Microsoft Surface RT 32GB tablet reserves nearly half its storage for Windows, Office apps

Microsoft Surface RT 32GB tablet reserves nearly half its storage for Windows, Office apps

Summary: You only get 16GB of free space with a 32GB Surface RT, thanks to built-in software and recovery tools.


One of the competitive advantages Microsoft's Surface RT tablet seemed to have over the full-sized iPad is that it offered twice as much storage at the same base $499 price point -- 32GB versus 16GB. But it turns out that advantage isn't quite as striking as it appears on the surface (pun fully intended).

Microsoft has posted a FAQ about Surface RT storage, and it reveals that out of the 32GB built into the tablet, only half of that amount is free for users to access. The total disk size thanks to the Windows binary systems is 29GB, and then Windows RT, the Microsoft Office apps, and other built-in apps total an additional 8GB. Throw in another 5GB for Windows recovery tools, and you're left with 16GB of free space right out of the box.

That's a far bigger footprint than is occupied by iOS and Android on competing tablets. According to PC World, a 32GB iPad provides you with 29GB of free space, while the Android-based Google Nexus 7 tablet offers 13GB of free space on a 16GB model.

Microsoft will point to the fact that, unlike the iPad, Surface tablets have a microSD memory-card slot that gives you another option for increased storage. And with more people relying on cloud services to stream music and video that are space-eating files when downloaded, capacity may be less important these days. Nonetheless, the fact that you're not getting anywhere close to 32GB of free storage on a Surface RT tablet when you purchase one should be something potential buyers should be aware of. 

Topics: Tablets, Microsoft, Windows

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  • Nobody Does Bloatware Like Microsoft

    Haven't changes since this old BlimpTV satire on Vista.
    Alan Smithie
    • Canonical is doing a fine job bloatware wise with Linux

      How could you have missed that, I wonder?
      William Farrel
      • Ubuntu 12.04 GNU/Linux is more bloated than both Android and iOS

        But Ubuntu 12.04 remains considerably less bloated than both Windows RT and 8. The hard drive footprint is 4 GB for netbooks/5 GB for desktops with default applications including an office suite, web browser, email client and music player. Taking the 4GB footprint for netbooks, Ubuntu 12.04 has half the bloat of Windows RT.

        Also, Canonical's target for tablet support is Ubuntu version 14.04, still a year and a-half off.
        Rabid Howler Monkey
        • You can unselect stuff you don't want.

          How about windows 7 clean install 16 ~ 20 gb.. are you also counting pagefile or swap partitons ?
          Anthony E
      • Where does it say Canonical in this article?

        Must be some damn good sh*t you're smoking.
        Arm A. Geddon
      • Re: Canonical is doing a fine job bloatware wise with Linux

        Linux desktop/server distros are modular: you can install exactly what features you need, no more and no less. And you can change your mind and add or remove packages at any time, without doing a reinstall.

        It's very difficult to accuse it of "bloatware" when there's not a single thing there that you didn't ask for.
    • Pay no attention to that man behind the curtian

      I love it when you point out MS Bloatware and the Fanboys start pointing out other bloatware as if it some how makes it alright.
      • Yup, lots of fun those Microsoft drones.

        Arm A. Geddon
      • Ya, well everyone needs to slow down on that front.

        Your right, but lets not make that sound anything like a one way street.

        These ZDNet posts are absolutely rife with comebacks about competing OS's of any kind every single time someone claims a weakness in any system.

        Its absolutely brutal how if someone points out something thats less than perfection in an Apple product for example, how the Apple enthusiasts will be quick to point out some flaw in Windows or even Android to prove in their mind how it makes the Apple flaw acceptable.

        And this whole article does have two significant points.

        1. Windows Surface gobbles more HD space by virtue of the OS and included apps.
        2. Windows Surface can easily and cheaply add more storage space by virtue of simply adding a memory card.

        While on point one, for some people it may create specific problems they should be made aware of and may cause them not to purchase the Surface.

        While on point two it may not only alleviate any HD size problems for many, it may easily make the Surface the best overall priced unit for those that need more storage in many cases.

        There really are two major issues there and all one needs to do is decide how those two issues impact their purchasing decision.

        It dosnt require a battle of the brands based on stupid "tit for tat" whining about peripheral concerns.
  • Who cares? Extra memory is dirt cheap for the Surface

    I bumped mine up an extra 32 gigs with a $30 micro SD from Costco, Americans can get a 64 gig micro SD from Amazon for $50.

    32 gigs extra for the iPad will cost you over $200, and I haven't even mention the USB storage option yet for the Surface.
    • It's known as false advertising.

      Someone should sue!!
      Arm A. Geddon
      • It's known as- reality...

        "false advertising"? Really? You're saying that you weren't aware that all of the memory in any hard drive isn't actually available. I suppose that the OS and all the programs and recovery space just float out there in the air somewhere, right? And what's the problem with having 16 gb available? I can back you every single, file, document, photo, and thousands of songs, plus programs on a 8 gb thumb drive and have room to spare. If you need more storage, use an extra card or buy a computer with a larger hard drive! Problem solved, except for people who just want to have something to complain about Microsoft, and judging from your other posts, you're just such a person. Now run along and sue Apple because you can't use all 16 gb on their Fisher Price-style tablet.
        • Fisher Price?

          I thought that was the new name the were replacing that kindergarden "Metro" with. Would you like some crayons to go with that UI?
          Arm A. Geddon
          • No, take your crayons...

            ...and get back to school kiddo.

            When your grown up you will get it.

            Until then, listen to your Pa and Ma and stop coloring on their computer screens, its not a toy little boy.
          • Sorry but every grown up I have talked to

            about "Metro" or whatever we are supposed to call it these days thanks it looks like a kids toy. To each their own but don't get your panties in a wad because somebody doesn't agree and start attacking them personally.

            Edit: forgot, I do have one friend that likes his WP with Metro.
        • Being reality doesn't change anything

          Of course the OS and programs are going to take space but on the Surface RT it was misrepresented or at least misleading to market it has having double the storage for the same price as the 16GB iPad. Is it technically true? Of course it is. Is it a play on words for marketing purposes? Most definitely. It's really no different than the Apple VS PC ads that MS fanboys cry about all the time which stated that Macs don't get Windows Viruses.
      • Is it false advertising when you buy a PC with 120 GB

        and you find out you only have 95 GB of space left because file systems and operating system and basic apps are installed? If you think so, then you should have called all other PC vendors out 30+ years ago when the practice began.
        Michael Kelly
  • Really?

    But you can add a 64 GB sd card or a 128 GB flash drive if you want to. You can't do that with an iPad.
    • But why should a person have to?

      Most people would think that with the OS and added software it's not 32GBs but to only have half? WOW!! Highway robbery!!
      Arm A. Geddon
      • Why should we have to put up with you!?!?!?!?!?!


        Why should anyone HAVE to??

        They dont have to.

        Nobody says they have to.

        Nothing anywhere even says they "SHOULD".

        You think anyone here is mislead by your red herring aproach to discussion?

        The point is THEY CAN. Not they HAVE TO.

        The point is with an iPad THEY CANNOT.

        You have posted an awful lot on this buddy but you havnt contributed a single meaningful comment. Why is it that those who simply hate, and have long since decided they are going to let the world know about it think anyone takes their blabbering as anything other then goof talk.