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Western Digital ships first helium-filled 6TB 3.5-inch hard drives

updated 04:20 pm EST, Mon November 4, 2013

New drives increase data density, lower operating temperatures

Western Digital today announced that after a year in development, it is shipping the 6TB Ultrastar He6 enterprise-class hard disk drive. Taking advantage of the inherent benefits of helium, which is one-seventh the density of air, the new Ultrastar He6 drive features Western Digital's 7Stac disk design with 6TB, making it the world's highest-capacity HDD aimed at cloud storage, massive scale deployments, disk-to-disk backup, and replicated or RAID environments in a data center environment.

Normal 3.5-inch hard drives, while sealed against dust impingement, are still blanketed in air. The helium-filled and hermetically-sealed drive dramatically reduces the turbulence caused by the spinning disk, cuts power consumption and results in a lower temperature within the disk drive.

With 6TB, 5.3 idle watts, running at 4C-5C cooler than air-filled HDDs, with a weight of 640g and using either SATA or SAS connections, the new Ultrastar He6 lowers data center costs on virtually every level. Key benefits when compared to a 3.5-inch, five-platter, air-filled 4TB drive include 23 percent lower idle power per drive , 49 percent better watts-per-TB, and the best data density in a standard 3.5-inch form factor.

The 6TB HGST Ultrastar He6 hard drives will be available in the next few days. Drive pricing is not available, and will be tied to commodity pricing of helium -- a resource that is rapidly dwindling.

By Electronista Staff


  1. bjojade

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 06-07-07

    Drive pricing tied to helium price? Now how much helium are they really putting inside the drives? It can't really fluctuate THAT much to make a significant price difference of the drives.

  1. jpellino

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 10-29-99

    Excuse me if I'm not an early adopter on this one...

  1. coffeetime

    Senior User

    Joined: 11-15-06

    Helium filled.....that's unusual and interesting. That enclosure is better super air-tight.

  1. Mike Wuerthele

    Managing Editor

    Joined: 07-19-12

    Originally Posted by bjojadeView Post

    Drive pricing tied to helium price? Now how much helium are they really putting inside the drives? It can't really fluctuate THAT much to make a significant price difference of the drives.

    There are a couple of different grades of helium. The cheap stuff in balloons is essentially recycled helium with all manners of impurities. The grade in these drives is the top-shelf stuff which a few years ago was a MINIMUM of $5.77 per cubic meter. Its more now. There's probably a significant quantity of gas lost per drive in the factory as well.

    We'll see with time, I guess.

  1. Leatherropes

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 07-02-11

    Helium? Huh? I would like WD to fully embrace SSD and get on with it.

  1. elroth

    Junior Member

    Joined: 07-05-06

    I don't want my hard drive floating away.

  1. sunman42

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 11-09-11

    The helium shortage is no joke: MRI and various manufacturing processes use a lot more than we used to, making it much more expensive for lab uses. Congress has gotten the US government out of and more recently back into the act of stockpiling helium, but it's not clear that will provide a long-term fix.

  1. rexray

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 07-15-02

    In my opinion FWIW, just because a product CAN be made doesn't mean it should be. Surely they could have found a way to improve the operating environment inside a mechanical device that has a life expectancy of 3-5 years without using a vanishing and irreplaceable (at this time) natural resource. In the big picture, it does not seem like a very bright move. I can only hope other hard disk manufacturers do not follow suite.

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