WD settles class-action suit over capacity


— 9:29 AM on June 29, 2006

Western Digital has opted to settle out of court a class-action lawsuit that accused the company of misrepresenting the capacity of its hard drives. Like most hard drive manufacturers, Western Digital defines a gigabyte as a 109, or one billion bytes, whereas modern operating systems and most software define a gigabyte as 230, or 1,073,741,824 bytes. The 230 definition is the original and most widely used one, but in 1998, the International Electrotechnical Commission re-defined the term to follow SI naming conventions. Under the new naming scheme, a gigabyte is 109 bytes, and 230 bytes is a gibibyte. Hard drives follow the IEC convention, but most modern operating systems follow the original one, leading to inconsistencies in reported hard drive capacities. For instance, a "200 GB" hard drive is really 200 billion bytes, so Windows XP will report its capacity as 186.26 GB.

As a result of these discrepancies, a user filed a class-action lawsuit (PDF) against Western Digital last year, claiming false advertising, unfair business practices, breach of contract, and fraud. Rather than fight a potentially long and costly legal battle, the company has decided to settle by paying $500,000 in legal expenses and offering free backup and recovery software to roughly a million of its customers. Anyone who purchased a Western Digital hard drive between March 22, 2001 and February 15, 2006 is eligible to receive a copy of the software by signing up on the company's website before the deadline of July 17. Western Digital's settlement doesn't name the software but says it is "comparable to products that retail for $30 or more."

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