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[ The PC Guide | Systems and Components Reference Guide | Hard Disk Drives ]

Hard Disk Geometry and Low-Level Data Structures

When I first wrote The PC Guide in 1997, this page mentioned how each platter of a hard disk was "capable of storing in excess of one billion bytes of information". As I revise this section in 2000, leading-edge hard disks now pack a whopping 20 GB of storage per platter in the same amount of space. Pretty amazing.

Of course, this trend is only going to continue, with new drives having more and more data in the same space. In order to use all this real estate to best advantage, special methods have evolved for dividing the disk up into usable pieces. The goals, as usual, are two-fold: increasing capacity and increasing performance. This section takes a detailed look at how information is encoded, stored, retrieved and managed on a modern hard disk. Many of the descriptions in this section in fact form the basis for how data is stored on other media as well.

Next: Data Encoding and Decoding

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