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Western Digital

Western Digital Corporation
Traded as
Industry Computer storage
Founded April 23, 1970
Headquarters Irvine, California, United States
Area served
Key people
Stephen D. Milligan (CEO & President)
Products Hard disk drives
Revenue 11px $15.40 billion (2013)[1]
11px $1.947 billion (2013)[2]
#redirect Template:If affirmed 11px $1.700 billion (2013)[1]
Total assets 11px $14.04 billion (2013)[2]
Total equity 11px $8.574 billion (2013)[2]
Number of employees
96,000 (2012)[3]
Subsidiaries HGST

Western Digital Corporation (commonly referred to as Western Digital and often abbreviated as WDC or WD) is one of the largest computer hard disk drive manufacturers (along with Seagate Technology) in the world.[4]

Western Digital Corporation has a long history in the electronics industry as an integrated circuit maker and a storage products company. Western Digital was founded on April 23, 1970 by Alvin B. Phillips, a Motorola employee, as General Digital, initially (and briefly) a manufacturer of MOS test equipment. It rapidly became a speciality semiconductor maker, with start-up capital provided by several individual investors and industrial giant Emerson Electric Company. Around July 1971, it adopted its current name and soon introduced its first product, the WD1402A UART.



Initially financed with start-up capital provided by investors and Emerson Electric Company, WDC made its money by selling calculator chips through the early years of the 1970s, and by 1975 WDC was the largest independent calculator chip maker in the world. The oil crisis of the mid-1970s and the bankruptcy of its biggest calculator customer, Bowmar Instrument,[5] changed its fortunes, however, and in 1976 Western Digital declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy. After this, Emerson withdrew their support of the company, and WDC was on its own.

WDC introduced several landmark products during this time, including the MCP-1600 multi-chip, microcoded CPU. The MCP-1600 was used to implement DEC's LSI-11 system and their own Pascal MicroEngine microcomputer which ran the UCSD p-System Version III and UCSD Pascal. The processor was also used in several single-chip floppy disk drive controller chips, notably the FD1771.[6] However, the WD integrated circuit that arguably drove Western's forward integration was the 1771 chip, the first disk drive formatter/controller, replacing [7] boards of TTL logic. Despite a price far higher than average CMOS chips of the time, it was very successful and extremely profitable.


The FD1771 and its kin were WDC's first entry into the data storage industry; by the early 1980s, they were making hard disk drive controllers, and in 1983, they won the contract to provide IBM with controllers for the PC/AT. That controller, the WD1003, became the basis of the ATA interface (which WDC developed along with Compaq and Control Data Corporation's MPI division, now owned by Seagate Technology), starting in 1986. Throughout most of the 1980s, the family of controllers based on the WD1003 provided the bulk of WDC's revenues and profits, and for a time generated enormous corporate growth.

Western Digital Paradise VGA card, 8-bit ISA bus, circa 1989

Much of the mid-to-late 1980s saw an effort by WDC to use the profits from their ATA storage controllers to become a general-purpose OEM hardware supplier for the PC industry. As a result, WDC purchased a number of hardware companies. These included graphics cards (through its Paradise subsidiary, purchased 1986, which became Western Digital Imaging), core logic chipsets (by purchasing Faraday Electronics Inc. in 1987), SCSI controller chips for disk and tape devices (by purchasing ADSI in 1986), networking (WD8003, WD8013 Ethernet and WD8003S StarLAN). They did well (especially Paradise, which produced one of the best VGA cards of the era), but storage-related chips and disk controllers were their biggest money makers. In 1986, they introduced the WD33C93 single-chip SCSI interface, which was used in the first 16-bit bus mastering SCSI host adapter, the WD7000 "FASST"; in 1987 they introduced the WD37C65, a single-chip implementation of the PC/AT's floppy disk controller circuitry, and the grandfather of modern super I/O chips; in 1988 they introduced the WD42C22 "Vanilla", the first single-chip ATA hard disk controller.

1988 also brought what would be the biggest change in WDC's history. That year, WDC bought the hard drive production assets of PC hardware maker Tandon; the first products of that union under WDC's own name were the "Centaur" series of ATA and XT attachment drives.


File:Western Digital Tidbit 60 front.jpg
Western Digital Tidbit 60 (WDAH260) - 62.3 MB (2.5 inch drive mounted in 3.5 inch adapter bracket)
File:Western Digital Caviar280.JPG
Western Digital Caviar 80 MB (model number WDAC280-32), from a series of HDDs for desktop PCs; it is a 3.5-inch HDD mounted onto a 5.25-inch adapter bracket.

By 1991, things were starting to slow down, as the PC industry moved from ST-506 and ESDI drives to ATA and SCSI, and thus were buying fewer hard disk controller boards. That year saw the rise of WDC's Caviar drives, brand new designs that used the latest in embedded servo and computerized diagnostic systems.

Eventually, Caviar drives were selling so well that WD started to dispose of its other divisions. Paradise was sold to Philips (and since disappeared). Its networking and floppy drive controller divisions went to SMC Networks and its SCSI chip business went to Future Domain, which was later bought out by market leader Adaptec. Around 1995 the technological lead that the Caviar drives had enjoyed was eclipsed by newer offerings from other companies, especially Quantum Corp., and WDC fell into a slump.

Products and ideas of this time didn't go far. The Portfolio drive (a Script error: No such module "convert". form factor model, developed with JT Storage) was a flop, as was the SDX hard disk to CD-ROM interface. WDC's drives started to slip further behind products by other makers, and quality began to suffer, system builders and PC enthusiasts who used to recommend WD above all else, were going to the competition, particularly Maxtor, whose products had improved significantly by the late 1990s.

In an attempt to turn the tide in 1998, WD recruited the help of IBM. This agreement gave WD the rights to use certain IBM technologies, including giant magneto-resistive (GMR) heads, and access to IBM production facilities. The result was the Expert line of drives, introduced in early 1999. The idea worked, and WD regained respect in the press and among users, even despite a recall in 2000 (which was due to bad motor driver chips). WDC later broke ties to IBM.


File:Hard disk Western Digital WD740 1 (dark1).jpg
Western Digital WD740GD 74 GB Raptor, a 10,000 rpm 3.5-inch HDD

In 2001, Western Digital became the first manufacturer to offer mainstream ATA hard disk drives with 8 MiB of disk buffer. At that time, most desktop hard disk drives had 2 MB of buffer. WDC labeled these 8 MB models as "Special Edition" and distinguished them with the JB code (the 2 MB models had the BB code). The first 8 MB cache drive was the 100 GB WD1000JB. Models starting from capacities from 40 GB followed. WD advertised the JB models for cost-effective file servers. In October 2001, WD restated its prior year results to reflect the adoption of SEC Staff Accounting Bulletin No.101 and the reclassification of Connex and SANavigator results as discontinued operations.[8]

In 2003, WD acquired most of the assets of bankrupt one-time market leading magnetic hard drive read-write head developer Read-Rite Corporation. In the same year, WD offered the first 10,000 rpm Serial ATA HDD: The WD360GD "Raptor" with a capacity of 36 GB and an average access time of less than 6 milliseconds. Soon, the 74 GB WD740GD, which is also much quieter, followed and in 2005 Western Digital released the 150 GB version, the WD1500, which was also available in a special version with a transparent window enabling the user to see the drive's heads move over the platters while the drive read and wrote data. As of 2004 the WD Raptor drives have 5 years of warranty, making them a more attractive choice for inexpensive storage servers, where a large number of drives in constant use increases the likelihood of a drive failure.

In 2006, Western Digital introduced its My Book line of mass market external hard drives that feature a compact book-like design. On the 7th October 2007 Western Digital released several editions of a single 1 TB hard drive - the largest in its My Book line.

In 2007, Western Digital acquired magnetic media maker Komag. Also in the same year, Western Digital adopted perpendicular recording technology in its line of notebook and desktop drives. This allowed it to produce notebook and desktop drives in the largest classes of the time. Western Digital also started to produce the energy efficient GP (Green Power)[9] range of drives notable for their very low power consumption and heat dissipation but surprisingly good performance.[10]

In 2007 Western Digital announced the WD GP drive touting rotational speed "between 7200 and 5400 rpm", which, if potentially misleading, is technically correct; the drive spins at 5405 rpm, and the Green Power spin speed is not variable.[11] WD GP drives are programmed to unload the heads whenever there has not been any activity for a very short period of time, such as about five seconds.[12] Many Linux installations write to the file system a few times a minute in the background.[13] As a result, there may be 100 or more load cycles per hour, and the 300,000 load cycles rating of a WD GP drive may be exceeded in less than a year.[14]

On April 21, 2008, Western Digital announced the next generation of its 10,000 rpm SATA WD Raptor series of hard drives. The new drives, called WD VelociRaptor, featured 300 GB capacity and Script error: No such module "convert". platters enclosed in the IcePack, a Script error: No such module "convert". mounting frame with a built-in heat sink. Western Digital said the new drives are 35 percent faster than the previous generation. On September 12, 2008, Western Digital shipped a 500 GB Script error: No such module "convert". notebook hard drive which is part of their Scorpio Blue series of notebook hard drives.

On January 27, 2009, Western Digital shipped the first 2 TB internal hard disk drive.[15]

On March 30, 2009, WD entered the solid-state drive market with the acquisition of Siliconsystems, Inc.

On July 27, 2009, Western Digital announced the first 1 TB mobile hard disk drive, which shipped as both a Passport series portable USB drive as well as a Scorpio Blue series notebook drive.[16]


In October 2010, Western Digital announced the first 3 TB internal hard disk drive.

In March 2011, Western Digital agreed to acquire the storage unit of Hitachi, Hitachi Global Storage Technologies, for about $4.3 billion of which $3.5 billion was paid in cash and the rest with 25 million shares of Western Digital.[17]

On October 21, 2011, Western Digital's Thailand Plant suspended operation in relation to the 2011 Thailand floods. This caused a shortage of hard drives supplied by Western Digital. PC manufacturers noted of the issue with Apple CEO, Tim Cook stating that he was expecting an "overall industry shortage of disk drives." A Dell spokesperson also stated they were "working with our hard drive suppliers to address potential impact for the remainder of the year.”.[18] Despite this, Western Digital's profits increased following the HDD prices increase.[19]

In March 2012, Western Digital completed the acquisition of Hitachi Global Storage Technologies and became the largest traditional hard drive manufacturer in the world.[20] To address the requirements of regulatory agencies, in May 2012 WD divested to Toshiba assets to manufacture and sell 3.5-inch hard drives for the desktop and consumer electronics markets.[21][22]

File:Western Digital "Red" 4 TB SATA NAS-optimized 3.5-inch HDD.jpg
Western Digital "Red" 4 TB NAS-optimized 3.5-inch SATA HDD

In July 2012, Western Digital announced a "Red" series of drives, designed for network-attached storage (NAS) devices. This series of drives has a special firmware designed for Home/Small Business environments, has better reliability than standard desktop drives, is more energy efficient and comes with a 3-year warranty.[23]

In November 2012, Western Digital announced a 4 TB internal HDD - 3.5-inch, 7200 RPM drive of the 'Black' series.

On January 27, 2013, Timothy Martin Leyden announced WD would invest US $200 million to expand in Thailand. Operations resumed in Thailand after it recovered from damage during the 2011 floods.[24]

In November 2013, Western Digital (through its HGST subsidiary) showed off new helium-filled 6 TB Ultrastar He6 hard disk drives. When compared to regular air-filled HDDs, they claim 49% of reduction in power usage per terabyte of storage.[25][26]

In September 2014, Western Digital's HGST division introduced new helium-filled 6 TB, 8 TB and 10 TB HDDs, out of which the 10 TB variant also utilizes shingled magnetic recording (SMR).[27]

In December 2014, Western Digital acquired Skyera, a flash-based storage development company, integrating the newly acquired company into its HGST division.[28]


WD sells many hard drives with warranties of either one, two, three, or five years[29] included in the retail price, but it offers the customer the option of purchasing a longer (two- or three-year) warranty on its web site. Three years is the current industry standard and while Seagate Technology (a competitor) used to offer a 5 years of warranty for all its drives, it recently moved back to a one-year warranty for its bulk (bare/OEM) consumer-level drives.[30] They also have a replacement policy, where a customer can replace a broken product with a new one up to 30 days after purchase. [31]

High performance Raptor drives as well as the Caviar Black Series and RE Series still come with a five-year warranty.[32]


Western Digital is responsible for a number of innovations, including

  • c.1971 – WD1402A, the first single-chip UART
  • 1976 – FD1771, the first single-chip floppy disk controller
  • 1981 – WD1010, the first single-chip ST-506 controller
  • 1983 – WD1003 hard disk controller, predecessor to ATA
  • 1986 – Co-developed ATA with Compaq and Control Data
  • 1986 – WD33C93, one of the first SCSI interface chips
  • 1987 – WD7000, first bus-mastering ISA SCSI controller
  • 1987 – WD37C65, first single-chip PC/AT-compatible floppy disk controller
  • 1988 – WD42C22, first single-chip ATA hard disk controller
  • 1990 – Caviar drives introduced
  • 2001 – the first mass market IDE drive with an 8 MB buffer
  • 2003 – the first SATA drive running at 10,000 rpm


  • North America: Canada, United States (Irvine, CA; Mountain View, CA; San Jose, CA; Fremont, CA; Longmont, CO; Belleair, FL; Pasadena, MD; Reading, MA; Bellevue, WA; Cleveland, OH; North Sioux City, SD; Austin, TX; Dallas, TX; Houston, TX)
  • Europe: Prague (Czech Republic), Orsay (France), Dornach b. München (Germany), Leatherhead (UK), Schiphol (Amsterdam, NL)
  • Asia: Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Hong Kong (PR China); Taipei (Taiwan, ROC); Tokyo (Japan); Seoul (South Korea); Petaling Jaya, Penang, Johor Bahru (Malaysia); Singapore; Ayuthaya, Pathumthani (Thailand); Dubai (United Arab Emirates)


Western Digital (WD) distributes the following utilities for use with its hard drives.

However, as of June 2013, one can no longer use a boot disc to test a modern WD drive independently of an operating system. In the explanatory note on its support site, Western Digital omits to elaborate on why it forces users to use Windows to test its drives, alluding to an OS X issue: "Due to limitations in Mac OS X, you will need to connect your drive to a PC running Windows in order to run our diagnostics."[33]

Data Lifeguard Tools is a software utility suite for basic setup of hard disks, developed under contract by Kroll Ontrack Inc (who also provides similar suites for other drive manufacturers). It runs on Microsoft Windows and DOS operating systems. It is free to download and use, however doesn't support modern WD drives

  1. REDIRECT Template:Spaced ndash an installed drive will be ignored. As of September 30, 2009, Acronis WD Edition replaced Data Lifeguard Tools.[34]

    As of version 11 it contains the following features:[35]

    • displaying built-on-demand installation manuals (with jumper settings) for many Western Digital hard drives,
    • partitioning and formatting hard disks,
    • copying files between disk partitions,
    • displaying numbers, size and type of partitions,
    • displaying basic technical disk information, such as firmware revision, S.M.A.R.T Support (Enabled/Disabled), ATA # supported, R/W Multiple, PIO Mode Support, IORDY Support (Yes/No), Sectors/Block, PIO Cycle Time.

    Data Lifeguard Diagnostics is a software utility used primarily for determining the physical condition - but only of older models of Western Digital hard drive. It includes features such as:[36]

    Western Digital also ships WD Smartware with many of its drives for use as backup drives. This software backs up all Documents, Pictures, Movies, Emails, and more on the drive, and continually checks for changes to drive locations. This means that regular backup takes place.

    Consumer products

    For more details on this topic, see Western Digital Media Center.

    Western Digital announced products in the over the top set top box market to compete with the Apple TV, Roku, and Google TV.


    Lawsuits have been filed against hard disk manufacturers Seagate[37] and Western Digital,[38] related to the claimed capacity of their drives. The drives are labelled using the longstanding convention of 1000 bytes to the kilobyte, resulting in a perceived capacity shortfall when reported by operating systems, out of which the majority[citation needed] uses 1024 bytes to the kilobyte.[39]

    While Western Digital maintained that they used "the indisputably correct industry standard for measuring and describing storage capacity", and that they "cannot be expected to reform the software industry", they agreed to settle in March 2006,[40] with a $30 refund to affected customers in the form of backup and recovery software of the same value.[39] A disclaimer is now included with all drives explaining the capacity figures.

    Parallel ATA hard disk drives

    Western Digital was the last manufacturer of parallel ATA hard disk drives for laptops (2.5-inch form factor) and desktop PCs (3.5-inch form factor), by producing them until December 2013.[41] Also, parallel ATA hard disk drives for laptops with capacities of 250 GB and 320 GB were manufactured only by Western Digital.[citation needed]

    See also


    1. ^ a b "July 24, 2013-Western Digital® Announces Fiscal Year Revenue of $15.4 Billion and Non-GAAP Net Income of $2.1 Billion, or $8.53 Per Share1". Retrieved 2014-03-31. 
    2. ^ a b c [1][dead link]
    3. ^
    4. ^ Disk Drive Industry Update: Volume 76, Needham Company, June 14, 2011
    5. ^ Smith, William D. (February 11, 1975). "Bowmar Will Ask Reorganization". The New York Times. p. 55. 
    6. ^ Michalopoulos, Demetrios A (October 1976). "New Products: Single-chip floppy disk formatter/controller". Computer (IEEE) 9 (10): p.64. doi:10.1109/C-M.1976.218414. "The FD1771 is a single-chip floppy disk formatter/controller that interfaces with most available disk drives and virtually all types of computers."
    7. ^ I was WD's Marketing Manager at that time
    8. ^ "Western Digital Reports $4 Million Profit in HDD Business on Revenue of $441 Million, Unit Shipments of 5.4 Million". October 25, 2001. Retrieved September 10, 2013. 
    9. ^ Western Digital - Biomedical Innovation with Colin Stewart -
    10. ^ GreenPower Hard Drives
    11. ^ "WD Green Mobile Series Spec Sheet" (PDF). WDC. 2013-06-26. Retrieved 2013-01-21. 
    12. ^ "hdparm(8) - Linux manual page". November 2012. Retrieved 2014-03-31. Get/set the Western Digital (WD) Green Drive's "idle3" timeout value. This timeout controls how often the drive parks its heads and enters a low power consumption state. The factory default is eight (8) seconds, which is a very poor choice for use with Linux. Leaving it at the default will result in hundreds of thousands of head load/unload cycles in a very short period of time. 
    13. ^ "discussion list". Arch Linux. If linux tends to write to /var/log/* every 30s, then the heads can park/unpark every 30s. 
    14. ^ WD Green Spec Sheet (PDF), WD 
    15. ^ "Western Digital launches 2TB hard drive". ZDNet. 2009-01-27. Retrieved 2009-01-27. 
    16. ^ "WD ships industry's first 1 TB mobile hard drive". WDC. 2009-07-27. Retrieved 2009-07-27. 
    17. ^ Hitachi Rises on $4.3 Billion Sale of Hard-Drive Unit to Western Digital. Bloomberg. Retrieved on 2013-07-17.
    18. ^ Bohn, Dieter. "Hard drive shortages and higher prices coming after massive flooding in Thailand". This is My Next. Retrieved 24 October 2011. 
    19. ^ Latif, Lawrence (Jul 26, 2012). "Western Digital posts three-fold increase in profits despite floods". The Inquirer. Retrieved 22 October 2013. 
    20. ^ "Press Release". Retrieved 2013-02-03. 
    21. ^ "February 28, 2012-WD Reaches Agreement with Toshiba Corporation to Divest Certain 3.5-Inch HDD Assets". Retrieved 22 December 2014. 
    22. ^ "May 15, 2012-WD® Completes Divestiture of Assets to Toshiba Corporation". Retrieved 22 December 2014. 
    23. ^ "WD Red". Retrieved 2013-02-03. 
    24. ^ "Western Digital expands Thai operations". February 4, 2013. Retrieved 2013-02-11. 
    25. ^ Shankland, Stephen (2014-03-25). "Western Digital enlists helium for 6TB energy-efficient drives". CNET. Retrieved 2014-04-27. 
    26. ^ "WD releases 6TB Ultrastar He6: The world’s first helium-filled hard drive". ExtremeTech. 2013-11-04. Retrieved 2014-04-27. 
    27. ^ "WD’s HGST introduces new 6TB, 8TB and 10TB hard disk drives". Retrieved 10 September 2014. 
    28. ^ "December 15, 2014-HGST to Acquire Skyera, Inc.". Retrieved 22 December 2014. 
    29. ^ Warranty Policy and Limitations
    30. ^ Mellor, Chris (16 December 2011). "Seagate matches and raises WD disk warranty cuts". The Register. Retrieved 12 November 2013. 
    31. ^ "WD Support / Warranty Services / End User / Product Replacement for End Users". Retrieved 22 December 2014. 
    32. ^ WD Raptor X 150 GB SATA Hard Drives ( WD1500AHFD )
    33. ^,8/
    34. ^ "Western Digital Knowledge Base Answer 1202". Western Digital Knowledge Base. Retrieved 27 November 2011. 
    35. ^ "Data Lifeguard Tools for Windows Version 11.2". Western Digital Support Downloads. Retrieved 2008-11-06. 
    36. ^ "Data Lifeguard Diagnostic for DOS (CD) Version 5.04f". Western Digital Support Downloads. Retrieved 2008-11-06. 
    37. ^ Seagate lawsuit concludes, settlement announced,
    38. ^ Western Digital Settles Capacity Suit,
    39. ^ a b Western Digital settles drive size lawsuit,
    41. ^ "Western Digital to Stop Shipping PATA Hard Drives". TechPowerUp. Retrieved 22 December 2014. 

    External links

    Official website