How big is your hard drive, exactly? This question has caused no small amount of consternation, not only to geeks, but to hard drive companies as well. Western Digital, one of the largest manufacturers of computer hard drives, has just announced a settlement in the class-action lawsuit filed against it in California.
The lawsuit charged that Western Digital sold hard drives, specifically their 80GB WD800VE drive and their 120GB WD1200B011 model, that had only 79,971,254,272 bytes (74.4GB) and 120,002,150,400 bytes (111GB) of usable storage. All this confusion comes from the binary definition of kilobytes, megabytes, and gigabytes, which are 210 (1024), 220 (1,048,576), and 230 (1,073,741,824) bytes respectively.
Apart from math geeks and fans of the binary counting system, does anyone really care about the differences between kilo- and mega- in their binary forms versus their metric forms? The lawsuit charges that consumers do care, because they have become familiar with binary amounts in two ways: from the typical amounts of memory received with every new computer (128, 256, 512 MB and so forth), and because the computer’s operating system itself reports free space in terms of binary megabytes and gigabytes. The suit even went on to reference the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and that organization’s proposed renaming of the binary standards to “kibibyte” and “mebibyte,” arguing that the world’s failure to adopt these new terms means that the old binary definitions for kilobytes and megabytes should still stand.
In the end, all this fibble and kibibble winds up with Western Digital offering to compensate customers with a US$30 refund, which the company will provide in the form of free backup and recovery software valued at the same amount. Customers wishing to take advantage of this offer need to visit WD’s site and sign up for the Claim Form, which must be completed by July 17.