If you know the transfer rate, how do you calculate the bytes per track?


1 Answer 1


Bytes per track depends totally on how the manufacturer laid out the disk internally, which you will not know. All modern disks use LBA (logical block addressing), in which the OS addresses the drive on a sector-by-sector basis, not knowing or caring how or where the sectors are physically located on the platters (nor how many platters there actually are).

Not only that, but the number of sectors per track depends on how far out from the spindle motor you are at the time; it's not a spiral like on a CD. The further from the spindle you are, the more sectors per track (and thus the higher the transfer rate).

The following diagram explains it, but note that the diagram is partially incorrect -- instead of the sectors getting bigger as you go outwards from the spindle, the sectors remain the same size and there are more of them per track the further from the spindle you go (which causes your number of bytes per track, sectors per track, etc to go up).

Disk layout

Since the heads will be over a certain track for only one revolution, and you don't know where on disk you are, you cannot know if the next track will have more or fewer sectors, and therefore your transfer rate will fluctuate.

That said, it will only fluctuate if you are reading directly from disk and not out of cache; modern drives have advanced caching algorithms which will prefetch content it thinks you'll ask for next. As a result, if you were measuring transfer rate, you have no idea if it's coming off the platters or out of cache, making such measurements unrepeatable and totally useless.

In other words, you don't. Period.

  • There should be a way to calculate it if certain assumptions are made. This question is part of a study guide for my class.
    – Phenom
    Mar 13, 2010 at 5:12
  • @Phenom: See above; I added an image and some text after it to further illustrate the point.
    – Alex
    Mar 13, 2010 at 8:10
  • What you said might be true but I still think that theoretically there should be a way to calculate the bytes per track because we're probably going to be asked to do so on a test.
    – Phenom
    Mar 13, 2010 at 9:06
  • You can, but it would be an average across the surface, since bytes per track depends on how many sectors exist on a track, and that is NOT THE SAME at the inside of the disk, in the middle, and at the outside.
    – Alex
    Mar 13, 2010 at 9:35
  • 1
    @Phenom: (DRIVE_CAPACITY / NUMBER_OF_SURFACES) / NUMBER_OF_TRACKS_PER_SURFACE = AVERAGE_CAPACITY_PER_TRACK. Pretty straightforward -- but you're having to make a ridiculous number of assumptions and averages to compute this, so the end result is essentially meaningless.
    – Alex
    Mar 15, 2010 at 11:45

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