Surface Pro storage space: Yes, it's a big deal

Surface Pro storage space: Yes, it's a big deal

Summary: News that the upcoming 64GB Surface Pro tablet from Microsoft will have only about a third of its quoted storage space available to the user is causing quite a stir. That's because the game has changed.

MS Surface Pro tablet
(Credit: Microsoft)

The news broke yesterday that the Surface Pro tablet from Microsoft, sold with 64GB and 128GB, will only have 23GB and 83GB available to the user out of the box, respectively. This was almost universally slammed by the tech world and confirmed by Mary Jo Foley.

Some were quick to point out that this is actually not a big deal for Windows installations. That's true, but it shows that in spite of Microsoft's attempts to make the Surface a new course for Windows, it's still business as usual.

I'm not surprised that the Surface Pro will lose a lot of the flash storage to the operating system. It has to go somewhere and Windows 8 is a full PC in the shape of a tablet. That's the problem: the game has changed, but Windows 8, in spite of its new appearance, is still Windows underneath.

If consumers buy the Surface it is for the tablet capabilities. Otherwise they'd just buy a Windows 8 laptop or hybrid.

Competitive tablets, specifically the iPad and Android tablets, lose little of the system storage to the OS, but not much. When you buy a 64GB iPad, you have most of that storage space available to add apps and media. It's the same for Android.

That's why the heavy cost in storage space of Windows 8 is a big deal. Sure, when you compare the Surface Pro's installation to other PCs you get a similar loss of storage space out of the box. But Microsoft has taken great pains--completely redesigned the operation of Windows 8 as matter of fact--to make the Surface Pro a tablet competitor.

It's only fair to compare features like available storage space of the Surface to the competition--tablets and PCs alike. Let's face it, if consumers buy the Surface, it is for the tablet capabilities. Otherwise, they'd just buy a Windows 8 laptop or hybrid.

The available storage space of the Surface Pro is a clear demonstration to consumers that it's still Windows under the hood, with the same impact as previous versions of Windows. That doesn't instil faith in buyers that the Surface Pro is really different, like the other tablet choices on the market. It's really business as usual, just Windows posing as a tablet.

Note: Microsoft has included the following statement about the storage space of the Surface Pro on its official website:

System software uses significant storage space. Available storage is subject to change based on system software updates and apps usage.

See related:

Topics: Windows 8, Microsoft, Tablets

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  • Plug in a Micro SD card or USB Flash Drive for unlimited storage

    IOS: No
    Surface: Yes


    It helps to understand that you can do things iOS will never do.
    • or just swap in a 500 GB SSD drive

      love to see crapple do that
      • why no wired nic for PXE boot and WDS????

        I'd like to see the time it takes to install a saved image over usb 3.
        On USB2 the windows 7 slates was not ideal.

        Recovery partitions are for consumers only.
        • surface fail

          why the windows will not work on tablet :

          where is the button: Ctrl Alt Del
          Henrique Dourado
          • ZDNET Ctrl Alt Del

            If Zdnet had a Ctrl Alt Del button, I would have used that to nuke your silly post.
          • I agree

            They couldn't possibly have fixed problems between an obviously beta product and the release.

            That'd make too much sense.
            Michael Alan Goff
        • PXE on USB LAN NICs

          You can PXE boot using a USB LAN NIC (I do so to lay a corporate image on ultrabooks without LAN connections). You just need USB LAN NIC that is PXE capable and a way to trigger the PXE choice.

          Just need the method to select boot options or BIOS configuration.
          • Thank you for making the point of this article.

            Only the most hard-core geek would even understand what you just said, let alone be willing to try it. Most people would read what you just wrote as, "You can PXE boooo blah blah bet bat but mfkalkjl;kd kajdfl kjadlifjijijopeij. ... (!)"

            And that, my friend, is the rub. Apple and Android tablets don't make you guess at how much storage you *really* have, and there's no need for tech tricks to get what you really need. You just pick them up, use them, and they work.

            It's like my wife and I with vehicles. My idea of a good time is going out to my old project truck, check to make sure it hasn't burned more than a quart of oil since last time, tap this and that, hold my mouth just right when I'm starting it, "guess" at how much fuel I actually have since the fuel gauge is broken, and then go tear up a hillside somewhere and hope I make it home in one piece. Her idea of a good time is hopping in the 370z and taking off down the highway--no muss, no fuss.

            There's more people like her than there are like me. And I'm OK with that. But when a car company introduces a new car, they better make it as no-brainer as possible, because most people don't want to fiddle with their cars--they just want to gas them up, drive them, and take them to the service center once every 3 months.

            Same is true for tablets. If Microsoft keeps putting out a table that makes you fiddle with it just to get it to do what the others appear to do seamlessly, then they will not get any traction. You can call users incompetent, dumb, ignorant, or whatever, but if you're not giving them what they want and/or expect, then there's no hope for your product, and it seriously hurts your brand.
            Big Daddy D
    • Workarounds shouldn't be necessary on $1000+ devices

      I agree that removable/external storage is *a* solution, but it really shouldn't be necessary, especially on a premium class device. SD cards are slow and external drives add cables, cords, power supplies and bulk.

      On my work system, I'm fairly careful to install/keep only the programs I need, and a basic install of Windows 8 with my core applications tops out at 70 gigs. Throw in virtual memory and hibernate files and you're easily over 80. So that means right from the start, I'd be forced to do without certain features or applications just to make the Surface work for me. The hibernate file can ONLY go on the system partition, and installing applications to slow removable/flash storage is far from ideal.

      I just wish manufacturers would stop raping customers over storage, because that's exactly what it is. I just purchased a high-end 128 gig SSD drive for my desktop for $100. In that $100, there was the cost of the enclosure of the drive, the manufacturing, the packaging, the shipping, the advertising, the documentation and support AND the profit to both the manufacturer and retailer. There's simply no reason 50% of that amount of storage, soldered to the motherboard of the Surface during manufacturing should cost the same $100. There's virtually no additional cost to the manufacturer beyond the actual 2 or 4 memory chips, which probably totals less than $10.

      Massive hard drives have masked how large a basic Windows install is - when 1 terabyte drives are the norm, a 40 gig Windows install is hardly noticed. But throw that on 64 or 128 gigs of storage and it's a very different story. Honestly, the Surface models should double the memory for the current price - it's a high-end device being marketed and sold for a premium. It shouldn't have issues that require sub-optimal workarounds and additional costs.

      Don't get me wrong, I like Windows 8 and I'd love to buy a Surface Pro, but when I weigh the total cost to a note/ultrabook, the touch screen and marginal increase in portability just isn't worth the price.
      • you can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs

        so how is microsoft supposed to make money off this gig? bigger hard drive you want?? - just wait until microsoft surface 2. and fyi this is really part and parcel straight out of apple's marketing scheme textbook, and something you apple fanboys really can't criticize.
        • Where do you get the idea that I'm an Apple fanboy?

          I'm anything but an Apple fanboy, I rather despise the company and I deplore their business practices, so the excuse that "well, Apple does it too" doesn't fly. Secondly, how is Microsoft supposed to make money off this gig? Are you serious? Let's see, as estimated:

          --The touch cover costs about $16 to make, and they sell it for $120, a 750% markup.
          --An extra 64 megs of memory, even if we generously say costs $30 would be a 330% markup.

          iSuppli broke down the Surface RT and found Microsoft has a higher profit margin than even Apple.

          Look, I think the iPad is little more than a glorified iPod Touch, and I'd never buy one. I like the idea behind the Surface, but let's be honest here - Microsoft is behind the gun and desperately needs to score. Acer has recently reported that Chromebooks are outselling Windows 8 systems. Now is simply not the time for Microsoft to engage in worse price gouging than even Apple. It's arrogant and stupid.

          They could have, as I said, doubled the memory and STILL came out right around the same profit margin as Apple gets on the iPad. Ok, even better, don't double the memory, but include an extra 48 megs in each just to cover the space required by Windows - give customers an actual 64 or 128 megs of storage. That would have cost them probably $20 tops. Having the OS consume 2/3 of the included storage space is absurd.
        • I'm not a fanboy but I am a fan

          and I can criticized the storage used on the Surface because of how it was presented. The only issue I have with it is the fact that it started with the Surface RT (32GB) being marketed as the same amount of storage but $100 less that the 32GB iPad when the reality is that it barely has more than the 16GB iPad which is priced the same. When the base install uses up this much of the storage the amount of total storage should not be marketed as a major feature. I have not watched this issue so they might be being more upfront now that it's become a story.

          As far as the cost of $100 to double the storage, no I am not criticizing that. I do find it funny though that overall MS gets a pass. I have seen many a poster here that has bashed Apple for what they charge for storage to completely dismiss it with MS.
      • EXACTLY

        Have always thought the same thing for all tablets. Why the price goes up 100 bucks each step by going from 16BG to 32GB to 64GB. Price gouging at its best. And Microsoft knowing that Windows would take so much space should 100% have added at least 32GB extra memory for same cost to recover that lost space and make it known that they did so and then this entire thing about half the memory gone for OS would NEVER have been an issue to even talk about. Even though it is not even a real issue since you can add more memory, but they just left it hanging there for someone to complain about. Dumb, just plain dumb!
      • Workarounds shouldn't be necessary?

        Seriously? When the ipad came out, and still today, half of what is claimed you can do on an ipad is a workaround. Almost anything but browsing and iTunes requires additional components to achieve. Hell, if you want to use an sd card or everyday flash drive with an ipad you need a special cord and adapter.
        • I agree

          I agree totally. I have an Android tablet, and it's a toy, nothing more. An iPad is just a more expensive toy.

          But here was Microsoft's chance to really shine - they could have offered a truly compelling device - all the niceties in terms of form factor of a tablet and all the capabilities of your PC. The jury's still out as it pertains to Metro on the desktop, but on tablet, it comes into it's own.

          But instead of coming out with a device no one could argue with, Microsoft has gouged on the accessories (touch and type covers), gouged on the memory upgrades, and the solution to the OS taking up 2/3 of the on-board storage is for the consumer to go out and spend MORE money on a SLOW sd card for expansion. It's great the slot is there, but populating it shouldn't be necessary for basic usage.

          With notebooks costing a fraction of the Surface Pro, and even some higher configured ultrabooks coming in at or below the price of the Surface, it's just too easy to pass in favor of these other options. Sure, there's compromises everywhere, but for a lot of people, if they're spending $1000+, the simple fact is that the Surface Pro has too many and alternatives are too plentiful.

          I'd love for the Surface to succeed, so I'm not just bashing, but I simply can't imagine it doing so with Microsoft's current attitude towards it and their customers. They are not Apple, and if they want to start acting like they are, I'll take my business elsewhere, exactly as I've done with Apple.
    • Useless SDXC

      Yes, Surface supports SDXC cards.

      Unfortunately, this is half the story. The truth is that the way it is supported is an abysmal failure.
      -Failure to properly extend the storage.
      -Failure to provide an easy way for consumer to exploit the card.
      -Failure from the software to properly support the extended storage (assuming you managed to extend it!)

      Microsoft really missed an incredible opportunity to offer a real extensible storage that would have nailed the competition.

      They have a really small window (pun intended) of opportunity to fix this and its closing fast.
      Meanwhile, considering how hard it seems to be for Microsoft to cut from the past (because of internal resistance?), don't expect them to address this issue anytime soon.

      Sad and pathetic.

      (Disclaimer: I do own a Surface RT)
      • Surface Pro is likely

        better than RT. >_>;
        Michael Alan Goff
      • Use disk management

        If you want to use a SDXC card as an extension of internal storage, use Disk Management and map the card as a folder under drive C.

        1. On Start, type "disk management"
        2. Select to search in "Setting"
        3. In disk management, right-click on the SD-card and select "Change drive letters and paths"
        4. Click "Add" and mount the card to an empty folder on drive C, e.g. C:\SD-card\.

        Your SD-card will now be available as a folder on drive C and can be used to extend the "Libraries". Add or change libraries location in File Explorer.

        Works just the same om Windows RT as on Windows 8 Pro.
        • Wow

          Just... wow.
  • half truths all over

    Surface Pro and iPad/Android pads are in no way direct competitors. Ouch, it really hurts if editors still confuse all that tech stuff. (not inclined to give further hints regarding this topic)

    Surface Pro can utilize external memory via SD or USB drives in a meaningful way (!) compared to the iPad.

    I'm far from happy how MS handles the memory topic (quite stupid behavior) but it's far less troublesome than what the above article might suggest.