hard drive history

size still matters: is there ever enough?

Western Digital Caviar AC11000 and 22100

Photo: Red Hill.

Western Digital Caviar 1.05

When the IBM Deskstar 3 was discontinued, we turned to this family of Western Digital drives as a replacement. It had been a long, time since we'd stocked Western Digital — not since 1995 and the Caviar 850 — and it was nice to see the familiar Caviar silver on the shelves again.

WD had endured its share of difficulties in the meantime, including the famous AC31600 quality control disaster which ended up with a mass recall. We were not sorry to have missed that model and, looking back, did the right thing in staying with Seagate and IBM right through the 1GB to 2GB era. Quantum buyers were well served also at this time, but both Maxtor and Western Digital dealers were going through the horrors.

The three high-tech giants of the industry — Seagate, IBM, and Quantum — were pushing the performance and capacity bars ever higher through the middle and late years of the decade; Western Digital, a smaller manufacturer with limited working capital, struggled to keep up. Where Quantum and Seagate usually had both low-cost and high-performance ranges available, WD generally had just one mainstream model range on sale at a time, which would in theory be targeted at the high-performance buyer. The sad reality was that WD wasn't really able to deliver on the performance promises its ever-active marketing department made and right through 1997 declined to publish key performance figures (invariably a sign that competing products are faster).

Nevertheless, these were fine drives; if not quite the equal of a Deskstar 3, a Medalist Pro or even an 8 Series Maxtor, still easily faster than a 4500 RPM Medalist 4500, and in this role — as a high-quality low-end drive — they served us well.

Notice the unusual 5200 RPM spindle speed, a traditional Western Digital oddity.

Data rate104 Mbit/secSpin rate5200 RPM
Seek time12msBuffer128k
Platter capacity1.05GBInterfaceIDE mode 4
Read channelPRMLHead technologythin film
AC110001.05GB2 heads
AC221002.11GB4 heads****
AC325002.56GB5 heads
AC331003.16GB6 heads***