In continuing advances for mechanical storage, the next big thing is the 'Advanced Format' standard which enables higher capacities to be achievable along with improved error correction. Western Digital has already rolled out some drives that use Advanced Format and other HDD makers will inevitably be following suit in the near future.
However, it's not a perfectly smooth transition in the industry due to an issue with older OS's (as recent as Windows XP) not supporting Advanced Format's 4096-byte sectors. Western Digital gets around this issue by providing a software solution that emulates 512-byte sectors, but the downside to that is extra preparation time and inconvenience for users wanting to quickly add a new drive to their system for access.
Seagate is claiming it has a superior solution in the works, to be ready in time for when it starts shipping all of its laptop and desktop hard drives with Advanced Format as of January next year. Seagate calls it SmartAlign; it's done at the hardware level and automatically manages misaligned partition conditions in real-time, doing away with the need to run any software utilities.
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