Seagate Launches 3TB Hard Drives, XP Compatible

Dennis Faas's picture

Hard drive manufacturer Seagate has launched a 3 terabyte (TB) internal hard drive. It's the first drive of its kind (and size) that can work smoothly with Windows XP. For the record, 3 TB is equivalent to 3,000 GB (gigabytes), which is an awful lot of information.

2.1 TB Size Limitation Imposed in the 1980s

By default, Windows XP and earlier systems have an internal limitation that can only read hard drives that are smaller than 2.1TB. That's because of a decision in the early 1980s to place a limit on what's known as the logical block address, which is the system that decides where to physically arrange and place data on a drive.

At the time it seemed inconceivable that such huge drives would ever exist. Obviously, that's changed, which is why Vista and Windows 7 were both designed to handle larger hard drives.

Hardware Tweaks Necessary for Drives > 2.1 TB

Until now, there was no simple way around the 2.1TB limit. The best solution was to divide the drive into smaller partitions, but this also required hardware changes such as adding a special mass storage card inside the computer or even replacing the PC's main board.

Without these changes, a computer wouldn't recognize all of the available space, which also meant that any hard drive greater than 2.1TB wouldn't be bootable. While there are ways around the issue, but it's a fairly large inconvenience and certainly a big problem for small form factor PCs (SFF) that only have room for a single hard drive.

Seagate was the first company to release a 3TB drive, but that was a model only suitable for use as an external (portable) drive. Western Digital and Hitachi both went on to release 3TB drives for use inside a PC, but with major limitations for older computers. (Source:

Virtual Solution Now Available for 3 TB Drives, and Larger

Seagate has now released an internal 3 TB hard drive that comes with special software to solve the 2.1 TB limitation.

It's a virtual device driver which simulates a piece of hardware; in this case the hard drive. When Windows wants to communicate with the hard drive it actually communicates with the virtual device driver, which then passes the information on to the real drive in a manner that overcomes the 2.1TB limit. (Source:

To put things into context, 3TB (which is 3,000 GB) is enough to store the same data that would fill 640 single layer DVD recordable discs (at 4.7GB each). It's also enough space, at the common MP3 quality of 128 Kbits per second, to store just short of six years of continuous music.

Rate this article: 
No votes yet