When shopping for a laptop, storage capacity is often a critical factor to consider. After all, if you’re going to be using your laptop for a range of tasks, such as working, gaming, or storing photos and videos, you should make sure that you have enough space to meet your needs. But how much storage do you really need on your laptop?
The amount of storage you need on your laptop largely depends on the activities you want to do with it — and how much you’re willing to spend. For most users, 512GB is more than enough. However, if you’re doing a lot of video editing, gaming, coding, or similar activities, you may prefer 1TB.
The more storage space you have on your laptop, the more data it can store — and the faster you can access it when needed. But while more space is generally beneficial, it may not be worth cost for everyone. Let’s get into the details and find out what to consider when deciding on storage space.
What Is the Typical Range of Storage Available on Laptops?
The typical range of storage available on laptops these days is between 128GB and 1TB, with an average of 250GB to 500GB. Depending on the manufacturer and model, laptops may offer higher or lower storage capacities.
For instance, Apple’s 2022 MacBook Air (on Amazon) comes with either 256GB or 512GB of internal storage, while Microsoft’s Surface Laptops come in a wider range, including 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, and 1TB.
How to View the Storage on Your Laptop
Checking the storage on your laptop is essential as it gives you a better idea of your actual personal usage. Here’s how to view the storage on a Windows laptop and a MacBook:
On a Windows Laptop
- Search for “File Explorer” in the search bar at the bottom of your screen and open it.
- Select “This PC” in the left-hand panel. You’ll see all the drives on your computer.
- Right-click on the drive you want to view and select “Properties.” A window will pop up showing you the total size of the drive, as well as how much space is used.
On a MacBook
- Click on the Apple logo in the top-left corner of your desktop.
- Select “About this Mac” from the drop-down menu and click “Storage.”
- A window will show you an overview of your Mac’s storage. The bar graph shows the type of files, such as movies, music, and system files taking up space on your Mac.
- Click on “Manage” for more details about the files consuming storage on your Mac. On this tab, you can see how much space each app uses. You can also get recommendations for optimizing your Mac’s storage.
What to Consider When Deciding on Storage Space
Sufficient storage capacity is essential for a laptop to function optimally. The following are some critical factors to consider when deciding on the storage space for your laptop:
The Type of Work You’ll Be Doing
The activities you do on your laptop play a massive role in determining the size of storage space it should contain.
Typical laptop owners use their computers primarily to browse the web, send emails, stream content, and be active on social media. Most prefer web-based applications like Google Docs rather than those they have to download and install.
These web-based apps, combined with cloud-based storage like Google Drive or iCloud and streaming services like YouTube, Netflix, and Spotify, make it possible for the average laptop user to get by with minimal storage space.
The case is different for video editors, photographers, or coders. They definitely need more space and better performance.
Video editors, for example, usually need to store and recall hundreds of GBs — or even a few TBs of data — swiftly. For these users, a laptop’s ability to import and export large files with little wait time is crucial, and that requires a lot of storage space.
If you have no problem splurging on a new laptop, you can ignore this section. But since storage is one of the most expensive upgrades you can make on a laptop, it can quickly cause the price to skyrocket.
HDDs (hybrid hard drives) provide more storage capacity at a lower cost than SSDs (sold-state drives), but the trade-off is that data access and retrieval are much slower, meaning it takes more time to save or access files from the drive.
On average, the cost of HDDs is around $0.04 per GB, while SSDs go for about $0.25 per GB. A TB of storage for each comes to around $40 for the HDD and $250 for the SSD.
A cost-effective way to get the best of both worlds is to buy a laptop with a small SSD for everyday use and pair it with an external HDD — like this 5TB drive from WD (on Amazon) — for long-term storage. This gives you the speed of the SSD for the items you use most often and ample space of the HDD for archiving content.
The Types of Files You’ll Be Storing
You can utilize cloud-based storage for almost anything if you’re a casual laptop user, but it’s still wise to have regular offline backups for your most important files. Still, with a fast and reliable internet connection, cloud storage should cover most of your needs.
Photos, videos, applications, and games usually determine the amount of storage space a regular laptop user needs, so it’s best to consider how you’re storing them. Google Drive and iCloud offer cost-effective ways to store these things online, freeing up more space on your laptop.
If you’re a gamer, you can rely on services like Steam to store games that you own but don’t play regularly. Steam stores a backup of your game, allowing you to access it from a single, easy-to-use interface. The system deletes the games you don’t play from your device, and you can re-download them quickly when you want to play them again.
In contrast to a casual user, a power user requires more physical storage. For example, an industrial designer doesn’t have the time to wait for a huge CAD file to download when presenting it to a customer.
Architects can’t depend on cloud storage to store the countless hours of work put into architectural drawings and engineering plans. Video editors can’t wait for their laptops to import and export hundreds of gigabytes of footage for a project they’re working on.
For power users, physical storage is mandatory. For the rest of us, it’s just a bonus.