Whether you have a PC or a laptop, chances are it has a drive that is already halfway full, if not much more. The bigger and more involved games, movies and computer programs become, the more space it takes to store them. This guide will show you how to upgrade PC storage capacity for laptops and desktops. Make your gaming laptop, work PC or family computer more efficient with a storage space boost.
Storage, not memory – understanding the difference
You may also be looking to upgrade your desktop PC or laptop’s RAM capacity, but be careful not to get memory mixed up with storage. RAM, or Random Access Memory, is the brain-space of your computer – the space it uses for current CPU processes. While any application runs on your machine, it is using the RAM memory. We will take a look at how to upgrade your RAM capacity at another time, but for now we are focusing on storage upgrades.
Storage is where all your saved files are retained. It is also where your downloaded files will be kept. If your install software, it will be held in your machine’s storage. If you use your computer for work, for gaming or for entertainment, you will need a lot of space to keep everything. Boosting your storage space can save you having to upgrade your computer, and give you greater overall functionality without slowing things down.
Ways to boost storage on any budget:
- Drive formatting and cleaning
- Flash drives
- External hard drives
- Cloud storage
- Internal storage upgrades
Formatting or defragmenting your hard drive
If you want to start over with a fresh slate, format your hard drive. Beware though – this will erase everything! If you have bought a second hand drive and want to free up space, or if you are replacing your drive and need to clean it up before reselling, formatting is the right option for you. To run this process at a fast basic level, follow the Start menu to your main drive and right-click for options. Select format to run and approve when prompted. This is the process for Windows computers (version 8 and later), and a similar process exists for iOS.
However, you may not want to wipe all your data, and instead just want to improve the space. This is where a process known as defragmenting comes in. Whenever you store files, tiny spaces can become trapped between them. By compressing these files down, space can be recovered and made available. Again, this is a process that can be run under the Start option in Windows and the main menu of an iOS device. Head to the control panel and open system settings to find the defragment tool, and follow its prompts from there.
Finally, consider a manual tidy of your files. It is easy to find yourself filling up your download folder, collecting a lot of unwanted images and hoarding game files you no longer need. It may take a little time, but it is well worth it if you can boost space.
USB flash drives and memory sticks
If your storage problem is a mobile one, consider picking yourself up a good flash drive. USB sticks can hold a reasonable amount of information, and can be used to transfer files between devices. They can give you extra laptop storage, or can be used to hold files you no longer need on your machine. Below our our top three picks for portable flash drives.
Samsung 128GB USB 3.0 Flash Drive
- 128GB storage
- Slick, slim metal case
- Water and shock-resistant
SanDisk Ultra Flair USB 3.0 128GB Flash Drive
- 128GB storage
- Ideal for fast transfers
- Brushed steel finish with lid
Lexar JumpDrive S75 128GB USB 3.0 Flash Drive
- 128GB storage
- 150MB/s max read speed, 60MB/s write speed
- Digital status display
External hard drives
If you need more space, an external hard drive works in much the same way as a flash drive, but it is larger and has far more space. You can connect an external drive to your computer or laptop through a standard USB connection. Use a 3.0 port for faster transfer speeds. These are some of the top external drives on the market today:
Seagate Backup Plus 4TB Portable External Hard Drive
- 4TB storage
- Choice of four colors
- High speed transfers through 3.0 USB port
Transcend 1 TB StoreJet M3 Military USB 3.0 External Hard Drive
- 1TB storage
- Advanced shock-resistant case
- 256-bit AES file/folder encryption
Toshiba Canvio Basics 3TB Portable Hard Drive
- 3TB storage
- No-install set-up and simple operating system
- 3.0 USB connection
There are lots of ways to store your content remotely, on a computer other than your own, to free up space. The Cloud is an innovative new approach to data management and storage. If you choose a reputable Cloud company, you will get high levels of security and your files will be protected. Gamers commonly use Cloud features to save games and free up console or laptop space. Cloud space saves on physical disk space. Many new computers and devices are sold with subscription access to Cloud services, and you can also sign up with providers of your own choosing.
Internal storage upgrades
The most permanent way to boost a computer’s storage capabilities is to switch out the hard drive and replace it with a bigger one. This may seem a terrifying concept if you are used to buying computers off the shelf, but it should be an easy process for anyone already familiar with their computing hardware. The surprising news is, this is one of the most simple internal changes you can make to a computer. Many models even feature a spare bay for secondary storage and a clip-in, clip-out design for easy changing of essential components.
You need to keep a storage drive connected at all times, so wherever possible you will want to install the new drive inside the machine as a secondary one first, and then make the switch. However, you could also connect the new internal drive as an external drive first, through a special USB connection. This will require a SATA-USB adapter, which connects just like a standard USB wire. If you do not feel confident during first-time installation, go for this method. It is easier to remove a drive and see how it fits in the machine first, then replace the new drive in the exact same place, than to go in blind and install a new drive in an unfamiliar space first.
Once both drives are hooked up, download a free application that can clone the old drive and replicate it to the new one. This sounds complicated, but the software will do a lot of the work. Choose a highly recommended program and one which is compatible with your computer’s operating system.
After the process is complete, you can switch the drives over. Make sure the machine is turned off during this part. Once complete, simply start up as usual and the new primary drive will take over. The secondary drive can be left in place or removed as you prefer.
Product details and prices taken via Amazon.com and correct at the time of writing
Lead image and illustrative images used with permission via Creative Commons licence