You've probably heard about the flooding in Thailand. You may not have heard about all the hard drive factories that are underwater and non-operational and will probably stay that way for at least the next six weeks. The next three months are looking really, really bad for hard drives — especially for anyone who's buyin'.
Western Digital, Hitachi, Seagate, and Toshiba are all facing direct production issues as a result of the flooding, and even Korean companies such as Samsung are having trouble getting the specific components that they need to build their own drives, like a motor — responsible for spinning the disc in hard disc drives. Most customers have about two weeks of inventory, and distributors may have an additional two weeks, but beyond that, things are looking gloomy. On Apple's earnings call this week, CEO Tim Cook said that he's "virtually certain there will be an overall industry shortage of disk drives as a result of the disaster."
According to Thailand's prime minister, the flooding may take up to six weeks to recede, and after that, who knows how long it's going to be before factories resume production and there's enough logistical infrastructure back up to get drives and parts out of the country. On top of all that, China's cuts to rare earth supplies are just going to make everything worse by the time the holiday season rolls around. This isn't just speculation, either: it's already getting bad out there.
Over the last two or three days, I've watch prices on the drive I've been looking at for a new PC build (a 1TB Samsung SpinPoint F3, if you're curious) skyrocket from $60 to $110 to completely out of stock most places. As people start to worry, demand will increase, and since there's not going to be any new supply for weeks (maybe even months), things may very well get frantic as soon as current stock runs out. So, if you've been thinking about a new computer, an upgrade to an old computer, or even just an external drive for backup storage, now is definitely the time to pull the trigger.
That is, if it's not already too late.