Notebook drives to slim down

IBM's Almaden labs demonstrate ultraslim hard drive technology that could eventually be used in notebook PCs.

Brooke Crothers Former CNET contributor
Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.
Brooke Crothers
Researchers at IBM's Almaden labs have demonstrated ultraslim hard drive technology that could eventually be used in notebook PCs and store three times the amount of today's large-capacity disks.

The technology is expected to yield hard drives for server computers that store many times the amount of data offered today.

IBM (IBM) says its demonstration hard drive used "product level" components in achieving a density of 5 gigabits per square inch. This would allow IBM to commercialize a 2.5-inch notebook hard drive for notebook PCs that holds up to 6GB of data.

By comparison, IBM's most advanced drive in production, a 2.5-inch drive for notebook computers, can store 1.44 gigabits per square inch for a total capacity of 1.6GB.

To pack bits together more tightly, researchers created a drive that uses a special magnetic alloy that coats an aluminum disk and an advanced version of the drive recording head already used in IBM drives. IBM researchers said the test also yielded high accuracy rates in read-write operations of one error in 1 billion operations.

IBM also said this technology could yield a nine-disk, 3.5-inch drive that could hold a whopping 55GB of data. Currently, hard drives with large data capacities from companies like Seagate provide more than 9GB of storage.

Still, it is not clear how soon these drives will be delivered to consumers. Products using the 5-gigabit-per-square-inch technology won't arrive until IBM delivers the first wave of its next-generation drives based on 3-gigabit-per-square-inch technology in the next few years.