Seagate announces new tech help Advanced Format migration

Seagate has developed a new technology which it claims will prepare for the pending industry transition to Advanced Format, 4K sector hard drives.

It has already been used in the company’s Momentus 750GB notebook drive introduced last week.

SmartAlign is based on the Advance Format, which is a new standard defining the 4K sector hard drive format which all hard drive manufacturers will adopt over the coming months. Through participation with IDEMA (The International Disk Drive Equipment and Materials Association), all major hard drive manufacturers have agreed to migrate to the Advanced Format standard for new desktop and notebook platforms introduced after January 1, 2011.

According to Seagate, Advanced Format hard drives offer sector sizes that are eight times larger than the legacy 512 byte standard. This provides format efficiencies that will help push storage densities higher, reaching new capacity milestones. It also enables higher levels of drive robustness due to increased error correction capabilities.

Seagate said that until now, the migration to Advanced Format hard drives has not been pain free.  This is because Advanced Format hard drives still communicate to host systems using the 512 byte sector standard and therefore must manage the translation between 4K byte physical sectors and 512 byte logical sectors.

This process, called 512 byte emulation, can result in poor performance if hard drive partitions are not well aligned with computer operating systems. Seagate claims that until SmartAlign, the method to manage these misaligned conditions and avoid slowed performance has been to utilised software utilities which analyse and realign hard drive partitions. This approach requires extra steps to integrate the hard drive, extra time to complete the process, and causes confusion for some users.

Seagate Advanced Format hard drives with SmartAlign is said to solve this problem by automatically managing misaligned partition conditions in real-time, inside of the hard drive.