You wouldn’t buy a brand-new car with a tape player. So, why would you buy a new laptop with an old school hard drive dating back to the 1950s? If you want a fast and responsive laptop to merge onto the information superhighway, then you need to pick one up with an SSD (solid-state drive). Why? Because when it comes to the overall speed of a computer, the storage drive is infinitely more important than other components like the CPU, RAM and graphics card. This is because the OS (operating system) and other software are constantly using virtual memory (swap files) in the background, which means they’re tapping into the resources of the storage drive. But is a 256GB SSD enough for a laptop?
Buying the Right Laptop Computer
When buying your first laptop or looking to replace an old model. An important question to answer is “How much storage do I need?” Laptops come with different storage capacities. As you shop for laptops, you’ll see that many have a 256GB storage capacity, which represents the middle ground.
The next step up is 512GB. You can even get mainstream laptops that offer up to 1TB of SSD storage. Laptops like Microsoft’s Surface come with either a 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, and up to 1TB SSD storage drive capacities.
How Much Storage Do I Need?
Prices tend to reflect the amount of storage a laptop offers. The typical impulse is to go for the cheapest laptop your budget can manage, which usually winds up being a laptop without enough storage for all the things you like to do. Again, getting a laptop with a 256GB SSD is a fair middle ground when you’re in doubt.
There’s no single right answer for how much storage your laptop should have. But consider this: all operating systems from Windows to the MacOS to Linux take up some storage room to be operational in a computer system. Windows 10, for instance, takes up 15GB. This means that if you purchase a laptop with a 256GB SSD, 15GB is already allocated to the operating system. Leaving you with 241GB for all your storage needs.
If you’re replacing your laptop with a new one or thinking about purchasing a new laptop and wondering how much storage you need. Consider the amount of storage you currently use on the computers you work with. Think about all the music and video files you have saved locally. Is the current storage capacity handling your needs? Is there an activity you can imagine doing with the new system that requires more storage space, like video editing or music creation?
Add More Storage Space Later, or Buy Now?
Laptops are expensive investments with an average lifespan of around 3 to 5 years, depending on model. A great way to offset costs, is to purchase one with just the amount of storage you need for all your daily activities and upgrade the storage drive with a larger capacity when you can afford it.
Unfortunately, the ability to do this often depends on the brand and type of laptop. And most budget laptops of any kind are small with limited internal space, without the room for upgrading storage at a future date.
So then, the best thing to do is ensure a purchase that will allow enough breathing room for future projects, images, videos, games and other things you may not want to store in the cloud or on an external hard drive.
In the final analysis, it’s best to purchase a machine with the amount of storage you need right off the bat, rather than trying to upgrade the storage unit at a future time. And an external drive, while a handy way to expand storage, is just another piece of tech you have to carry around with your laptop.
Media, Music, Pictures, and Video
How much of your current media needs storage? And what is the quality of that media? MP3, for example have different levels of quality. Storing 500 MP3s with higher quality will take up more storage space than storing 500 low quality MP3s. Storing those same 500 MP3s at a standard compression takes up 2GB of space total, with 4MB for each song. However, if a higher quality MP3 is stored, the total storage would go up to 3.5GB, which is close to double the space.
Photos are no different. The amount of storage you’ll need for 500 photos depends on their quality. Storing 500 photos on an SSD can eat up anywhere from 1- to 14GB of space. And the quality of the photo will depend on the type of device you’re using to take pictures.
Videos vary in storage requirements too. A 60-minute video can gobble up anywhere between 1GB to 20GB of storage. Do you film high-quality videos? You’ll likely need 20GB of storage space. Filming videos with your Android or iPhone will put you within the lower range.
Depending on what you store locally, you should opt for a laptop that offers 512GB of space, or even a 1TB SSD. If your storage needs only consist of a handful of photos, songs and videos. A laptop with a 256GB SSD will likely take care of all your storage needs into the foreseeable future. But if you think your storage needs will be greater, it’s always better to err on the side of a bigger storage drive.
Laptops are thin and getting thinner with each new generation. With limited internal space, there’s rarely enough room to upgrade storage in the future. After figuring out your storage needs, estimate the breathing room you will need before deciding on a purchase. Only you know how much media you create and store, so it’s important to take that into consideration. Besides that, a 256GB SSD is an adequate amount of storage for most users with a moderate storage need, e.g. you’re occasional documents and perhaps a handful of photos and videos. More laptops are hitting the market with 512 to 1TB of SSD storage for less than when they were first introduced.