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A lot of hot air has been ejected recently about 4K AF's incompatibility, or that 4K AF disks will slow down beyond a usable state in Windows XP systems, one person even moaned that, 'Western Digital said I'd get 7-11 per cent more space, but I don't get anything!' A lot of these frustrations are just simple misunderstandings or bogus statements. WD wanted to explain that the hard disk industry is not necessarily releasing 4K Advanced Format drives for consumers (hence the subtle product launches, rather than fanfares and huge marketing campaigns).
While we're relating to Western Digital a lot in this article, it's worth remembering that the whole hard disk industry will be changing this year. What exactly is a sector size?Since the floppy drive, disks have been split into sectors, each allocated in 512 byte blocks, with an associated error correction control (ECC) portion adjacent to each sector. 4KB data sectors have a few advantages: the combination of eight 512 byte blocks with ECC takes up more space than a single 4KB block with a single, if larger, ECC area. Thirdly, ECC itself has been refined over the last 25 years, and the algorithms can now cope with larger ECC sectors.
The good news is that as platter capacity rises, you get faster data access times and improved performance.
The extra cache is predominantly required for multiple storage-process streams, but also helps because of the fact the 4K Advanced Format introduces a Read-Modify-Write scenario in 512B OSes. Western Digital also explained that cache sizes on a hard drive will always remain relatively small versus SSD capacities because on sudden power loss the drive needs enough time to dump the cache to the diska€™s platter before it starts to slow down and lose synchronisation. Karol Tichy - Creator of Applied Arts in Poland [gallery]Karol Tichy was an unquestioned authority in the Polish designers’ community, animating explorations for the particular qualities of Polish design, a field in which he had profound success.


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Western Digital saw our news piece and the many comments you, our readers, and got in touch to clarify what the new standard actually entails.
The 4K Advanced Format move is actually a fundamental upgrade needed to ensure future capacity increases - and by extension future performance gains - are capable, rather than a move to deliver any tangible benefit now. Western Digital is not alone in launching new 4K Advanced Format products; other hard disk companies will follow suit this year, although WD was the first with its 'EARS' Green drives last December in the UK market. This has worked fine for the last 25 or so years, and increments in hard disk data density have been achieved with various inventive methods. This means moving to a disk platter comprised of 4KB data sectors allows more data to be stored in the same physical space (as therea€™s less room wasted on ECC portions). Finally, there is an element of backwards compatibility, as the 4KB sector size is used in modern File Allocation systems such as NTFS (first used by Windows NT 4.0 in 1996, and still used by Windows 7 today), and is divisible by other modern file structure formats such as FAT32 (the common standard of Windows XP, even though it supports NTFS).
Note that that's physical space - as a customer, we won't see free extra storage space from your drive.
And this comes with the added benefit of no significant price increase and a real possibility of a fall in price per GB.
It's incredible to think that we've gone from 1MB disks to having 500GB on a single 3.5in platter using the same basic division of storage.


Furthermore, you cannot convert your current drive into a 4K Advanced Format drive, as this requires an updated disk controller with slightly different hardware and corresponding firmware.
Hard disk companies are currently expanding the 4KB sectors to match the size of eight 512 byte sectors to give these sectors some a€?breathing room'. Unlike an SSD however, because a hard disk can only access a single area on the platter at any one time (versus multiple cells of NAND flash memory), this takes two disk revolutions. However, the hard disk industry has now reached a point where it's no longer economically viable to keep such tiny sectors on such immensely dense hard disk platters. Whether ita€™s a 4K Advanced Format disk or not, if you buy a 2TB drive you still get two trillion bytes and lose the same amount as usual when formatting to NTFS.
This means that the data density of current-generation drives remains the same as for non-4K Advanced Format disk, and performance is unaffected too. However, Western Digital claims that this process doesn't impact performance, and that ita€™s invisible to the OS. However, for future generations of 4K Advanced Format disks, platter capacity can again increase without the need for hard disk manufacturers to implement costly new techniques.



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