SAN JOSE, Calif. Disk drive makers have put the finishing touches on a new standard expanding the size of the basic chunks of memory stored on hard drives. By moving from 512- to 4,096-byte blocks, drive makers believe they will lower error rates and boost performance on drives that will start sampling later this year.
The International Disk Drive, Equipment and Materials Association (IDEMA) has approved the so-called Long Block Data standard. Backers said it could reduce error rates ten-fold, thus reducing read or write retries and increasing throughput.
IDEMA has releasing the LBD sector standard and expects most drives will support the new spec by 2010.
Drives supporting the existing 512-byte spec will continue to be available for a transition period. Seagate and Western Digital, for example, will deliver products that use eight continuous 512-byte blocks so the drives can use either 512- or 4,096-byte blocks.
The block standard has been in the works since IDEMA formed a committee in 2000 to replace the 30-year old 512-byte standard. In addition to greater reliability, the standard enables greater efficiency for data transfer because read and write operations have less overhead per block. In addition, the spec reduces format and maintenance time because users will be able to scan and defragment disks more quickly.
"The primary roadblock we had to overcome was legacy software that requires a 512-byte block size," said Joel Weiss, president of IDEMA. "By facilitating the discussion between both hard disk drive manufacturers and the leaders in operating system and BIOS software, we were able to establish a standard that is now accepted by the software industry and can be implemented in a way that is easily updateable and backward compatible," he said.
Windows Vista already supports the new 4,096-byte standard. Support for Linux is also available.
IDEMA will host a symposium on the new standard May 2 in Longmont, Colorado.