Lots of data per platter
The $199 Caviar WD600AB is a two-platter drive, with each platter holding a whopping 30GB. The resulting high areal density (the data capacity per platter) allows the drive to transfer data quickly, despite its relatively slow 5,400rpm rotational speed. In CNET Labs' tests, the drive performed a bit faster than the 80GB Maxtor DiamondMax 80. Both drives, however, are more than adequate for the average business or consumer application.
The retail drive kit includes a 40/80-pin ribbon cable, mounting screws, a detailed installation guide, and a Data Lifeguard software diskette. The installation guide's helpful diagrams and clear instructions should make installation less daunting for inexperienced users. However, you don't get mounting rails for securing the 3.5-inch drive in a larger 5.25-inch bay--a bummer if a larger bay is all that's available.
Once the drive is physically installed, simply pop the included diskette into the floppy drive and reboot. You can then use the Data Lifeguard software to format and partition the drive, copy files from an existing drive, run diagnostic checks, or set the interface mode (Ultra ATA/33, 66, or 100).
The drive is backed by a three-year, full-replacement warranty, and the Western Digital Web site offers FAQs, technology guides, and a message board service where technicians can resolve common problems. If they can't, they'll steer you toward phone support, which is toll-free, available seven days a week, and free for the life of the drive, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. CT. The Web site also offers online diagnostic tools that will analyze the health of any hard drive on your system. And unlike Data Lifeguard's diagnostics, you don't have to reboot your PC to use them.
The Western Digital Caviar WD600AB is a good upgrade choice because it delivers more than just extra storage space. Its rare combination of low price, good performance, and substantial support make it easy to like. If you want to make the most out of your upgrade budget or just want ample hand-holding and tech support, you can't go wrong with this hard drive.
30.7GB; 7,200rpm; Ultra ATA/100; 2MB buffer
Maxtor DiamondMax 80
80GB; 5,400rpm; Ultra ATA/100; 2MB buffer
Western Digital Caviar WD600AB
60GB; 5,400rpm; Ultra ATA/100; 2MB buffer
To measure disk transfer rates, CNET Labs ran the disk inspection tests from eTesting Labs' WinBench 99. The test-bed system was a Dell Dimension XPS with an Intel 733MHz PIII processor, a 256K level two cache, 128MB of RAM, and Windows 98 SE. All drives were tested using the FAT32 file system.