Macbook storage solutions
May 11, 2017 8:20 AM   Subscribe

Just bought a Macbook Air without realizing it has half the storage space of my old laptop. Oops! What are my best options for storing the movies and tv shows that are taking up most of the room on my computer?

Somehow in all my excitement over buying a new computer, I assumed that my 6 year old Macbook would have the same amount of space as my new Air. I was wrong. I did some serious spring cleaning, but my Macbook still has 175GB on it and the Macbook Air only has 128GB of storage, so I still have a ways to go. After running Disk Inventory X it's clear that the main issue is ~90GB of movies and tv. Now that I know how much room they take up there doesn't seem to be a reason to keep them on my computer when I rarely watch them, but I'm overwhelmed by the variety of external storage options and I need advice.

My main concern is reliability; while most of these files could probably be replaced easily enough I would rather not lose them all due to faulty storage. I can be very hard on technology so I want something that won't damage easily, although I would not need to use it frequently and don't intend to take it out of the house.

This is what I've explored so far:

External hard drive/flash drive. My first thought was to just buy a flash drive with 128GB storage and keep the files there. I do have a Seagate Backup Plus but I've never figured out how to store individual files on it, only Time Machine backups.

Cloud storage. I'm not fond of the idea of having to make monthly payments to hold on to these files but I will if there's a compelling reason to.

Utilize the SDXC slot. I just learned that this is an option so I have no idea what to look for in a SSD card.

Return the Air and get one with 256GB storage. I would rather not go through the hassle of returning the computer but if this is truly the best option then I'll bite the bullet. The only thing I really need space for on the computer is my iTunes library (50GB) and apps/documents/photos (5-10GB total); the rest of my hard drive is currently occupied by the mysterious "other" type of storage.

What's the best option here?
posted by fox problems to Technology (19 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I'd just get an external HD and dump most of them there. Do you really need several days worth of TV with you at all times? If you'll be travelling, budget in 10 minutes to swap out the files for fresh ones.

(That said, 128GB is awfully skimpy - would be easy to fill that up even without the video content)
posted by chrisamiller at 8:36 AM on May 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

I use a 128 GB microSD card with SD card adapter with my Macbook Pro to store downloaded movies and my entire music library, etc, and it works great. microSD cards are cheap, and a good adapter should not cause it to stick out of your computer the way a standard SDXC card will.

Caveat: these cards have failed on me when I write to them often (eg, for standard image creation, data processing, etc). If I use them solely for media where I move a movie file there after downloading and mainly use them for file reading, they last years without a problem. (I do also generally try not to torrent directly to the microSD card.)

The other option is to get an external hard drive, but this is more in the case that these are valuable files that you don't access often, or you're not interested in having these files always on your laptop for convenience. Your Seagate Backup Plus should be perfectly fine for this.
posted by angst at 8:37 AM on May 11, 2017 [3 favorites]

A simple USB stick seems the easiest approach (something like this you can pretty much leave in full-time)-- buy two if you want a backup copy.

That way you've still got them with you when you travel, and you're not paying a monthly fee to protect data that would merely be 'bah, that's mildly annoying' rather then 'OMG, kid's first steps video!'.

Personally I'd get the 256GB option if I was expecting to hold onto the laptop for several years
posted by Static Vagabond at 8:39 AM on May 11, 2017

Dude we live in the future now, external storage is cheap.

I have this external hard drive. It's so small it can fit in a pocket. If you're worried about destroying it, get two and sync them from time to time.

My last WD brand external hard drive (much larger and clunkier) lasted more than 10 years and endured college life and 8 moves before I accidentally knocked it off a shelf and broke it.
posted by phunniemee at 8:39 AM on May 11, 2017

I'd probably buy a NAS and put most of my media on that. Something like this.

However, that's only going to be accessible while you're at home. So, if you want access to your full library when traveling, you'll need to use a different solution. An SDXC card would probably be a good choice there. SanDisk and Verbatim are both pretty reputable brands, so just pick one from either of them in whatever size makes sense for your budget.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:39 AM on May 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

Buy a SD card that is specifically designed to fit in your Air (it just barely protrudes and fits tightly so you can just leave it in there permanently). Any other solution (USB drive, external hard drive) requires you to store something and plug and unplug it. Something permanently installed is a much better solution.

Something like the JetDrive.
posted by ssg at 8:41 AM on May 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

It depends on your skills/needs. If you want to travel with these, then I'd invest in a USB 3 portable external hard drive. The Wirecutter are currently recommending a Seagate. If you're mostly going to be lounging around the house with your laptop, I'd look into a NAS (Network Attached Storage) - so that you can potentially access the media from anywhere on your wifi, on any device. I personally have a Synology drive, which I like a lot, but the Wirecutter's recommendation of a QNAP will probably also be great.
posted by Magnakai at 8:41 AM on May 11, 2017

Screwed up the link, it was this Samsung 128GB Drive.
posted by Static Vagabond at 8:45 AM on May 11, 2017

You can get an external SSD (128/250/+ GB) that is smaller than a pack of cards and is powered by the laptop. One cable.
posted by rhizome at 8:45 AM on May 11, 2017

I'd probably buy a NAS and put most of my media on that. Something like this. However, that's only going to be accessible while you're at home.

You could do something similar and just get an old beater computer (did you keep your old one?) and set up a Plex server in your house so that you'll have it wherever you go. This is how mu SO dealt with his massive music library that he truly felt like he needed with him always. Old iMac at home on the network running a Plex server and he's got everything with him wherever. It's simple enough for someone who is not super tech savvy (a lot of fiddly bits but no outright coding) and is basically a Netflix-ish front end to your content. Can queue up "next" movies and TV if you have good metadata. I've really enjoyed it.
posted by jessamyn at 8:50 AM on May 11, 2017

I'm in the same boat at work, though I'm running windows OS on my Mac. I have a 128GB SSD and a 500GB USB HDD. Additionally, I have a 2T USB drive that fell into my lap, so I use that for backup.

I use Plex at home, though, and it's pretty handy, works with a lot of devices including the Amazon Fire stick in my TV, my tablet, my phone. I didn't get the PlexPass which is their main subscription item which gets you... I forget what, but I did pay $5, I think, for the app on my phone and tablet.
posted by Sunburnt at 9:03 AM on May 11, 2017

External hard drive [...] I do have a Seagate Backup Plus but I've never figured out how to store individual files on it, only Time Machine backups.

I apologize: i don't have time at the moment to chase this down, but my gut feeling is that you probably already have what you need. Perhaps someone else here can help you work out how to store individual files on this drive you already have?

Do you interact with these movies as individual files in the Finder, or Are they mainly in iTunes? I'm asking this because the steps you need to take to store stuff on that external drive differ a bit depending on the answer.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 9:22 AM on May 11, 2017

Best answer: I store my photos on an external drive - it's annoying to have to get it out whenever I want to offload photos from my camera. More convenient would be one of the tiny thumb drives that you could leave in all the time (e.g. SanDisk Ultra Fit 128 GB). Keep a copy of the files on your external drive just in case.

Personally though, I would return the Macbook and get the one with the bigger storage. Even without the movies you're not leaving yourself much room for expansion.
posted by loop at 9:39 AM on May 11, 2017

You can return items to the Apple Store within 15 calendar days for any reason. Do yourself a favor and pony up the money for a bigger onboard SSD. It may seem like an expensive upgrade, but given how long MacBooks last, the pro-rated price for the convenience ends up quite reasonable.
posted by fairmettle at 9:52 AM on May 11, 2017 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Yeah you can get a USB 3 (for serious make sure of this; dealing with moving those big movies across usb2 speed will kill you) little storage stick that will just look like a wart on the side of that thing. But I concur that you should return it and upgrade your storage. Nobody ever though "man, I have too much spare space."

That said, you might want to consider just returning it, period. The Airs are beloved, I know, but they are woefully out of date on their interior tech. There's nothing wrong with older machines; I regularly buy used and a model year back. But Apple is in a weird place now with the Air. If you're sure the machine meets your needs you might consider buying a refurbished straight from Apple. The warr coverage is the same and the pricing is more appropriate for the tech age. There's some in there with larger storage capacity.
posted by phearlez at 10:26 AM on May 11, 2017 [3 favorites]

I had a similar issue when I bought my Surface Pro. The way I get around it is using a 128GB microSD card as storage for media files that I plan on keeping on the computer semi-permanently, such as the last year's photos, USB3 portable hard drives for when I need to store additional things or keep backups on the go, and a home server that is where everything lives full time.

When I'm at home the storage space doesn't matter at all because any media accessed on the laptop is being streamed either from the home server or streaming services like Netflix. If I'm going somewhere where I won't have access to either of these then I'll download some things to the laptop itself.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 10:46 AM on May 11, 2017

Best answer: 100% return the laptop. 128gb is too small these days. It will just make your computer-use painful long term.

Also, note that the larger the SSD the longer it will last typically.

Or upgrade the computer yourself.
posted by gregr at 11:01 AM on May 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I would agree that just getting a computer with a larger SSD is probably the best option if you're in the window to do this.

But, I know someone else who did exactly what you did, and decided to farm all that stuff onto an external SSD. They used a short USB cable, some (wide) velcro, and attached the external SSD to the back of the screen. Its functional, removable when he really doesn't need it, and secure enough when he does. It also has some slight cyberpunk vibes to it, and he's managed to wr, which could sway you one direction or the other. I think its a great solution, but its certainly not a 'clean' solution. If I was not in the window to return the laptop, this is what I would do.
posted by furnace.heart at 1:02 PM on May 11, 2017

Best answer: I recently went from a MacBook Pro with a 1 TB SSD to a MacBook Air (refurb from Apple) with 512 GB. I just moved my music library to another computer (I use Apple Music on my Air) and everything I did not need all the time, I put in Dropbox.

But these telling you to return the 128gb model you have are right. You will enjoy the machine so much more if you aren't constantly worrying about running out of space.
posted by 4ster at 5:20 PM on May 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

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