Computer Ed Radio

Turning Geek speak into street speak

Stop the Hoarding

In the PC world today we have a problem, one that has gone unchecked and is encouraged by the hard drive industry, that is hoarding. Am I being a little melodramatic, sure, but this does not make my point less true. Hoarding is defined as, “a pattern of behavior that is characterized by the excessive acquisition of and inability or unwillingness to discard large quantities of objects “. Now look at the typical persons PC. Look at the old programs, huge music collections, photo collections, downloaded movies and so on the occupy the HD space. Ask the person about removing and archiving material and they explain they are not sure when they will need it next hence they keep it. This despite the fact that in many cases it has been so long since they have access the material they forgot they even had it.

This pattern of behavior has been promoted by the industry for some time, in both the enthusiast world and the HD sales departments. Now in fairness this did not start out as an issue, in the early days the old HDs were small and we needed the larger drives to hold the material we actively used. However once the HD broke the 100 Gigabyte barrier all bets were off the sizes skyrocketed. Today we have 3 Gigabyte drives and the norm seems to be around 1 Gigabyte.

This belief and sales pitch that we need bigger drives has been one of the reasons SSDs have been so slow to adapt in the mainstream. Tell a user that an SSD will only have 120 or 240 Gig of space and they get a panicked look on their face. Mention it to an enthusiast and he will shrug and tell you that is cool he will just add it to the 3 gig of HD space he already has. The need for large storage space seems to be built into our DNA. But do we truly need all this space?

In April of 2010 I had my awakening to computer hoarding when I was reviewing an SSD from the folks at OCZ. In my article Bringing Your Laptop To Life, I showed that even on as little as a 60 Gig SSD it was possible for a person to get a great computing experience and have the software they needed plus still have room for data. Lets go over a few items I discovered in my research.

If your word files average around 25 pages each (those BTW are not small word files on average) then you need to have about 12,000 of those files to fill up one gig. That’s right folks TWELVE THOUSAND! To put this into perspective I recently did some work at a lawyers office and put a new machine in for his secretary. During the course of the I had to move her documents that cover legal material over the last 7 years. Her total number of Word documents were 2,793 and before you ask yes I double checked on the backup we made. So someone that is typing every day and a lot does not even begin to approach the number of files I am talking about. When I asked her as I prepared this article about it she explained that she kept a fair number as templates. However once a case was done the printed materials was stored and there was no reason after a decent amount of time to keep the document in the computer.

How about pictures, based on the average picture size of 10 megapixel you would need about 1000 pictures to equal one gig. Now lets be real for a moment and realize that of the pictures stored on most computers that average size is much smaller.  Also consider that while 10 megapixel is great for printing 8×10 pictures it is terrible for posting on the internet or emailing and so pictures are often smaller. A look at my daughters machine, she is a serious photographer, revealed that most pictures were in the 5 megapixel size range. She explained to me that this size still gave her nice quality for the rare times she wants to print and gave her more space on her flash media when she was actively taking pictures. Now remember with my daughter we are looking to do photography as a serious hobby if not pseudo professionally. Using her average we get around 1750 pictures per gig.  We have all set through home slides shows right? When was the last time any of us wanted to sit through one with more that 1500 slides?

How about music, something a lot of people keeps globs of files on. My own quick access library has 17 hours of music on it if I played it all end to end, yet I am still only at 720 or so meg, not even up to a Gig yet. Now think about this fact, on average a person will only find 2 or at most 3 songs on an album, (not including best of collections which is 90 % of the music I have) that means that with an average of 12 songs per album you have about 75% that is not often if every actively desired to be heard. Suddenly with this in mind 17 hours of music can be a LOT!

Movies are next and these do require some space. My favorite movie, Down Periscope is around 1 Gig in size and that is NOT in HD. These can be made smaller but at best you are getting 2 movies of decent quality per gig. However I would point out, that with the exception of a specialty HTPC it is rare for people to store a lot of movies on a PC.

Finally we come to software, it is amazing how many programs you likely have on a system that you have stopped using or never used. There of tons of little programs, mostly free to trial ware that people download, try out and then forget they have. Individually they do not amount to much but together they can build up quickly. One of the worst culprits however are video games. People get a game, play it and then forget it. I have seen games on systems that had not been played for 3 years and yet they remained installed. When I ask why the answer is always the same, what if I want to play it again. I dunno but to me the simple answer would seem to be to reinstall it.

As I started work on this piece I was sitting at the northern command center (my in-laws) and looked at the PC I am using. This computer is used by me and Dad as our primaryhoarder1 machines, I use it for gaming and a lot of family visiting when I am not up use it as a guest machine. So this has two full time users, one that is working on home movies and the other that is an active gamer.

I opened up some stuff to give a little idea of what is active on the system. Notice that a full Office 2010 is installed along with Windows 7, there are 4 games, none of which are “small” installs active on the system, one of my daughters picture folders from a holiday past is on the system, actually more than one but this was the smallest with 175 pictures as well as a number of other programs for Dad’s video editing and my sound editing if needed. Because we were concerned with both of us on the system we would need the space I put in a large HD. However look at the total, less than 100 Gigs have been used! Think about that, two active users and less than 100 Gig, one of us is even a hardcore gamer!

What this shows is that the industry and enthusiast groups have lied to you about NEEDING more space. All it takes is a little effort and the majority of us can live in a smaller storage space and also then gain a huge performance boost. The smaller size means that we can move comfortably into the SDD and this results in the entire computing experience getting a shot in the arm.

Now let me clear, I do not work for any makers of SSD, though maybe they should be paying me with articles like this. Smile However I have over the last two years installed a LOT of SSDs into computers for family and clients and all have reacted the same way, with amazement that their PC could actually respond this quick. In addition on the few that have been forced for whatever reason to move back to spindle drives the result is always the same, a feeling that the computer is somehow sluggish, even if the new computer should be a lot faster that the older machine.

Now if all the information above is not enough to convince you that there is no need to hoard HD space, consider these tidbits. The PC world is moving more to the Cloud everyday and with that less material will actually need to be stored on your PC. Office 2013 has a near seamless integration of their Skydrive system and applications using Google’s online service have been around for a while now. Online sites such as Shutterfly and Photobucket allow free online photo storage and sharing with the family is a lot easier than using email of printing and sending. Music can be easily gotten with services such as Pandora and Microsoft with their Custom DJ in Windows 8 plus applications like Spotify all make it simple to find the music you want to hear and enjoy it anywhere you might be. Movies and TV shows are now super easy to get thanks to Hulu and Netflix with more services coming online for this constantly.

When you realize that among gamers, the majority play on average 3 games at any one time and as for other apps most people only have 4 or 5 they make use, it is easy to see that application space is not an issue. Now add to this the fact that more applications are making to move toward online use. Office suites have been available without any need to download and install them for a few years. Services like Onlive are attracting more attention as the computing world moves from big powerful computers to more compact devices. Even the big video game card makers, nVidia and MAD have shown off work on systems designed to work better for streaming of the gaming experience. Photo editing has made the move of late from the on PC to the online software system and other programs have started the move or will not be far behind.

I think you begin to get the idea but then there will be people throwing exception at me, lets look at those. A genealogist I know that has almost 15 years worth of work in their project. That means a ton of picture, almost 15,000 to be exact and of course more PDFs that I have ever seen a bunch of Word documents. They have a system with Windows 7, Office 2010, two different genealogy suites, two photo editing suites and all those pictures. Their HD use comes in at the massive total of 71Gig. Or what about an even larger extreme a working architect that is doing large scale projects constantly but also works out of the home so the PC is a personal computer as well as a work PC. The various projects work across a number of CAD and drafting programs, there are a lot of pictures stored from various projects in various stages and yet with all this massive amount of data stored the system total comes in right at 200 Gig.

The point of all this information is simple, when you look at an HD are you looking for pure storage or a speed bump. If pure storage I would ask myself if I need it. Now I am not advocating erasing data in the way of family pictures but I am saying they could be archived with various online storage methods or even an external HD as a backup. You might find that the need for more space is not as pressing as you thought. If you want more speed look at the SSD and know there is no reason to let the size through you off.

So this holiday season while we are trimming our homes for the spirit of the season and making plans for our New Years resolution to lose weight, why not also look at trimming the waist line of our computer storage and make a holiday resolution to kill the hoarding. Give ourselves the gift of a trim, lean and mean PC!

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December 1, 2012 - Posted by | Editorial, Informational | , , , , ,


  1. You hit the nail on the head. It really is getting absurd that you can now buy 4TB HDDs at the consumer level, my question is, who can justify needing that much space? I’ve always put off upgrading my computers for a long time, so I always had smaller than usual HDDs in my systems and learned not to hoard. Now I have a 128GB SSD and I have no problems running Windows 7 and keeping all the data I need. That includes a bunch of large programming suites and applications I use. For archiving and large media, I just use a 1TB external HDD and I’m not even 1/3rd full on that.

    Comment by Jesse | December 1, 2012 | Reply

    • I can tell you when I look at our first SSD back 3 years ago I was skeptical about them. I mean you had to give up a lot of space it seemed and the cost was so high. However as I was doing those first looks I was forced to look at how I used my HD space and I was amazed at how much I wasted. I had pictures that I had not looked at for years, now I wanted to keep them but did they NEED to be on my active system? Music, man I had TONS of it but lets face it how much do we actively listen to, even before Pandora or other online solutions I was able to drastically pull back my music space.

      With online storage and access methods, free solutions to stream music, TV and movies and the ability to easily store items for easy access with external hard drives the need to fill our active system hard drive is just not there. Plus now we can use that saved space to get a drive that is more suited to our realistic needs and gives a huger performance boost to the overall computing experience.

      Comment by Computer Ed | December 1, 2012 | Reply

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  4. Interesting to see the negative votes this article has garnered and yet no one is prepared to defend their position? Come guys if you think I am wrong in this article discuss it, that is why the comment section is here.

    Comment by Computer Ed | January 12, 2013 | Reply

  5. CE thanks for this post. I have debated getting an SSD for about a year but like you said I thought I needed the space. After I read this article I went back to my PC and started cleaning things out and suddenly found that I could fit all my needs into about 130 gig. I bought a 240 Gig SSD last week and WOW, the whole system suddenly is lightning fast. Thanks for making me look at this.

    Comment by Reformed PC Hoarder | January 24, 2013 | Reply

  6. [...] be based on personal preferences. All of you that are regular listeners know my position on the “PC Hoarder Mentality”, if not read the article I linked. I took a lot of negative votes on that article but popularity [...]

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