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Do You Need a Terabyte Hard Drive?

Updated on June 17, 2009
A 1 TB Internal Hard Drive for a PC.
A 1 TB Internal Hard Drive for a PC.

What's a Terabyte?

Imagine a trillion gophers stacked one on top of the other. You're visualizing 1 teragophers. That would be amazing, especially for the gopher on the top.

A terabyte is 1 thousand billion bytes. In other words, 1 thousand gigabytes. The bytes can be stored much more efficiently that the gophers. More cheaply, too. These days a 1 TB hard drive for your PC costs less than $100. The PC first hard drive I purchased was a 20 MB unit that sold for $800. It was delivered by a dinosaur. Anyway, that's a storage ratio of 1 trillion to 20 million, or a 50 thousand-fold increase.

Reaching 1 TB capacity is an arbitrary benchmark that excites many computer geeks; a nice round number. The 1 TB drives have only been around since 2007, when Hitachi began marketing them.

Carpal Tunnel Brace. You might need medical attention if you plan to type until your 1 TB hard drive is full.
Carpal Tunnel Brace. You might need medical attention if you plan to type until your 1 TB hard drive is full.

Do You Need All That Space?

If you plan to type until it's full, better stock up on carpal tunnel braces. Keystroking at 100 words per minute, you'll spend about 55 thousand hours. Working 8 to 5, that's a 25 year career. Do emplloyers still award gold watches at retirement?

Storing movies takes up a lot of space. The typical DVD contains up to 4GB (gigabytes) of information. Given that a TB is 1000 GB, we can store about 250 movies. Can you even think of 250 movie titles?

Just Because You Can Doesn't Mean You Should

These 1TB drives are inexpensive and have almost endless capacity. Should you pull the trigger? Consider some popular alternatives. A 500 GB drive (half the capacity) is about 3/4 the price of the 1 TB behemoth.

Two 500 GB drives may actually be faster than a single 1 TB drive. The trick involves putting your data files on one drive and your O/S files, including sawp files, on the other. Linux happily lets you do this at your convenience. Windows makes it a little more difficult, but still possible.

Adding a second drive to your PC is usually straightforward. You don't need additional software. Windows XP or Vista should recognize the new drive and offer to format it for you. An NTFS format on a 1 TB drive will not be quick, but it only needs to be done once. In some rare cases drives from different manufacturers will not coexist in the same PC on the same cable. This isn't an issue with SATA drives. For ATAPI drives, verify the jumper settings; one slave (your new drive) and one master (the boot drive) if both drives are on the same cable.

How Do You Back It Up?

A standard DVD (Digital Versatile Disk) holds about 4.4GB of information. Assuming 2:1 compression, backing up a completely full 1 terabyte hard drive would consume over 114 DVDs. The first rule of backing up data stipulates that the backup system offers convenience. Unless you own a 114 DVD carousel, this ain't convenient.


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    • nicomp profile image

      nicomp really 7 years ago from Ohio, USA

      @PB_Smith: I'm not a fan of rotating parts and non-removable media in backup devices.

    • PB_Smith profile image

      PB_Smith 8 years ago from Southern California

      Actually I would use the terabyte or larger (2 terabyte drives are now available) as the backup media. More and more people are using the USB and E-SATA drives as backup devices. For those like myself with 6 desktops and two laptops a terabyte drive would suffice as a backup for all.

      Now backing up the backup to some other form of media presents it's own challenge.

    • profile image

      eBay Person 8 years ago

      Buy the biggest hard drive you can. It will fill up sooner or later.

    • nicomp profile image

      nicomp really 8 years ago from Ohio, USA

      @brad4l: yes, it's so inexpensive that it becomes hard to resist. Be sure to stay backed up!

    • brad4l profile image

      brad4l 8 years ago from USA

      I still haven't gotten over how inexpensive storage devices have become over the last few years. Price wise, there is no reason not to get at least a terrabyte of storage.

      My next harddrive will be one with at least a terrabyte, although to be honest, I am not sure that I really need it. I currently have a 400 gig drive on my main desktop and it is only about half full right now...

    • nicomp profile image

      nicomp really 8 years ago from Ohio, USA

      Yes, if they are SATA on different cables, there's no master and slave issues. Good point.

    • Susan Ng profile image

      Susan Ng Yu 8 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      We replaced our 500GB hard drive with a 1TB last year because it was getting close to being full. I was thinking of adding the new drive as a second hard drive, but there was no more space in our mini-tower. Both are SATA drives so there's no master and slave; all I had to do was hook them up to the orange cables with the boot drive in SATA 0. :)