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Western Digital Settles Hard-Drive Capacity Lawsuit

Russell Redman

Under the terms of the settlement, Western Digital will offer free backup-and-recovery software to customers who bought its hard drives between March 22, 2001, and Feb. 15, 2006. Customers must register at www.wdc.com/settlement to receive the software, which has an estimated retail value of $30.

About 1 million customers are eligible for the free software, the settlement documents said. Lake Forest, Calif.-based Western Digital sold more than 5 million hard drives in the aftermarket during the period covered by the settlement, and the average purchase price of the drives was $150, according to the settlement.

San Francisco law firm Gutride Safier LLP, which represented the customers, said in a statement that the settlement isn't an admission of misconduct by Western Digital and that the storage vendor denies any wrongdoing or liability. Finalization of the settlement agreement, which a federal judge approved earlier this month, is pending.

The lawsuit claimed Western Digital overstated the capacities of its hard drives by about 7 percent. For example, the settlement documents said, 80-Gbyte Western Digital hard drives actually stored 74.4 Gbytes of data.

At issue was the definition of a gigabyte. The settlement documents said Western Digital and other hard-drive makers use the decimal definition, in which 1 Gbyte equals 1 billion bytes, whereas PC operating systems like Windows and Macintosh employ a binary definition, in which 1 Gbyte equals roughly 1.07 billion bytes. As a result, Western Digital customers didn't have as much storage capacity as they believed, the suit claimed.

Most hard-drive makers indicate that the capacity shown on the product package might not be fully accessible. With the settlement, Western Digital will be required to specify its gigabyte definition on its Web site and future product packaging, including a disclaimer that total accessible storage capacity may vary depending on the operating environment.

A similar case is pending in San Francisco Superior Court against hard-drive manufacturer Seagate Technology, said attorney Adam Gutride of Gutride Safier, which filed the suit.

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