Yesterday, Western Digital announced they’re shipping the world’s first 3TB hard drives. While that in itself isn’t really big news (at least not to me), what is big is that the 3TB drive uses the 4096-byte sectors instead of 512. That means it won’t work in Windows XP without additional special software. It also means that Windows 7 32-bit users won’t be able to boot from it and use a motherboard that supports UEFI (the replacement for BIOS). Oh, the times, they are a-changin’.

Unofficially, what’s classified as a "big" hard drive right now starts at 500GB and ends at 2TB. I did some math recently on what the true cost is when comparing the 500 to the 2000, and what I found is that at present the 500 is still the better deal of the two.

I’ll be using NewEgg’s current prices for a base of comparison.

500GB

7200 RPM "bare drive" cost: $55, free shipping

You pay $0.11 per gigabyte of storage. While certainly not as cheap as, say, DVDs (which are still the cheapest by a very wide lead), this is a powered hard drive we’re talking about.

1TB

7200 RPM "bare drive" cost: $70, free shipping

With this drive you pay $0.07 per gigabyte of storage.

2TB

7200 RPM "bare drive" cost: $130 + $7.86 shipping = $137.85

With this drive you pay one tenth of a cent less than with the 1TB per gigabyte at $0.069 per GB. If the shipping were free however it would six-and-a-half cents per GB.

Should price dictate what you buy?

Absolutely not.

None of the 7200 RPM 2TB HDDs on NewEgg have "5-egg" ratings. These drives tend to be more problematic than smaller offerings.

With the 1TB drives it’s the same scenario. Not a single one has a 5-egg rating.

When you go under 1TB into 640GB and 500GB territory however, you do find 5-egg ratings. Not only do people buy more of these drives but also rate them as more reliable.

Strictly speaking from a penny-pincher’s perspective, you lose money when buying hard drives under 1TB in size – but you gain something people rate as better and more reliable.

In this instance, "you get what you pay for" absolutely rings true. Fortunately you don’t have to pay that much more.

On a final note, I will answer the question of "Are there any 5-egg ratings for any 1TB or larger HDDs?" Yes, but only for the 5400 RPM versions. The 1TB+ drives when used primarily as storage have a solid track record for reliability in 5400-land. It may take you longer to copy files to/from it, but it runs cooler and does the job in fine style. I personally wouldn’t run a desktop OS on it however.