hard drive history

barriers: stuck at 528MB

Photo: Red Hill.

Western Digital AC 1210 and AC2420

Two excellent drives from Western Digital, well and truly worthy of the Caviar name. The smaller unit was very fast in its day and one of the best 210MB drives ever made. These sold in huge numbers and many were still going through to the end of the century. The larger two platter drive became popular on the market a little later: it too was very common, and was probably the best 420MB unit of them of all.

Like several other Western Digital drives of early to mid nineties, these were quite a bit faster in real life than the bare figures suggested. Perhaps the generous on-drive cache helped. At a pinch you could run Windows 95 or 98 quite happily on one of these, and they were still fast enough to be worth owning right up until they were just too small to be useful anymore.

The particular drive illustrated was our own much-battered emergency workshop boot drive. It kicked around the Red Hill workshop waiting till we needed to access the data on another drive without booting from it (usually for virus scanning or data recovery work). Eight years on, it still got used two or three times a week and still ran just fine. I can't remember when I finally retired it, probably about 2004 or so.

Western Digital had a purple patch through the early 1990s, and made a series of outstanding drives: the Caviar 40, 80, 120, 210, 340, and then this one were all as good or better than most of their competitors' drives. Much of Western Digital's continuing excellent reputation through the second half of the nineties — when WD drives were often off the pace and sometimes of questionable quality — dates to this golden period.

Data rate31 Mbit/secSpin rate3314 RPM
Seek time13msBuffer64k
Platter capacity213MBInterfaceIDE mode 3
Actuatorvoice coilForm3½" 1/3 height
AC1210212.6MB2 thin-film heads***
AC2420425.3MB4 thin-film heads**