Computer technology is expanding on a near-daily basis. Every year, hard drive storage space and speed rises while prices continue to drop. That means consumers are able to buy faster computers at lower prices.
Today, a computer storage technology company called HGST announced that it had perfected a new helium-filled hard drive. Helium, due to its low density, is an ideal medium that can fit in between the platters of a hard drive. Since platters can stay closer together, companies can use the new HGST technology to place more platters on in a single 3.5” form hard drive. That means more storage space for consumers at a lower cost.
Up until recently, helium was thought to be a poor medium for hard drives because it was prone to leaks. The low density meant that helium could slip through the smallest cracks in a hard drive, posing a problem for technology manufacturers. Although helium-filled hard drives have been proposed for over a decade, leakage problems have prevented them from leaving the drawing table and entering the PCs of consumers.
It appears that HGST has solved that leakage problem. HGST, which is actually a division of hard drive creator Western Digital, announced that it is now able to make a leak-proof hard drive enclosure that can easily hold helium.

In other words, Western Digital will soon be able to make hard drives that have more storage space in the same amount of physical space. Instead of being limited to just five disc platters in a single hard drive enclosure, Western Digital will be able to fit up to 7.

What does this mean for the average PC user?

Helium filled hard drive enclosures will carry the following advantages:
-Speeds of up to 19,000rpm due to the lower turbulence of helium
-More hard drive storage space in the same amount of physical space
-Faster data access rates; faster computer speeds
Consumers that are ready to buy helium hard drives will have to wait until early 2013. Helium-filled hard drive enclosures will cost more to make, although the costs are expected to drop over time. In the meantime, expect helium-filled hard drive enclosures to cost “considerably” more than traditional types of hard drives.
The high price of helium-filled hard drive enclosures is compounded by the fact that helium is currently experiencing a global shortage.
To learn more about the science behind these new helium-filled hard drives, read this article about the thermodynamics of disk drive storage space.

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