Okay, this is ridiculous.

2007-10-22 08:44

Hard drive capacities, as just about everyone knows, are given in base-10 gigabytes: 1,000,000,000 bytes. So, a 500GB drive is 500,000,000,000 bytes. Operating systems tend to use base-2 gigabytes, which are (1024*1024*1024) bytes — about 7% larger.

A while back, someone actually sued Western Digital over this, as reported in PC Mechanic in June of 2006. I just got my class member notification for a similar suit against Seagate.

Should they change the labeling? Yes.

But no one’s asked them to. Instead, they’re being asked to put an explanation on the box that they’re using the wrong units, which most vendors have had for years anyway. Also, you can get cash settlements of five percent of the purchase price of some drives (likely $100-200 base cost); the lawyers get just under two million dollars.

This is a stupid, stupid, suit, and a stupid, stupid, settlement.

Yes, it would be nice if all the vendors agreed to sell drives such that the “capacity” an operating system would see would be sorta close to the number on the box. I’m typing this on a machine with a “250GB” hard drive which actually has room for 232.57GB of files — a mere 249.72 “gigabytes” in the hard drive industry. I suppose next we’ll be seeing lawsuits against people who format disks.

Dumb, dumb, dumb. The disclosures were adequate to begin with, and strictly speaking, the drive vendors are right anyway; the IEC prefix for “binary gigabytes” is GiB.

Peter Seebach



  1. As long as they don't use the abhorrent "gigabibytes" term. That's a slapping offense.

    — rone · 2007-10-22 20:33 · #

  2. Yeah, it's been ages since I've bought a drive that doesn't have their definition of 'gigabytes' on it. There's another reason that settlements like this bother me. Since every hard drive manufacturer uses those units, how is the pricing deceptive? It seems to me that pricing would only be deceptive if compared to someone who sold gigabytes in powers of two units instead of decimal units. If everyone sells the product using the same units, how can one have any deceptive market advantage over the other?

    — James Lick · 2007-10-23 21:32 · #