A question of hard drive capacity

A question of hard drive capacity

Summary: How much hard drive capacity is enough?

TOPICS: Hardware

How much hard drive capacity is enough?

One of the key differences between the two quad-core systems that I'm building will be how much hard drive capacity each ends up with. This is because one of the quad-core systems will be mine and the other will belong to my wife, Kathie, and we have very different needs when it comes to drive capacity. Each system will start off with the 150GB offered by the Western Digital RaptorX drive, but beyond that we'll customize the drives to suit our individual needs.

To be honest, I really don't need a lot of drive space. I have a music library that's about 10GB, an audiobook library that adds another 5GB, about 25GB of digital photos (thanks to making a lot of use of uncompressed RAW formats) and a library of ISOs (some DVDs, some applications) that's about 150GB in size. I also have many VMware and Virtual PC images, taking up perhaps 100 - 150GB. Beyond that I'll have Windows installed, Office, a few games (which I tend to rotate) and random applications.

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Kathie's drive usage is very different to mine. She has much the same data that I do, but just a lot more of it. A lot more digital photos (and Photoshop files) - basically early every image that I've put into a book or on the web has been through her PC, a lot more music and DVDs, a lot more audiobooks, a lot more ISOs (while I'll happily download the ISO I want from TechNet, Kathie keeps a library, something which makes a lot of sense to be honest, and I make a lot of use of her library), a lot more games and a LOT more of what really consumes drive space - video. My jaw drops not just at the amount of space she has but also at the amount she is actually using (and also how many drive letters she makes use of).

The bottom line is that while I'll probably end up with 750GB or capacity (a lot of space), Kathie will probably fit at least twice that and might even go as far as 2TB. While we can (and will) offload a lot of storage onto external drives and a couple of systems dedicated to file server duties, even on a gigabit Ethernet system and using Firewire or USB 2.0 for the external drives, nothing beats having the data on your system - it's far easier to access (especially while Vista has this network throttling issue going). Don't get me started on the backup headaches that this volume of data creates.

I know that our hard drive usage at the PC Doc HQ is way off compared to the average user, but I'm seeing more and more "regular users" filling up quite big drives. One of the biggest difference between when XP was released compared to Vista is the amount of data people have. This raises issues of storage, archive and backup that a few years ago just weren't an issue for the home user.

Personally, I'm just glad hard drive makers can keep cramming more capacity onto those platters and keep up with out needs!


Topic: Hardware

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  • How much house is enough?

    This question of hard drive space is the classic question of storage and asset preservation narrowed down to digital life. How many filing cabinets do you need? How big a cellar? How much attic space? Like all these questions, the answer is driven by both how wide-ranging your interests are and how much of a pack rat you are. Clearly, a "Thoreau" wouldn't need much at all, whereas the library of congress . . .

    It seems to me that there are two problems: first, what you like to do. I like to avoid having to prowl through CD and DVD racks to find an album or movie, so I want it all stored digitally and accessible across my network. If I've watched a movie in the first place, there's actually a pretty fair chance I'll want to watch it again - much like the case with CDs. That's why I have about 4 terabytes on line now. I bought a Vaio DVD changer and used it to copy all my CDs, which are now in a cellar box, and all my DVDs, using DVD Decrypter, so I can watch and listen to what I want anywhere in the house, any time. Likewise, about 50% of the photos (scanned) I have (all of the digital photos, of course) are on disk now. And I might well digitize videotapes, audio tapes (bought a unit to do this), videotapes created from old 8mm home movies from my Dad's generation, and old 45 and 33 vinyl (bought a unit to do that, as well). I will probably also copy the few old reel-to-reel tapes I have before the tape drive dies, and I might experiment with my Dad's 78's. This sounds like Pack Rat Extreme Edition, but it results in significant space compression as well - an external 750GB drive isn't very big - and is really an experiment in how far you can go, rather than a practical undertaking for most. The family room is much less cluttered without the CDs and DVDs around, though.

    What I have found out so far, however, is enlightening, and the root of the second problem. Apart from the fact that it takes oodles of time to do photo scanning and vinyl copying, once the job is done, you need at least twice the space so that you can back it up. The initial capture effort involves a lot of labor, and the data is of significant value - both entertainment-wise and with regard to its value to the family (photos and home videos). Right now, I duplicate it on at least one other drive, but in the long term, I worry. It needs to be on a non-magnetic, non-attached archival medium that can be stored off site, if it is to be preserved and safe from power failures. If it were just entertainment, and could be automatically recovered from originals, it wouldn't be so bad - but it isn't. The photos, tapes (family singing and talking from the '40's and '50's, videos of great-grandparents from 8mm), etc., which represent the highest value data, are the hardest to re-digitize.

    As a one-time optical disk industry guy, I'm all too familiar with the failure of optical disk lifetime claims, which makes me wary of trusting the media as a backup. In addition, the media capacity advantage over magnetics never really materialized. Even Blu-Ray won't do the trick for a half-dozen terabytes. The only solution I see is to move it forward onto ever newer magnetic storage media, as a continuous process, forever. Fortunately, now that it's digital, that's possible - but not carefree; it's an archivist's life.
  • Question of Hard Drive capacity? Or Static Storage....

    It may not be an issue of how much hard drive capacity ... but how much static storage.

    I would be happy to have an HD Dvd burner, allowing me to stick gigs of static content on it.

    My mp3's are at 192k I don't think I'll go any higher.. I could free 14 gigs of storage moving that to an HD Disk..

    I've a few ISO's that never need updating or replacing, those TOO could go to more permanent storage..

    So then... the issue really isn't how much drive space I need in my pc.. but how much storage on line I want or need to have quick access too.

    People had been told in the past.... 640k of memory...who would ever need more? 10 meg hard drives were a luxury ... 8 inch floppies are the media of the future...

    So what needs to be, is that home based storage medium needs to help people ID what should stay in permanency and what not.. and tools that will help people organize and find that stored information will become key to where we go tomorrow.

    We already have network enabled storage in the sub 500 dollar range, and anyone that can build a computer can pretty much make a network storage PC at far less the cost or far greater the storage for the price... people just need to make the right decisions on what to store, where to store it and how to find it once stored.. never before have we had the ability to store the encyclopedia galactica and have access to it 24/7 as we have now, and the future of that will make us able to call up facts, figured, and fun instantly, but only if we can find it.. online or off.
  • RE: A question of hard drive capacity

    If you store a lot of data on hard drives with no backup, you will be sorry sooner or later.
  • RE: A question of hard drive capacity

    I find I need a lot of temporary HD space I can muck around with pictures on. When building a DVD video disk I find that you need about 4 to 6 times the finnished DVD disk size of HD space to store all the source files to be edited into a finnished product. As I tend to have 4 or 5 projects I'm working on at a time theis means I might need about 141GB just for those temporary source files and that does not include the swap file space the program needs while building the ISO image and the space for the ISO image itself. Then I have my music songs and video library that take up almos 100GB. Add windows and my comp games to that and I am alwas having to delete things to make room as I finnish with them