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Laptop Hard Drives: Do We Really Need That Much Space?

Updated on July 17, 2011

When we are looking to buy a laptop, most people have a system of what they need and what they can afford. A compromise is usually evaluated and if all goes well, a purchase is made. This is a small part of the buying process. Technology is ever-changing. Buying a laptop is not like buying say, a washing machine. Washing machines get more advanced, but there's a point of diminishing returns where extensive knowledge isn't as important. We can research the latest and greatest in clothes cleaning technology but we shouldn't have to lose sleep in order to buy one. There's a certain point when we start to realized that a good washing machine needs to be energy efficient and quiet. For laptop and netbook computers, it is a bit different. While computer technology have leveled off in the past few years, it's still important to stay relevant to what's new.

Keeping up with current technology trends can be overwhelming. What you know today can be outdated tomorrow.

Besides processor and RAM, hard drive storage space is the next most important factor when buying a laptop. For most people with only 1 computer, the bigger the hard drive, the better. A 500GB hard drive is more than enough to hold huge libraries of music and video. As more people are starting to own second computers, a large hard drive becomes less important. For example, copying the same GBs of music and video feels like a waste of space. Otherwise, if this is your main computer, it's space well spent. More and more people are opting to purchase laptops and netbooks with SSD instead of HDD. Why?

Solid State Drives

SSD or Solid State Drives are different from HDD in which they have no moving parts. This means better battery life, less heat, and faster data transfers. Some drawbacks of SSD is their capacity and cost. A SSD is very expensive compared to their HDD counterpart. For $100, you can get a 250GB HDD. If you were to purchase a SSD in the same price range, the most space you would get is 64GB. Are the drawbacks worth the performance upgrade? More people are saying, yes. There are a few factors that contribute to this decision. Let's take a look at them.

Cloud Computing

The main reason space is not a big concern today is the advent of cloud computing and steaming media. Office documents and applications don't require much disk space. Media takes up the bulk of your storage. Today, much of our media is streamed to us via YouTube. Lots of our pictures can be uploaded and stored on popular photo hosting sites like Flickr, Photobucket, and Picassaweb. Google is even offering a consolidation of documents with their release of Google Docs. With Google Docs, you can store all your word and spreadsheet documents online. Internet and WiFi have been widely available these last few years and online file storage have become more common.

Who needs that much space?

I have a large collection of TV shows and music on my main computer but I wouldn't want it to take up space on my netbook. People need storage and bigger is usually better. I hate worrying about how much space is left on my computer. But for mobile computing, I'd rather have performance and longevity that comes with having a SSD over massive GB's of storage. When buying a computer, people tend to worry about not having enough space. This anxiety is also similar to how we treat battery life. We correct our battery anxiety by bringing along our chargers whenever we are taking our laptops out. In order to deal with space anxiety, we tend to buy more than what we need. We buy a computer with a huge hard drive in order not to worry about it. This is understandable. Lots of people are not tech savvy. Understanding computers takes time and work. Some people would rather pay a bit more for convenience than to deal with problems later. This anxiety can cost you a few hundred dollars. Overpaying is a big problem. We don't need that much space. The people that need terabytes of data storage are those with 1 computer. A 1TB HDD can hold hundreds of movies and weeks, even months of music. Even if you can hold all those movies, streaming media is the cure for space anxiety. With streaming media services like Netflix, movies can be streamed directly to your computer or TV. Pandora, Slacker, or Last.FM can satisfy your music needs. And no hard drive space is needed. Some people have to have a copy. These people download GB's of music and never listen to them. They have TB's of movies and don't watch them. They have them just to have them. They are what I call, "digital hoarders".

Enough storage for you?
Enough storage for you? | Source

Save In Cloud Disk (C:)

If you still want control over your files but want to become less dependent on physical storage, you may have considered cloud computing. Cloud services like Google Docs offer some advantages over physical storage. For one, having your documents in the clouds mean you have access to it wherever you have Internet. If you have your resume on Google Doc and need to send it to a potential employer, log into Google and retrieve it. No need to drive all the way home in order to send it. Physical storage devices like hard drives and USB drive are useful, but this is a situation where cloud computing is more convenient. Adopting cloud computing services means more mobility. No longer are your files limited to your home. You can go out and access your file anywhere with a WiFi connection. Cloud computing is very robust. Not only can you use it to store files, but you can also use it to run enterprise software. That's subject to another hub.

Some drawbacks of cloud computing is privacy and security. These issues go hand in hand. If your files are in the clouds, Google may be looking over them. Be careful what you put online. This could potentially be a security risk. Also, if you are fully dependent on cloud computing, all it takes is a competent hacker to compromise your whole account. If your files were on a physical storage device like a HDD, the thief would have to physically steal that HDD in order to access your data. So as you can see, there are advantages and disadvantages of cloud computing but the current trends suggest that online file storage is becoming more popular, especially among more advanced computer users.

Final Thoughts

We still need storage and it's hard to change our thought process when we are in the market for a new computer. When we have the money, we think, “bigger, stronger, faster”. Not less. It's counter-intuitive to actively seek a smaller hard drive but for those who keep up with technology, an SSD may be a reasonable compromise between speed and storage. Not only will your computer run faster, your battery life will improve. Shopping smart in these trying economic times can mean a better laptop for less money. In my opinion, large storage space on a laptop hard drive is overrated. I'd rather have speed on my mobile computer. I have a main computer and it does a fine job holding all my media. Fact is, I barely watch the movies I have. If I was in the market for another computer, I would definitely save money by looking at a smaller HDD or a SDD. Either way, we don't really need that much storage space. Thanks.

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    • profile image

      james braselton 5 years ago

      hi there yeah only used 96 gb out of 256 gb solid state drive ssd

    • Adroit Alien profile image

      Adroit Alien 6 years ago

      Only $1,599!? Wow, that's chump change! Let me recycle some cans. I only need a 31,000 to go!

    • profile image

      james braselton 6 years ago

      hi there apple has a 256 gb ssd upgrade from 64 gb ssd from the 11 inch macbook air the fully loaded i7 cpu 4 gb ram 256 gb ssd 13.3 inch macbook air is only like $1,599 or $1,799

    • profile image

      james braselton 6 years ago

      hi there just bought the 4 gb ssd xbox 360 slim yesterday and is 3 too 4 times faster then the 250 gb hdd xbox 360 slim played halo in 90 minutes on the hdd xbox 360 and did halo in 30 minutes flat time soo yes gaming consoles need ssd soo much more then any other device

    • profile image

      james braselton 6 years ago

      hi there forgot games too

    • profile image

      james braselton 6 years ago

      hi there no max capacity used on 24 inch imac is 84 gb our of 750 gb hdd soo i am trading down too macbbok air of 256 gb ssd while i could get by off the 128 gb ssd that's with itunes apps movies songs i also could get by with samsung 9 series 128 gb ssd there are lots of ssd netbooks on the internet and ssd laptops on the internet we need increase ssd sells soo we can get more ssd products out on the market

    • Crewman6 profile image

      Crewman6 7 years ago

      Very timely thoughts for me. I just bought a netbook, and after a lot of thought, decided to keep the inherent hard drive and not get an SSD yet. Cost was the main factor, and the other big factor was, like you said, size. Thanks for the perspective!