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Understanding Different Tape Drive Formats: A Quick Review for Tape Library Users

Magnetic tape formats are still key players in data storage and backup. Let's explore five main types: LTO, DLT, DAT, AIT, and QIC.

LTO (Linear Tape Open)

The Linear Tape Open (LTO) format is a leading example of tape storage technology. It's a collaborative effort between HP, IBM, and Quantum, and LTO has changed and improved a lot since it first started.

  • LTO-9 Generation: Compressed capacity up to 45 TB.

  • Future LTO Versions: LTO-10 expected with 90 TB; LTO-14 may reach 1.44 PB.

  • Backward Compatibility: Reads and writes to older generation tapes.

  • Cost-Effective and Eco-Friendly: Low cost per gigabyte; less power usage.

DLT (Digital Linear Tape)

Starting out with Digital Equipment Corporation and now managed by Quantum, DLT has been a key player in data archiving and backup for many years.

  • Super DLT: Capacity up to 110 GB; speed 10 MB/s.

  • Reliability: Can read older tapes; backward compatible.

  • Market Fit: Ideal for small to medium-sized data storage needs.

DAT (Digital Audio Tape)

Originally designed for audio recording, DAT found its way into the data storage world, particularly for small-scale backup needs.

  • Storage Capacity: DAT tapes range from 1 to 80 GB.

  • Evolution: Slower evolution; remains cost-effective for specific backup needs.

AIT (Advanced Intelligent Tape)

Developed by Sony, AIT was a significant player in the tape storage market until its discontinuation.

  • Generations: AIT-1 to AIT-5; capacity 100 GB to 400 GB.

  • SAIT Variant: Higher capacity up to 800 GB (SAIT-2).

  • Innovative Features: Includes WORM and R-MIC technologies for improved functionality and security.

QIC (Quarter Inch Cartridge)

QIC, one of the earliest forms of magnetic tape storage, has undergone various transformations over the years.

  • Variants: QIC-525 (525 MB), QIC-1350 (1.35 GB), minicartridges QIC-40, QIC-80.

  • Travan and SLR Series: Higher capacities; Travan up to 70 GB (140 GB compressed).

  • Use Cases: Ideal for specific legacy systems and niche applications.


Magnetic tape technology is varied, with each type serving different purposes. LTO stands out for high-capacity, large-scale storage. DLT and AIT, while less common, still hold their place in storage history. DAT and QIC show the adaptability of tape technology. As data needs grow, these tapes, especially LTO, are crucial for data management and archiving in many organizations.

If you're looking to buy LTO drives or tape libraries, our refurbished products across the EU are reliable and budget-friendly. They come with up to a 5-year warranty and a test-before-you-pay option, ensuring a risk-free purchase. Contact us for pricing details.


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