Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Dear HP, where did my 80GB drive go?

Penny's new HP Pavilion notebook is beautiful. She loves the shiny finish, the DVD remote control, and the overall design of the notebook. But like many beautiful things, it has its trouble spots.
According to the advertised specifications, the unit has an 80GB drive.
According to Spinrite, the drive size is 80,026,361,856 bytes, which is only 74.53GB. An 80GB drive would be 85,899,345,920 bytes, since there are 1024MB in 1GB, and so on. So that means that 6.8% of my drive is vapourware!
To add insult to injury, the drive is partitioned into a "recovery" partition and a "working" partition, and the working partition is only 69.3GB. The other partition is for drivers and the Windows Vista install files, which I can't use because the backup software doesn't work.
So the advertised 80GB drive is effectively a 69.3GB drive. The missing 10.7GB is either "shrinkage" or badly configured. That's a loss of 13.3%! Thanks for that, Hewlett Packard!
Update: since posting this article on Digg, several readers have said that I was supplied with an 80GB (SI units) drive, not an 80GBi drive. How nice: as a consumer I am expected to "know" that when the specs say "up to 2GB" in the case of RAM they mean 2048MB, but when referring to hard drives they mean 2000MB. What nonsense!


Anonymous said...

This is a standard practice in the computer world. Hard drive manufactures even list this on their boxes. Usually they list a Megabyte as being 1000 kilobytes, or they list a gigabyte as being 1000 megabytes. Get used to it.

Unknown said...

The problem is the common mis-usage of the unit "megabyte." The term will forever be wrongly used unfortunately, as even those in the computer and software engineering field, like myself (12 years programming) use the term incorrectly. Officially, in SI units (the international "standard" - see for more info) a megabyte truly is defined as 1,000,000 bytes, and this is what harddrive manufacturers use to label the drive you purchased. This is because the prefixes kilo, mega, giga and so on are a standard value in SI units. Each is a power of 10. A kilometer is 1000 meters. Thus a kilobyte is 1000 bytes. In SI units, a mebibyte is 1,048,576 bytes or 1024 kibibytes. These new prefixes are starting to get used, and schools are starting to teach the new units. But even when I went through shcool (started programming before I even got to high school, started college in 2000) the new units weren't even mentioned. So -technically- the HD manufacturer is being generous and giving you an extra 26,361,856 bytes. They could have labeled it as 80.03GB after all. ;)

Donn Edwards said...

Windows Vista uses a GB as 1024 MB, and all the RAM manufacturers manufacture 1GB RAM as 1024MB, so why should I accept this tripe from the HDD manufacturers?

Vista clearly shows the size of the drive in GB, and the HP site clearly lists the size in GB.

{p} said...

The problem -- or wrongdoing in this case -- lies squarely with Microsoft and RAM makers. They should start labeling things with GiB or MiB instead of GB and MB. After all, GiB and MiB is now standardized by IEC (IEC 60027-2 A.2) and IEEE (IEEE 1541-2002). See the following link:

From the same wiki article:

HDD manufacturers state capacity in decimal units. This usage has a long tradition, even predating the SI system of decimal prefixes adopted in 1960

Donn Edwards said...

No, the blame lies with HP for publishing unclear specifications:
You can't talk about 1024MB of RAM and mean 1,073,741,824 bytes, and then mention 80GB and mean 80,026,361,856 bytes without actually saying so. Why don't they just say how many actual bytes they are referring to in brackets? It's not like they don't have the space!

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