Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

How big a hard drive do I need?

Author's Note

As someone who recently decided to upgrade my hard-drive capacity when buying a laptop, I struggled to justify just how much of the space I use versus how much I wanted. With the ubiquity -- and incredible capacity -- of external hard drives, it seems to me that you should always pay for what you need and only bump up the number ever-so-incrementally for future use. The rest can go on an external hard drive for safe-keeping.

Related Articles


  • Apple Inc. "Good to know: Storage."2012. (Sept. 13, 2012)
  • BetaForce PC Blog. "From 50 GB to 2TB How Big of a Hard Drive Do I Need?" Jan. 16, 2012. (Sept. 13, 2012)
  • Evangelist, Mike. "A One Gigabyte Hard Drive for $25,000." Writers Block Live. Nov. 7, 2005. (Sept. 13, 2012)
  • "Apple Macintosh Performa 550 Specs." 2012. (Sept. 13, 2012)
  • Farrance, Rex. "Timeline: 50 Years of Hard Drives." PC World. Sept. 13, 2006. (Sept. 13, 2012)
  • Kitchen Table Computers. "Choosing a Hard Drive." March 7, 2012. (Sept. 13, 2012)
  • Miller, Michael J. "Hard Drive Technology: Lots of Storage in a Tiny Space." PCMag. July 12, 2011. (Sept. 13, 2012)
  • Ngo, Dong. "Seagate reaches 1TB per square inch, hard drive to reach 60 TB capacity." CNET. March 19, 2012. (Sept. 13, 2012)
  • Ngo, Dong. "WD breaks capacity limit with 3TB hard drive." CNET. Oct 19, 2010. (Sept. 13, 2012)
  • Steers, Kirk. "Hardware Tips: Get the Hard Drive That's Right for You and Your PC." PC World. April 27, 2004. (Sept. 13, 2012)