The downside to cheap storage

Written by Antony Leather

May 17, 2013 | 08:16

Tags: #ssd

Companies: #crucial #samsung

Casting my mind back 20 years or so, I remember when hard disks were barely breaching the 1GB barrier. Even though programs at the time generally took up a lot less space than they do today, space was very much a premium. [break]I was mainly into flight simulators at the time, and these took up far more space than your average fps did before the millennium. So much so that I would have to uninstall all other games just to run my favourite sims, and even then I’d be running the hard disk with less than 10 per cent space free.

This, of course, meant it was pretty slow, even by standards back then. Thankfully, at the turn of the century, hard disks started to increase in size almost exponentially. By 2002, 40GB was common but you still had to keep an eye on your disk space. At the time I was getting pretty interested in performance too, and generally lived by the rule of having at least 30 per cent space remaining so not to have my hard disk grind to a halt as it chugged through all the data.

Fast-forward another five years and the average hard disk had increased ten-fold again with 500GB drives now relatively affordable. By this stage of course, a vast majority of people had more space than they could ever hope to fill. With 3TB hard disks now available for less than £90 and 1TB models for around £50, for those of us that don’t have gargantuan video collections, running out of storage space is practically impossible. In fact for less than the price of a tank of petrol (in the UK anyway), you can quite easily acquire enough storage to probably last half a decade.

The downside to cheap storage *The down side to cheap storage
I've been itching to make my PC an SSD-only zone since I looked at the first generation of SSDs back in 2008 - Click to enlarge

However, it’s this tipping point, and the fact that SSDs are still relatively limited in size, that got me thinking. Is having an abundance of storage entirely a good thing? I’ve used an SSD as my main boot drive for a couple of years now, and having seen the benefits both in terms of noise reduction and of course speed, I’m keen to make my main PC a hard disk-free zone.

The hard disk is actually the nosiest component too as the CPU, GPU and motherboard are all water-cooled. However, without spending shed loads of cash on 500GB SSDs, I’ve been looking at buying a new 256GB model for my main boot drive, using some of the slower, older ones for storage.

With my combined photo, video and program collection stretching to a couple of hundred gigabytes, my ageing Crucial C300 256GB and comparatively ancient Indillinx-based 128GB Patriot Torqx should manage, and I’ve found 256GB to be enough space for Windows 7 plus numerous programs and games without clearing out the crap every other day, as I usually did with a 128GB SSD.

The downside to cheap storage *The down side to cheap storage
SSD's are still expensive but if you own an older model and are thinking about upgrading, you might find you can ditch your hard disk in the process - Click to enlarge

The result of trying to squeeze my essential data, be it programs or photos, into a smaller amount of space than I’m used to, having dealt with 2TB hard disks for the last couple of years, is that I’ve methodically sifted through my storage to weed out stuff I didn’t really need. I converted many RAW photo files I just wanted to store into JPGs, and reduced the resolution of many too. I ran a duplicate file searcher as well and this saved even more space, picking out photos, videos and other stuff I’d managed to leave in two places as I worked on the files and dumped them into storage.

The total size of all my data was now less than 200GB – 40% smaller than what it was, and it’s now a lot more organised too, just to be able to squeeze everything onto a couple of SSDs. Would I have done this if I was still planning on using my 2TB hard disk for the foreseeable future? Almost certainly not.

I'm strangely grateful to the current limited storage SSD's offer - I actually shudder to think the state my data would be in terms of organisation and wasted space, a couple of years down the line. In short, I think an excess like this makes us lazy, or at least it certainly did me. I was amazed at how much I could trim off my storage needs.

Is your PC a hard disk-free zone? If you haven’t made the move to SSD’s yet, is it storage limits that have put you off? If so could a bit of organising sort things out? Let us know in the forum.
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