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Seagate to pay refund over gigabyte definition

Seagate Technology, the world's largest hard-drive maker, is offering customers a five percent refund on drives bought during the last six years following a lawsuit over the definition of a "gigabyte". As an alternative, customers can choose to receive free backup software.

Seagate Technology, the world's largest hard-drive maker, is offering customers a five percent refund on drives bought during the last six years following a lawsuit over the definition of a "gigabyte". As an alternative, customers can choose to receive free backup software.

Four people sued the company, saying they expected its drives to offer greater capacity than that actually provided. Seagate manufactures its drives based on powers of ten, with 1KB equalling 1,000 bytes. The claimants argued that 1KB of storage should compromise 1,024 bytes.

On a 1GB drive, this would make the difference between one billion bytes of storage, and 1,073,741,824 bytes. Other manufacturers, such as Samsung and Hitachi, also measure hard-drive capacity with 1KB equalling 1,000 bytes, whereas all operating systems are based on 1KB equalling 1,024 bytes.

Because the lawsuit is a "class action", the settlement is available to all Seagate customers.

Seagate denies any fault, but it has offered to pay the refund for any drive which was bought between 22 March, 2001 and 26 September, 2007. The offer is awaiting approval by the presiding judge.

To claim a refund, buyers have to fill in a form quoting their product's serial number. If they wish to claim the software, they have to use a different online form.

The lawsuit is the latest in a series of similar cases involving the definition of a gigabyte. In 2003, Apple, Dell, Gateway, HP, IBM, Sharp, Sony and Toshiba were sued over hard-disk sizes by a group of users. That case has not yet been resolved.

A suit against Amazon.com over the capacity of an MP3 player bought on the site was also filed in 2003, but was dismissed in 2005.

All the major flash memory card makers, including SanDisk and Kingston, were sued in 2004, but there has been no result in that case yet.

Another hard-disk giant, Western Digital, settled a similar suit in 2005, but it escaped having to pay refunds. The company offered a free download of backup software valued at US$30 and paid half a million dollars in legal fees, while denying liability.

Peter Judge from ZDNet UK reported from London.