Best practices for working with a 128 GB SSD laptop?
December 9, 2016 6:53 PM   Subscribe

An HP Pavilion was the best (I think) I could do with my budget. It's got a 128 GB SSD. What would I need to buy or do to work with large files or memory-heavy programs?

I want to run MS Office (Word, Excel, PP, I guess Outlook), as well as Ableton and possibly database software.

I have paid cloud storage (Google Drive). I'm kind of new to it though, and have never used it for making music - would I store most non-working files there, and maybe only have working files saved locally? Or could I have everything on Google Drive? What if I don't have wifi access?

Or do I want to get a separate hard drive and put files there? I have a hard drive that's already been formatted for Mac (has Time Machine on it). Could I wipe and reformat this drive?

The SSD can apparently be replaced, but with difficulty. If I replace it, which I probably won't end up doing, that would happen later (if I can, can I?), with some help, probably. Assume I probably won't replace it.

Anything else I should think about, do, purchase, to do what I want with this? (Bearing in mind that my computer building skills are non existent, and I'd like to not have to spend too much more.)

More on this laptop:

- HP - Pavilion x360 2-in-1 13.3"
- Dual core Intel Core i5-7200U (7th Generation)
- Windows 10 (Home)


Not sure I got the *best* thing possible, but I needed something light, fast, cheap, and most importantly, now. Had to compromise somewhere. If this really won't work any which way, I'll consider returning this and getting something else. Have already been through two exchanges, though, so I hope I can make this do what I want it to! TIA
posted by cotton dress sock to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Just get an external USB 3 hard drive. Or the one you have for your Mac, you can plug that in and use Disk Manager (or diskpart from the command line) to reformat it so it will work. I'd just do that and dump most of the stuff I don't need there.

It will be much faster than moving files (especially big files) in and out of Drive cloud storage.

That's about the best solution. 128GB is not a lot of space. After you add in Office and Windows and swap space, you're only going to have 70GB or so of actual usable space. This can fill up quickly.

If you can replace the SSD later - for something like that it's probably a M.2 drive - as long as it's not soldered to the board - I'd do that when you're able.
posted by kbanas at 7:20 PM on December 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

Really no mater what technology BACK UP your data (the caps are to help me remember:-)

I just saw an SSD stress test article and they generally seemed to perform far more writes than the published maximums, so you're golden, you'll love the start up speed and general performance boost.

(there is are scenarios where SSD's are pushed past their limits, the example was logging of automated builds and testing, vast amounts of data re-written constantly by very fast servers, make special plans if that's what you're doing)

Although prices may plateau in the near future due to some manufacturing tooling cycles, expect to see cheaper bigger better SSD's, so do a drive swap could be worth it, and it really just takes a bit of care to not loose tiny screws.
posted by sammyo at 7:22 PM on December 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

This is a really hard question to answer without specific use cases as there are a number of strategies for dealing with large files on machines with less storage.

As far as your specific question about the Mac-formatted external hard drive: yes, you can reformat it and use it with your new machine. You'll obviously lose any data already on it that isn't backed up elsewhere.

Here's my perspective, for what it's worth:
  • Cloud storage: Useful if you know ahead of time what set of files you want and make sure you manage which sets of files are downloaded/synced to your laptop. If there's something that you need but don't have synced, you need to hope you can make enough space for it and that you have a good enough internet connection to download it in a timely manner, so it's not a panacea. Still, this tends to be the easiest option, and I'd recommend it as the default so long as most of your frequently used stuff fits on your internal SSD.
  • External Hard Drive: relatively cheap, can hold just about anything you can throw at it, and while it's slower than an SSD, it's typically faster than downloading something from cloud storage, especially if it supports USB3. I'd at least recommend having one of these that you use to back up important files on a regular basis.
  • Flash drives: Similar to external HDs. Some flash storage can be faster than external hard drives, but it won't come in as high of capacities. Form factors for flash drives can be much smaller though, if you want to leave a drive plugged in, for instance. Again, USB3 devices will tend to have better performance.
  • Replacement drive: I wouldn't bother with this unless you've found that the other solutions don't work for you, as not only will you need to crack open the machine (or pay someone to do it), you'll also need to clone the contents of the old drive for things to continue working well, which isn't the easiest thing to do either. Good M.2 drives are still more expensive than the other options I've listed.

posted by Aleyn at 7:30 PM on December 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'd buy a fast, low-profile, high-performance USB 3.0 thumbdrive for non-volatile local storage: the SanDisk Ultra Fit is an option, though there are apparently heating issues if it's used for sustained I/O. An old-school USB 2.0 Fit might suffice there. Grab an external drive for local backup.
posted by holgate at 7:45 PM on December 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Rather than buying a bunch of external stuff, why not buy a larger SSD and have someone install it for you. A 512gb Samsung SSD will run you about $170.
posted by gregr at 8:27 PM on December 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

You might follow up with a question as to the pro/cons of using a 'cloud' service (and which one) for your expected needs.

A big part of the decision is how 'private' your data is, and how much you care about that.

Depending on much data you're expecting to generate, the leftover parts of the 128G may be enough. Otherwise, like gregr says, a bigger SSD is a very viable option.

If you don't know how to do it yourself, insist that the shop clone the boot partition of the current drive and repartition the new drive to use the full capacity of the new drive. Ask that they verify successive successful boots from the new, cloned, repartitioned, newly-installed drive.
posted by porpoise at 10:21 PM on December 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

gregr, sorry, should have said! I'm in Canada. has a *discounted* Samsung M.2 512 GB SSD going for $429.99, plus 13% tax + shipping). (It is indeed an M.2 that I'd need.)

The other thing is that I'm a butterfingers, and in a couple of reviews, even people who sound like they know what they're doing have complained about some hidden 10th screw :/ So I'd probably have to pay someone (was quoted $100, iirc, by Geek Squad) to install it (probably a 256 SSD). Just not in the budget right now, unfortunately :/

(I did try my luck with some specced out Acers in this price range, but both turned out to be lemons.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 10:22 PM on December 9, 2016

Office and database software will be fine running on your internal drive, but as mentioned upthread, 128GB won't leave you much room for Ableton projects... and if you're doing multitrack recording in Ableton or using any virtual instruments that rely on big sample banks, it'll probably choke trying to work directly from a project stored on a thumbdrive, even a "fast" USB3 one.

If I were you I'd consider getting a proper external SSD. Looks like will sell you a fairly nice 250GB Samsung for $150 CAD. Not as small or cheap as a thumbdrive, but about 10x faster, still pretty tiny and portable, and nigh on indestructible compared to a mechanical external HDD.

I've used the older version of that drive (which looks to be available as an open-box deal for $120) and it was pretty great.
posted by drumcorpse at 11:17 PM on December 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Don't replace the Internal SSD - I think that would be fine.

I would just buy an external USB 3 Hard-drive (The larger ones though that need their own power-supply, as I find the USB powered ones a bit flakey). And use that for all Audio Projects. You should be able to record directly to a USB 3 Drive and stream Audio from it pretty well.

I used to use a Firewire 400 drive for all Audio recording for years. (the laptop had only 100Gb i think) and I could do get masses of Audio tracks and simultaneous record / playback with Cubase SX and an RME 8/8 I/O multiface + Behringer ADA8000 I am sure I occasionally did 16out 16in 24bit streaming IN and Recording on that rig all to/from an external Firewire 400 drive.

I think using Ableton (and mostly loops, samples, as most people do) you will not max out the throughput of a USB3 external drive very easily.

If you are doing a lot of Digital Audio multitracking then every project ends up being 1-2 Gb of Data, so I wouldn't bother syncing that to a cloud drive unless you have TBs of Cloud Storage.

For other Data like MP3s Books, Photos etc, you might want to consider an NAS? If it is using up too much space on your SSD?
posted by mary8nne at 4:13 AM on December 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

A lot of laptops have a dedicated SD card slot. Buy a high quality (Sandisk or Samsung) 128G card and keep it inserted. Just regularly back it up to an external drive.
posted by coberh at 6:05 AM on December 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

Man, now I'm wondering if I should just swap it for the Acer E15, which already has a 256 GB SSD, and is the same price as I paid for the HP. It's just that it weighs almost as much as my mid-2012 15" MBP (almost 6 lbs. It's a brick...) Ok *no* to that, I just can't.

Thanks so much for your considered thoughts, everyone, you've all been so helpful. Hopefully, I can make it work with my external 2 TB drive (a version of the Seagate Aleyn linked to above, has USB 3, + an SD + flash disk + cloud storage for Word/Excel/PDFs [I have 128 GB].) I will be working with a bit of audio, but never more than 2 I/O. I think upgrading to an external SSD in the near future is an excellent idea, will def keep an eye out for open-box deals.

posted by cotton dress sock at 10:58 AM on December 10, 2016

One more thing - a new 248G (or even 480G) SSD is not that expensive. Once again, I recommend either Sandisk or Samsung.

There are instructions on how to physically replace the drive on HP's website - I think this is your laptop. (

So if you are adventurous:
1) backup your 128GB SSD to the external USB drive
2) create a USB memory stick recovery :
3) Physically replace your SSD
4) Boot your laptop with the USB recovery created in step 2
5) You will need to choose something like repair your computer or recover...
6) plug in the backup drive
7) It might take about 20 minutes, but then you should have your original drive restored onto the new larger drive.
posted by coberh at 9:28 PM on December 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

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