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Western Digital Corporation ( ) (often abbreviated to WD) is a manufacturer of computer hard disk drives, and 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 as General Digital, initially (and briefly) a manufacturer of MOS semiconductor test equipment. It rapidly became a specialty semiconductor maker, with startup capital provided by several individual investors and industrial giant Emerson Electric Company. In July, 1971, they adopted their current name, had moved to Lake Forest, Californiamarker, and soon after introduced their first product, the WD1402A UART. Western Digital is currently one of the largest hard drive companies in the world..



Through the early years of the 1970s, WDC made their money by selling calculator chips; by 1975, they were 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, changed its fortunes, however. 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 (used, among other things, to implement DEC's LSI-11 system and their own Pascal MicroEngine microcomputer which ran the UCSD p-System Version III and UCSD Pascal), and a string of single-chip floppy disk drive controller chips, notably the WD1771.


The WD1771 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.

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 their Paradise subsidiary, purchased 1986), 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 moneymakers. 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.


Western Digital Caviar280 (WDAC280-32) - 85.3 MB (mounted on a third party 5.25" bay 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 (it has since disappeared), their networking and floppy drive controller divisions went to SMC Networks, and their SCSI chip business went to 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 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.

To 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 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 much respect in the press and among users, even despite a recall in 2000 (which was due to bad motor driver chips). WDC has since broken ties to IBM.


Western Digital WD740GD Raptor - 10.000 U/min - 74 GB
In 2001, Western Digital became the first manufacturer to offer mainstream ATA hard disk drives with 8 MB (8 MiB) of cache 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 with capacities from 40 GB to 250 GB and more followed. WD advertised the JB models as a good choice for cost-effective file servers.

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. As of 2004 the WD Raptor drives have 5 years of warranty, making them a more attractive choice for inexpensive storage server, 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 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) range of drives notable for their very low power consumption and heat dissipation but surprisingly good performance.

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.

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, feature 300 GB capacity and platters enclosed in the IcePack, a mounting frame with a built-in heat sink. Western Digital claims the new drives are 35 percent faster than the previous generation WD Raptors.

On September 12, 2008, Western Digital shipped a 500 GB 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.

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.


Recently, WD sells many hard drives with a warranty of one, three or five years included in the retail price, but they offer the customer the option of purchasing a longer (two- or three-year) warranty on their web site. Three years is the current industry standard and while Seagate (a competitor) used to offer 5 years of warranty for all their drives, they recently announced that they are moving back to a three years warranty.

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

Key innovations

Western Digital is responsible for a number of innovations, including
  • c.1971 – WD1402A, the first single-chip UART
  • c.1976 – WD1771, 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 (Lake Forest, CA; San Jose, CA; Fremont, CA; Longmont, CO; Belleair, FL; Pasadena, MD; Reading, MA; Bellevue, NE; Cleveland, OH; North Sioux City, SD; Austin, TX; Dallas, TX; Houston, TX)
  • Europe: Prague (Czech Republic), Orsay (France), Bornach (Germany), Leatherhead (UK)
  • Asia: Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Hongkong (China), Tokyo (Japan), Taipei (Taiwan), Seoul (S. Korea); Petaling Jaya, Penang, Selangor, Sarawak (Malaysia); Singapore; Ayuthaya, Pathumthani (Thailand), Dubai (United Arab Emirates)


Western Digital distributes the following utilities for use with their hard drives.
Data Lifeguard Tools: 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.

As of version 11 it contains the following features:
  • 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 of the hard drive. It includes features such as:

See also


External links

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