Hybrid Hard Drives Combine Flash Memory with Traditional Platters

SEATTLE–Microsoft and Samsung recently showed off a prototype hard drive that can record data while idling, a twist that has the potential to significantly cut power consumption in notebooks. The trick is that the hard drive contains a 1Gb flash memory chip. Incoming data is directly recorded to the chip. When the chip is about full, the hard drive wakes up, takes the data, records it and goes back into idle. Typically, hard drives rotate. Hard drive motors, along with LCD screens, are two of the largest consumers of power inside a laptop. In the hybrid, the drive rarely spins. In the prototype hybrid being shown off, the drive spins only about 30 to 45 seconds every half hour. The goal is to get it to 30 to 45 seconds for an hour.

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