There is a truth in the world of home computer users that we are scared to face, we have become a bunch of hoarders. Yes I mean hoarders and not packrats, those people that cannot walk in their homes because of all the junk they keep. The same can be found on many home users PCs today. Programs that are years old that have not been used since the day they where downloaded. How about family pictures that are special memories, so special that no one has seen them in the last 3 years and in fact the events they where taken of have been long forgotten. Please do not get me started on music, that thing we all love to listen to and yet we have music on our hard drives that we have not taken the time to play since the day we ripped or in some peoples case pirated them. I could go one but you get the idea and the people that do this, most of us, know who you are!
Much as the tobacco industry created an artificial addiction by introducing extra chemicals so did the computer industry create an addiction to drive space over the years. You hear it everyday when you speak to a lot of “enthusiasts”, the most addicted of us all. They talk about the benefits of large storage and the need for more by using RAIDs. They claim they need this space and fill it, clamor for more and complain about bloated software.
The time has come gentle readers and listeners for an intervention!
For me the realization I was a hoarder came when I was testing SSD drives for the first time. I went into the review prepared to hate SSDs because they are so small and cost so much. I needed my space after all, my music, pictures and games needed room to grow. However the SSD forced me to sit down and take a serious look at what I put on my computer. It did not take long for me to realize that I was keeping a lot of stuff I never use.
For example I have a ton of family pictures and photos I have taken for reviews and websites. All told close to 5000 pictures, that’s a lot of photos. Combined these take up close to 4 Gigs of space. However going through them I quickly realized that about 30% of them where things I would never need again after I had used them. Another large group where duplicates. In a matter of about 2 hours work I weeded that number down to 1500 pictures and less than 2 Gigs of space. But looking closer I realized that I had not even bothers to look at most of these pictures in YEARS! Why was I keeping them? Well the reason we all know is just pure sentiment and there is nothing wrong with that but did they need to take up my HD space?
I next turn to music, I have a large CD collection but I no longer use the CDs because, well it makes more sense to just have them all on my computer, or does it? From 38 Special to ZZ Top I have music from over 300 groups and a total of 32K PLUS of songs! That is almost 80 gigs of music. Lisa and I sat down and thought about what we listen to and when, we quickly realized that less than 1% of the music gets actually listened to. Now this is all legal music we own, the CDs stored safely away in water tight boxes. Do not get me started on the people with their massive pirate libraries.
I could on talking about gamers who keep games forever and never play them or various other programs that get downloaded, people grow bored with yet leave on their system and so on, but you get the idea I am sure. We have become hoarders of space.
Even if we do not suffer from hoarding the mentality still infects many of us. Walk up to someone and talk about buying a new computer and tell them you want a 250 gig HD and they will think you are nuts, telling you how you NEED a bigger HD. Do you, really? One of my clients is an author and works for a local tourism bureau, he has more word files on his computer than any person I have ever seen and his photo library makes my pictures look like a kids scrap book. Yet with all that activity, office suites, internet usage and literally thousands of pictures he can fit it all in less than 45 gig. Or there is the day trader I do work for that uses his computer 40 hours a week, is constantly doing research and is full of excel spreadsheets that he has from the research he has done. Yet with all this work everyday on his PC he uses less than 30 gig total.
The point I am trying to make is that for a lot of people the larger HDs are not nearly as important as the industry and the “enthusiasts” want us to believe.
What does this mean for consumers? Actually very little at the point of purchase. Sorry folks but the off the shelf PC comes loaded with big HDs and really no other options. For the DIYer or upgrader however it means SSDs are really something you need to look at. Sure they cost a bit more and have less space but they are also a very nice performance boost over traditional HDs.
Another benefit of this knowledge is a better understanding of the concept of cloud computing. Now this is just a overview of what it is but the concept that you can use the online world for access to data is a basic tenant of the concept of cloud computing. With places like Facebook letting you store your pics online, Pandora giving you the customized music selection you want and Netflix letting you stream movies without having to store them the ability to keep our HDs empty and still access what we want has never been better. Add to this the fact that Microsoft and Google now let you have solid home use office applications for free with no real installs and the data store online, you can see the days of the big storage capacity in a home are numbered.
So the next time someone gets excited about their new massive hard drive or complains about how software is bloated today, just look at them with pity, they are likely in need of an intervention.