How to manage computer storage issues?
December 16, 2005 9:07 AM   Subscribe

Help me figure out how to manage large amounts of data on a laptop. Music, Tivo downloads, photos... I'm running out of room!

I have an 80 GB laptop and an 80 GB external hard drive that I use to back up the entire contents of my computer. I have 45 GB of music on my laptop, which I enjoy having access to at work, when I travel, at a coffee shop, etc. I can fit only 40 GB of it on my ipod, so that's not a complete backup.

I also have 4 GB of photos on my laptop, which I enjoy having handy for editing, sending e-mails, slide shows, etc.

I've recently started downloading shows from Tivo for travel... these are big files, about 1-2 GB each, that I delete after watching. But when I go on a trip I might download 5-6 GB of shows to watch on the road.

In addition to all this, I've just bought a scanner, and am going to start scanning and editing thousands of old print photos. I need to save these somewhere, and would like to have them on my laptop.

I'm sure I'll also continue to take photos, install software and download music on a daily basis. I'd like to find a solution that will work for a year or two into the future.

I currently have a PC running windows XP, but am hoping to buy a new laptop in the next 6 months - ideally an apple powerbook, but I might have to settle for windows. I'm interested in a small, portable laptop, and I haven't seen anything with more than 100 GB of storage.

What do you suggest? Ideally I'd like to have everything at my fingertips at all times, and everything backed up at home. I assume I'll have to buy another storage device and compromise somewhere. How you do you handle this problem?
posted by kdern to Computers & Internet (10 answers total)
The Tivo files, if they're throwaway, could be compressed for viewing on the road. But that process isn't fast, and it may be easier just to buy more hard disc.

Maybe you need an external enclosure that will take a 3.5" hard disc? That should give you plenty of space.
posted by Leon at 9:26 AM on December 16, 2005

I second the external 3.5" enclosure idea. The enclosures are cheap, and you can put any IDE drive into them. I've got one with a 40GB drive in it right now, and I'm probably going to swap it out for a 250GB drive to add to my auxiliary storage.
posted by gwenzel at 10:09 AM on December 16, 2005

You might consider putting some stuff onto removable media - for example a DVD would hold all of your 4 gigs of old photos. If you want to view or edit them, you can copy the ones you want to your HDD. Picasa can export them all and still give you an easy way to view them from the DVD.

Tivo files also - rewritable DVD means two hours of recorded video at high quality (max quality will give you one hour per disc). That's 3 discs to carry, saving you 6 gigs of space.

Music is another story; You could put it onto a big pile of DVDs but of course 99% of the point of an iPod is not having to carry discs around with you in the first place. Maybe a USB external hard drive? Plug it in only when you need it. You may be able to find something small enough that transporting it won't be too much of a pain.

FWIW you might want to consider just cutting back on what you carry. At some point you have data with you that you don't need to have.
posted by caution live frogs at 10:13 AM on December 16, 2005

I also have to say that an external 250 or 300GB hard drive is probably the best way to go. Be careful that you're not knocking it around - I've killed 2 drives this way. Keep the 80GB at home for backup/storage. Another solution that would require a net connection where you are traveling to is either Orb Networks (software) or a SlingBox (hardware) to stream your media, including Tivo.

If you're looking to clean out your hard drive, I suggest this file viewer, WinDirStat that shows you visually the relative size of all your files. It turned out that my Google Desktop Cache was taking up nearly 2 gigs of space that I freed up for more files. Also if you're anything like me, you have multiple copies of files on the same hard drive - so this will help clear them out: Clonespy.
posted by marc1919 at 10:29 AM on December 16, 2005

I've got a 250GB enclosure, and it's great. However, it sounds like you're on the road a bit, and not only are most enclosures pretty big (unless you get a 2.5" (e.g laptop) drive and dump that in an enclosure), but they need power of their own. More cables, more hassle, and if you drop it...

My suggestion would be - if you get a 3.5" (cheap, big), leave it at home with a backup of everything on it. Then rotate your music etc. Sure, you won't have all 45GB, but then I'm sure there's some stuff you never listen to.

A more road-friendly solution might be a 2.5" - see if you can get one that runs off two USB ports (one for power, one for transfer). It's smaller, so better when you travel.

To be honest, your ultimate best solution would be a huge hard drive in your laptop, but as you say, that's hard to come by.
posted by djgh at 11:03 AM on December 16, 2005

Response by poster: I don't know anything about these small external hard drives. Up to 250 GB? Cool. Can someone post a link to a decent model that I can use as a starting point (in the U.S.)?

Also - burning DVDs would be a great idea, but I don't have a DVD burner in the current laptop! Gotta start shopping for the new one.
posted by kdern at 11:21 AM on December 16, 2005 is selling a 250 GB Seagate HDD (7200 RPM) for $69 after rebate. Enclosures cost anywhere from $20-100. I followed some advice from someone here a while back and got a ATS Venus from for $58. This is cheaper and bigger than most comparable pre-packaged external hard drives and you have the option to swap the drives.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 11:26 AM on December 16, 2005

Sorry, AMS Venus enclosure (Firewire, USB 2.0).
posted by SeizeTheDay at 11:28 AM on December 16, 2005

kdern - Basically, you buy a hard drive. It's the same as in a desktop PC. Then you put it in a box (an enclosure) with all the correct cables etc to be able to connect to your laptop. There are different sizes of hard drive - 3.5" is the normal desktop size, 2.5" is the same size as you get in a laptop (smaller, basically). They need different sized enclosures as well.
posted by djgh at 12:01 PM on December 16, 2005

Better deal for ya: BestBuy is selling 120 GB drives (Seagate 7200.7's) for $39.99. No rebate bullshit to deal with. They say they're sold out, but all the BB's I've been to have stacks and stacks of 'em. What you should really do if you've got the time, is take a BB advert. down to your local Circuit City--they'll price-match and give you a rebate for the price difference of any identical advertised product.

I suggest you get four of these drives, then get a RAID controller card, and put them in a RAID-5 configuration. I've got about 4 TB of movies, music, etc. and two 8-drive RAID controllers with 16 300 GB drives can handle it all, including hot-swapping dead drives. The ultimate in media serving.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:17 PM on December 16, 2005

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