What is a Terabyte?

Category: Backup , Hard-Drives

I just saw an ad for a Terabyte hard drive. What exactly is a terabyte?

A Terabyte in Your Future?

Do you need a terabyte? Remember when you got your last computer? A few gigabytes seemed like scads of storage space. But along came a new operating system, a bunch of MP3 music files, and a bunch of videos. Now that hard drive is creaking under the load. Enter the Terabyte...

One terabyte is a trillion bytes (characters) which is also 1000 gigabytes. Or if you prefer, 1 TB = 1000 GB. So how much storage is that, really? Let's do some comparisons... 1 GB of memory is the equivalent of 500,000 typewritten pages, or about one pickup truck of books. So you could say that a terabyte is a thousand librarians driving Ford F150's stacked with literature.

Or in digital terms... the biggest iPod Classic stores 160GB, or about 40,000 songs. Six of those iPods would hold almost one terabyte, enough space to store a quarter-million songs. If you had a shiny new 1-terabtye hard drive, you could stash 300 feature length films, or 40,000 faxes on it. But you'd need 20 of those 1 TB drives to hold the entire print collection of the U.S. Library of Congress.
terabyte hard drive

Large companies, universities, hospitals, the military, and other institutions that store large amounts of data are probably already gobbling up these bigger, badder hard drives. But do you need a terabyte? Maybe... if you're a serious gamer, or if you deal with multimedia files (music or video) then those gigabytes can fill up pretty fast. If you are a videographer making a documentary, if you design websites, or if you want to digitize your audio/video collection in hi-def, one terabyte might not be enough. And having a few terabytes would be a nice way to back up of all the computers on your home network to a single location. An exernal TB drive will also prove useful for those who upgrade to a new computer every few years. Just copy the contents of your PC or Mac's hard drive to it via USB or Ethernet, and you don't have to worry about leaving your data behind.

I suspect it won't be long before some computer vendors will offer these large capacity terabyte drives as standard. Historically, as data storage media has increased in capacity, operating systems, application software and end-user computing needs have expanded at the same (or faster) rates. And price-wise, it makes sense as well. Hard drives in the 100-200 GB range cost about $.50 per gig. The Hitachi Deskstar 7K1000 1 Terabyte drive can be found for $329 at TigerDirect, or $.33 per gig.

Since publishing this article in October 2007, prices have fallen! As of January 2009, you can get a terabyte hard drive for around a hundred dollars (US).

If you want that kind of storage volume but don't need to be the first on the block to own one, wait six months for the price to come down, as it will continue to do in most tech products. I'm already looking into replacing my Iomega external backup drive with something bigger, and that Beyond Micro DriveZilla 2-Terabyte External drive looks pretty nice... What would you do with a terabyte?

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Most recent comments on "What is a Terabyte?"

Posted by:

11 Oct 2007

I upgraded my PVR to 1tb storage recently but ended up getting two high quality 500gb drives rather than a single drive. After some research I found that the new drives tend to run hot and may suffer problems if not kept cool. The two 500gb drives that I bought are low power usage (so run cooler) with a 5 year warranty. (here is a link to the drive spec. I understand if you delete this part) http://www.seagate.com/docs/pdf/marketing/po_sv35_7200_2.pdf

Posted by:

11 Oct 2007

One must be careful in buying those external terabyte drives to make sure it's ONE drive that's a terabyte. Some (such as one made by LaCie) are actually two 500GB drives that use the proprietary connection to make them appear as one drive of 1TB capacity. Unfortunately, if one of the two drives goes down, there is NO recovery.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Not sure I understand your point. If you bought a 1 TB drive and it failed, wouldn't the effect be the same?

Posted by:

12 Oct 2007

If a single drive fails, the data may be recoverable via s/w. If one of these dual disc "terabyte" drives fails, it's unrecoverable. And since you have two discs in there, you've doubled your chances for a problem! :)

If course, this doesn't apply to a single terabyte disc that you install into your PC, or into an external case.

Posted by:

13 Oct 2007


It is much easier to recover single disk than RAID(0) array. There is only 1/2 of information written into each disk on RAID(0) systems. Information is written almost at double speed compared to single disk on such systems, but it is disaster to recover if one of two disks fail. And the more disks you have, the bigger is probability that one of them would fail.

Posted by:

26 Nov 2008

I might have thought that if one of two 500GB drives failed the other (although connected) might be salvageable - so the effect is not the same as a 1TB drive failing because in that case you'd know you're screwed.

Posted by:

05 Jan 2009

Hey Bob, I bought a WD10eacs terabyte drive two days ago (Jan 3 2009) for $149 - Australian , that's about US$105 - true I have to install it, but it's worth every penny.

This is my 2nd TB drive, the other is an external USB 2. I also have external 500MB and 320MB drives as well as two smaller drives (180 & 250MB) internally. Why the rush to the TB - as you say, video and audio production chew up huge amounts of space. I'm a practicing musician of 32 years standing and I'm venturing into some new fields as well revisting old ones (I studied tv production during my college days). Adobe Premiere has been dying in the middle of writng vob sets to a folder because it keeps running out of scratch disk space during the conversion, so time for a new internal drive that can cut the pace and add some space. Thanks for useful tips on adding drives and other bits.

Posted by:

28 Oct 2010

Hey Bob,

I really hate to see how badly you can screw things up if you cant even get that 1 TB = 1024 GBs not 1000. You can find that right off Google or if you ever took a computer class in your life you should know that, which i seriously doubt you have. Although i do like your examples with the ipods.

EDITOR'S NOTE: I beg to differ. According to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terabyte) and other sources, 1 terabyte is indeed = 1000 gigabytes. "The prefix tera means 10^12, and therefore 1 terabyte is 1 trillion bytes, or 1000 gigabytes... Standards organizations such as ISO recommend to use the alternative term tebibyte to signify the traditional measure of 1024^4 bytes, or 1024 gibibytes." Oh, and my Computer Science degree was granted in 1984 by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. :-)

Posted by:

14 Jan 2011

what is the difference between disk mirroring and simply making a dupplicate (copying) of files from one disk to the other. I waht to replace my hard disk

Posted by:

26 Mar 2011


Here are some interesting facts about internet: www.usernetsite.com/webmaster/the-new-size-of-the-internet.php

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