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Using a direct imaging method, we experimentally investigate the reversal of magnetic islands in a bit-patterned media sample based on a pre-patterned substrate. Due to systematic variation of the island distances in the media, we are able to study the influence of the dipolar interaction on the switching-field distribution of the island ensemble. The experimental findings are explained by an analytical magnetostatic model that allows us to quantify the different components of the demagnetizing field in the system and to distinguish intrinsic and dipolar broadening of the switching-field distribution. Besides the well-known dipolar broadening due to stray fields from neighboring islands, we find strong influence from the magnetized trench material on the island switching.


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