Helium-Filled Hitachi Disk Drives

After more than 50 years of running on air, hard disk drives are getting a boost from helium.

After eight years of development and investigation, Western Digital will release a new hard drive filled with helium that will increase drive capacity and decrease power consumption. The new technology will be released by WD-subsidiary Hitachi Global Storage Technologies (HGST) as early as next year.

Helium-filled Hitachi Disk Drives to Hit Market in 2013

At one-seventh of the density of air, helium appears to be a viable method of improving Hitachi disk drive technology. By sealing the disk form and filling it with helium, Western Digital and Hitachi can increase drive capacity by as much as 40%.

Helium technology improves the traditional disk drive by practically eliminating internal turbulence so more disk platters can be added to the same disk form. The sealed disk form can be also used in more strenuous work conditions because humidity and other contaminants cannot affect the disk drive.

Ideal for enterprise data centers and public cloud systems, the helium-filled Hitachi disk drives provide an excellent platform for cold data storage. Helium-filled disk drives are expected to benefit users by providing increased drive capacity, a lower cost-per-gigabyte, reduced operating temperatures, and lower power consumption.

Helium Drives Provide Power Benefits

Enterprise data centers can benefit from helium-filled disk drives with reduced operating temperatures and more efficient power consumption.

Helium also helps to decrease internal friction within the drive to reduce power consumption by 23%. While a five-platter drive will draw 6.9 watts of power in an idle state, the helium disk drives draw only 5.3 watts to operate in the same way. Decreased power consumption can help enterprises reduce the cost of operating their hardware and do more with the budget they have.

Due to reduced drag on disk platters, the new Hitachi disk drives operate at temperatures which are four to five degrees cooler than traditional drives to help enterprises reduce cooling expenses and save on operating costs.

Will the Helium Shortage Affect the New Disk Drive Technology?

With decreased levels of helium in the US reserve, the second most abundant element helium has typically been readily available in the reserve. However, increased demand coupled with a lack of interest in private-industry helium production has resulted in a helium shortage.

It is not yet known if the current US helium shortage will have an effect on the price or production levels of helium-filled disk drives.

Click here to read more about the helium-filled Hitachi disk drive from Western Digital and to learn more about the helium shortage.


Looking to upgrade your SAN storage capacity? Reliant Technology can provide new, used, and refurbished capacity solutions that meet the needs of your enterprise SAN environment. Talk to a dedicated Reliant Storage Specialist today.