New Hard Drives Could Spell Trouble for XP Users
Traditionally, data on hard disks has been broken up into 512 byte chunks. Each broken-up sector requires additional space on a physical disk to mark the beginning and the end of each piece. Extra space is also needed for error correction, and there needs to be a bit of room to separate it from the next chunk. This wasn't much of a problem when the format debuted in the '80s when hard drives were measured in megabytes. Now that we have entered the terabyte era, the extra room required for each sector leads to wasted space on the surface of a disk.
A new format, which all disk manufacturers have agreed to migrate to by the end of January of next year, increases these sectors to 4 kilobytes, or eight times the size. This reduces waste and increases disk size, but an operating system must be able to recognize the new format. Vista and Windows 7 users are in the clear, as are Mac users with OS X 10.4 or higher and Linux users with a kernel released after September of 2009... XP users, on the other hand, may encounter some problems.
Windows XP must use an emulation layer that makes the 4KB sectors appear to be several 512 byte ones. This won't have much of an impact when reading from the disk, but could lead to slowdowns of as much as 10-percent when writing data. That could be a particularly big problem for those performing media intensive tasks like video editing.
We know this is some pretty techy stuff, but what it boils down to is, if you plan to build a new Windows XP computer in the future, you might want buy your hard drive now. Otherwise, it might be time to consider that upgrade to Windows 7. [From: BBC]