Magnetic Tape Drive

What Does Magnetic Tape Drive Mean?

A magnetic tape drive is a storage device that makes use of magnetic tape as a medium for storage.


It uses a long strip of narrow plastic film with tapes of thin magnetizable coating. It is essentially a device which records or perhaps plays back video and audio using magnetic tape, examples of which are tape recorders and video tape recorders.

Techopedia Explains Magnetic Tape Drive

Magnetic tape drives store data on magnetic tape using digital recording.

The tapes are usually stored on cartridges or cassettes, but for drives that are used as data storage tape backups, the tape is often wound on reels. Magnetic tape is not the most dense data storage medium, but as of 2010 the record for the largest data capacity in magnetic tape was 29.5GB per square inch and the Linear Tape-Open (LTO) supported continuous data transfer rates up to 140 MB/s which was comparable to most hard disks drives.

A tape drive is only able to move tape in a single direction and hence can only provide sequential access storage, unlike a disk drive which may provide random access as well as sequential access.

The reason magnetic tape drives are still in use today, especially as an offline data backup, is because of long archival stability and very favorable unit costs.


Related Terms

Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.