in a computer. When used with EFI and Windows Vista/7 64-bit version, the 3TB Barracuda XT will function like a normal 3TB hard drive.

Other than this, the Barracuda XT hard drive sports a 64MB cache, uses the top-tier Serial ATA 6Gbps interface, and spins at 7,200rpm. It's designed for high-end desktop gaming and storage-intensive computers. The hard drive is available now, and comes with a five-year warranty. It's slated to cost $279.