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What’s helium storage? Simply put, it’s a kind of hard drive for your computer that uses helium. First it was experimental, now it’s taking off.


A short history of helium storage technology

A few short years ago, Hitachi Global Storage Technologies (HGST) shook up the tech industry with their announcement of the world’s first helium storage hard drive. It took the firm over 6 years to develop the new drive to bring it to market.

The product was met widely with praise, but some speculation that the helium storage drive could be one of those products that come and go, while others feared that the demand for a finite resource like helium could halt the innovation.

But HGST proved the power and permanence of the new drives and soon a competing manufacturer, Seagate, would begin selling their own.

Just this month, Toshiba announced that it was going to contend in the helium storage game, investing nearly $50 million to open and operate a mass production facility in the Philippines.

The factory said they could be pumping out new helium-filled hard drives as early as the next couple of months.


I’m not techy. What is a helium hard drive, Zephyr Solutions?

Hey we’re glad you asked, and we’ll try to keep this to the Cliff’s notes.

Normal hard drives in your computers are basically a stack of spinning magnetic discs, like CDs, that record all of your data. These discs are why you can shut off your machine and not lose any of your files.

The faster those discs can spin, the better performance your hard drive will be capable of. That means better amount of file storage, faster processing, and cheaper performance.

The idea was that if you could contain those stacked discs in an environment of helium, instead of the air, they’d spin up to 7 times faster, meaning all of that improved performance we just listed. (Why 7 times? Helium is 7 times less dense than air, so the discs would theoretically spin 7 times faster through the thinner environment).

The challenge was always to figure out a way to contain the helium, because it’s tiny molecules leak through most surfaces. (It’s why your helium balloons deflate over time).

But, they’ve figured it out and these are the results of (HGST’s) helium storage devices, compared to the traditional hard drives:

• 23% lower operating power
• 50% higher storage capacity
• 49% reduction in watts per terabyte
• 7°F cooler operating temperature
• 5 grams lighter overall weight
• Lower total cost of ownership
• Lower cost per gigabyte
• Quieter running noise

If you are interested in more about the inner-workings and benefits of helium-filled hard drives, go here!


The future of helium storage

Despite some of the early concerns expressed after HGST introduced their ground-breaking hard drive just a few years ago, it’s clear now in 2018, that helium storage is the hard drive of the immediate future.

With three of the major players now competing to sell their own helium storage devices and more inevitably that will jump into the game, it seems that the traditional air-filled hard drives could soon go the way of the disposable camera.

Just think, in a year or two, you could be reading this article on your helium-filled computer!


Sources: HGST, Nikkei Asian Review, Seagate