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A tape cartridge is a storage device that contains a spool of magnetic tape used to store different kinds of data, from corporate data to audio and video files. Each cartridge is designed to fit into a compatible audio/video recorder system or computer system. In the context of computing, however, a tape cartridge is the magnetic tape storage cartridge used in tape library units to store digital data on magnetic tape, which is packaged in cassettes and cartridges.
Tape cartridges are also known as data cartridges.
A magnetic tape cartridge is an essential component of a robust backup system, which makes use of tape libraries for long-term backup storage. The tape cartridge is the actual piece of hardware that data is saved to; through an autoloader or a robot, the cartridge is inserted into one of many tape drives within a tape library unit for reading and writing.
Because of the nature of the tape cartridge, only sequential writing and reading are possible, so if a specific file needs to be located, the tape drive must read the tape cartridge from the beginning of the spool until it reaches the specific file location. This can take time and is the biggest drawback of a storage system using magnetic tape cartridges. However, tape is cheaper per gigabyte compared to hard drives and solid-state drives, making it ideal for long-term storage archiving.