There was a time when computer users were concerned about not having enough hard disk space on their computers. Moore’s Law says the semiconductor chip density will double every 18 months yet computer storage capacity growth has outpaced even that rate. Recently I have witnessed that many people do not use anywhere near their computer’s hard disk storage. Computer manufacturers now offer storage capacity of 500GB, 1TB and beyond. It is beginning to feel like we don’t need quite that much. Let’s explore some of the storage footprint requirements:
Operating System takes up quite a bit, yet they are essential to your computer’s operation. The storage requirement for the latest Mac OS (El Capitan) is 8.8 GB and Microsoft Windows 10 requires 16 GB, according to Apple and Microsoft web sites, respectively.
Applications. We have become far less dependent on locally installed applications (often called “fat client” software) to be productive. Most users get their email, social media and other information from the internet through a web browser. Perhaps the most storage intensive and daily use applications are some combination of the Microsoft Office Suite. Beyond that, image and video editing applications such as the Adobe Creative Suite, Final Cut Pro and of course games, tend to use considerable storage.
Files. From these applications we generate files that we store locally. Text documents, spreadsheets, presentations, videos, photos, etc. Depending on your usage, these can add up but for most people 10-20 GB is usually what they use in their My Documents or Documents folders. Videos are the exception; a full length DVD movie can easily require 4-10 GB depending on the quality and resolution.
Photos/Music/Video. There has been a tremendous shift from point-and-shoot digital cameras to smartphone cameras. The convenience and quality improvements are obvious. There is also cloud storage and photo streaming so that multiple devices, including your computer, can access these photos. Most people keep their music library on their computer because it is safer there, less likely to be lost (like a phone or tablet) and memory is a lot cheaper for a computer than a mobile device. Local storage of movies and video used to be popular but that has faded. Your personal collection is best stored on a media server that can be accessed by your entertainment system and large screen TV. Online video access is everywhere, e.g., Netflix, YouTube, HBO, Showtime, Hulu and your cable provider as well.
One area we have taken a capacity step backward is the transition to SSD (solid state device) memory. These are basically flash drives instead of spinning hard disk drives (HDD). No moving parts means less chance of failure, they use less power so better battery life and they are much faster, but more expensive than the same capacity hard disk.
In conclusion, check your computer’s storage status, used vs. free space. You may find that you need less storage memory than you think, though it may be difficult to buy a computer today with less than 1 TB. Instead, I recommend you shift to the better SSD memory even at a lesser capacity than the HDD option. For now, the more important specs to focus on are RAM and network connectivity. Your computer will run faster and you’ll access online files and content quicker.