A proposed class action filed in June against Western Digital Corporation over claims that the company has loaded certain models of WD Blue and Black hard drives with slower performing, inferior components has been transferred to federal court in California’s Northern District.
Filed June 16 and transferred November 17, the 19-page complaint alleges Western Digital failed to disclose its WD Blue and Black hard drives utilized shingle magnetic recording (SMR) technology, which causes slower performance and inferior stability in comparison to conventional magnetic recording (CMR) technology.
Although Western Digital’s hard drives used to run on CMR technology, the San Jose, California company “surreptitiously” switched to SMR technology within the last several years without informing consumers, the suit alleges.
“In this regard, Defendant was able to increase its profits by reducing its costs of goods sold while still bringing in the same amount of revenue for each of the Hard Drives sold,” the complaint says. “Had Defendant disclosed that the Hard Drives use SMR technology, plaintiff and putative Class members would not have purchased the Hard Drives, or would have paid less for the Hard Drives than they did.”
Piggybacking onto a lawsuit filed June 3, the highly technical case explains that most standard hard drive disks use CMR technology as it can deliver excellent random-access performance. Whereas CMR hard drive disks “write” data on magnetic disks side by side without overlapping, hard drives with SMR technology overlap each new track with part of the previously written track, “much like shingles on a roof,” the suit says. Though SMR technology allows for low cost and high storage capacity, issues can arise if new or modified data needs to be placed near existing data, which will need to be overwritten, making SMR hard drives significantly slower, according to the case.
More significantly, SMR hard drives make the potential for permanent data loss more likely, the lawsuit continues:
“Whereas data engineers can rebuild certain components on other storage types and recover lost data, the SMR data translators cannot be repaired. This can result in permanent data loss if the translators are damaged.
In short, while SMR [hard disk drives] boast high areal density, they are at a disadvantage in nearly every other category.”
Per the lawsuit, it’s for these reasons that SMR hard drives are typically used only for archival or backup data storage and are not recommended for use by ordinary consumers.
Unbeknownst to consumers, certain Western Digital hard drives—in particular the WD Blue 3.5” 2 terabyte, WD Blue 3.5” 6 terabyte, WD Blue 2.5” 1 terabyte, WD Blue 2.5” 2 terabyte and WD Black 2.5” 1 terabyte varieties—were falsely represented as utilizing superior CMR technology as recently as March 2020. The following month, the case says, the defendant admitted to more than one online outlet that itssupposedly high-performance driveswere equipped with slower, and cheaper, technology.
“In short, Plaintiff and Class members who purchased the WD Black Drives or WD Blue Drives were not told that the Hard Drives use SMR technology, which affects drive performance and data stability,” the complaint alleges. “These consumers paid a price premium for drives they believed used CMR technology, which offers better performance. Had Western Digital disclosed that the Hard Drives use SMR technology, Plaintiff and Class members would not have purchased the Hard Drives, or would have paid less for the Hard Drives.”
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