10 Ways to Expand Your PC’s Storage without Deleting Anything

When “low disk” warnings begin to pop up on your computer, it can only mean one thing: you’re critically low on disk space. You have to delete something to free up room, but you can’t delete any software, files, or folders. In fact, you can’t get rid of anything at all! There’s only one thing you can do – expand the current space you have to fit everything in. But how do you do it?

Let’s take a look at some of the ways you can expand your storage size.

1. USB Stick

Price: Cheap

Typical Storage Space : 8 – 128GB

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USB sticks are one of the more trustworthy ways of storing items from the computer. Simply plug one into a USB port, open it on your computer, then drag files onto the stick itself. It’s easy to carry with you, stores quite a lot of data, and can be plugged into any computer with a USB port (which is most!).

2. SD Card

Price: Cheap

Typical Storage Space: 2 – 128GB

SD cards are in a similar vein to USB sticks but are a little more conditional of whether you can put them into a PC or not. Unlike USB drives, an SD card slot isn’t a guarantee on most machines; it’s usually something a laptop will have rather than a PC. As such, if you’re using an SD card purely on one device, it will do the job well; porting data to another machine, however, might be tricky.

3. USB Hard Drive

Price: Moderate

Typical Storage Space: 1 – 4TB

Did you know that you can plug in a second hard drive through the USB ports? It’s possible! Definitely one of the more convenient ways to expand your storage by a large amount, USB hard drives are a fantastic choice for holding media files and games. Even better, you can carry them with you and plug them into other PCs to export the data. If all you have is a hard drive from another PC, all you need is to get an HDD enclosure, and you can turn that hard drive into a USB hard drive.

4. DVD

Price: Cheap

Typical Storage Space: 4.7GB

Once a staple of data storage, the DVD storage method has fallen out of favour over the past few years. These days it’s not unusual to see a computer or laptop ship without a DVD drive whatsoever. Still, if you have one yourself and would like to store data on a DVD, there’s nothing stopping you.

You also have the choice between “R” or “RW” disks to suit you. “R” (“Read”) allows a one-time burn before locking the files to prevent editing, while “RW” (“Read-Write”) allows files to be rewritten once stored on the DVD.

5. Cloud Services

Price: Free, with a paid premium service

Typical Storage Space: 2 – 15GB

Everything is moving toward the cloud these days, and your data can join in! There are plenty of different cloud storage servers out there, but the main leaders are Dropbox, OneDrive, and Google Drive. Using one is simple – make an account, then upload your files to the online cloud. You can then delete the files off of your hard drive and make room without completely losing your files. In fact, they’ll be accessible on all of your devices that can access the cloud! Try not to upload anything too sensitive, though, as it also makes files more easily accessible to hackers.

6. New Hard Drive

Price: Moderate

Typical Storage Space: 1 – 4TB

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If your current hard drive is too small, you can always do the obvious and buy a larger one! This is quite tricky to do, as you’ll need knowledge on how to install a hard drive and how to transfer data from one to the other. Otherwise, you’ll need some technical assistance from a professional to do this.

7. Secondary Hard Drive/Solid State Drive

Price: Moderate (HDD), Expensive (SSD)

Typical Storage Space: 1 – 4TB (HDD), 128 – 512GB (SSD)

If you have the spare space on your motherboard, you can forgo having to transfer data, and simply get a second drive to store things. A second HDD can act as a “mule” drive, storing huge files such as movies and recordings. Getting an SSD to work in tandem with an HDD works well, too; simply put all the software you want to load quickly onto the SSD and enjoy faster loading times.

8. Wi-Fi Hard Drive

Price: Moderate

Typical Storage Space: 1 – 4TB

USB hard drives are great, but sometimes you want to keep those USB ports free. Wi-Fi hard drives are often marketed as “home clouds” and connect to other devices over a Wi-Fi connection via a router. This has the added bonus of being accessible by everyone who connects to the router, meaning you can set one up for your family or workplace. Some even allow you to access the hard drive via a web interface!

9. RAID Array

Price: Very Expensive

Typical Storage Space: 16 – 60TB

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If one hard drive doesn’t cut it, and two still doesn’t tickle your fancy, you can try RAID array. This is, in very basic terms, around four to eight hard drives working in tandem with one another. They definitely don’t come cheap, but if you’re really chugging through the gigabytes and need something that can keep up, a RAID will fit your needs perfectly.

10. Personal File Server

Price: Monthly fee that scales with space

Typical Storage Space: As much as you can afford!

Don’t trust cloud storage services? Make one yourself! You can either buy and set up your own server or rent one from a server farm. You can use it to store all your files without worrying about what the companies are doing with your data. When you start to run out of room, you can ask your host for more space at a higher cost.

If you can’t delete your files to make room, don’t worry about it! There are plenty of ways you can make extra room depending on what you’re trying to store.

Do you have a preferred method? Let us know below.

Image credit: zoomed in front of server, Day 12

3 comments

  1. Once you realize that you’ll never watch those movies again and nobody will ever want to see your vacation pictures, your present hard drive has big possibilities.

  2. 1. USB stick: “can be plugged into any computer with a USB drive”

    Firstly, you mean “computer with a USB *port*…one cannot plug a flash drive (what you call a ‘stick’) into a USB drive :-) Secondly, while your statement is *mostly* correct, there are a few caveats: a flash drive created on a Mac using the default file system (FS) cannot be read on a Windows or Linux computer. A flash drive created on a Linux system using the default FS cannot be read on a Windows system; I *think* it can be read on a Mac but I haven’t tried, so I could be wrong. But a flash drive created on a Windows system *can* be read on both Linux and Mac computers…both of those OS’s come with the ability to read FAT, FAT32 and NTFS FS’s built in. Of course, most of the incompatibilities can be overcome by installing additional software, but that’s not Making Tech Easier, it’s making tech harder…and expensive :-)

    4. DVD: “You also have the choice between “R” or “RW” disks to suit you. “R” (“Read”) … while “RW” (“Read-Write”) …”

    Ummm…no. “R” is “recordable” and “RW” is rewritable.

    ” “R” (“Read”) allows a one-time burn before locking the files to prevent editing”

    Ummm…no. There’s no “locking” of files involved and it’s not “to prevent editing”. The CD/DVD -R disks are made of material that allows the disk to be burnt only once, and the technology is known as WORM, or Write Once, Read Many. CD/DVD -RW disks are made of material that allows the disk to be burnt over and over again, so they can be erased and rewritten as often as desired/necessary.

    And why didn’t you mention Blu-Ray at all? Lots of computers that do still come with optical drives come with Blu-Ray burners these days, and one can pack a whole bunch of data on a Blu-Ray disk…if I recall correctly, it’s 25GB on a single-sided disk and 50GB on a double-sided disk.

    5. Cloud Services:

    Other than the problems with “the cloud” in general, and the specific problems with using Dropbox and Google Drive in particular, I would strongly suggest that before deleting files from the local drive, back them up to an external drive. After all, “the cloud” is really just “someone else’s computer”, and their hard drives are far more susceptible to failure than yours are due to the fact that they’re on 24 hours a day, every day. If you don’t back up your files, then not only are you trusting “the cloud” to keep your precious photos safe from crackers, you’re trusting that their backup policies not only work properly but are actually being followed properly…neither of which is necessarily true.

    7. Secondary Hard Drive/Solid State Drive: “simply put all the software you want to load quickly onto the SSD and enjoy faster loading times”

    Actually, if a person is going to get an SSD, they should really consider using it as the boot drive; it’s amazing how much faster a computer boots off an SSD…especially old slow-poke Windows. There are numerous programs out there that will transfer the boot files from an HDD to an SSD, making any necessary changes so the SSD can be booted from. Or, one can just simply reinstall Windows using the SSD, since there’s probably all kinds of crud that needs to be cleaned out anyway :-)

    8. Wi-Fi Hard Drive:

    What you describe in this section is not a “Wi-Fi drive” but just a regular USB drive connected to a Wi-Fi capable router (which is pretty much every router these days)…users don’t connect to the drive via Wi-Fi, they connect to the router via Wi-Fi and then access the drive. Essentially, the router is being turned into a mini-NAS. And this is actually a very bad idea, because the router is connected to the Internet…and if someone cracks the router’s security/firewall, they have full access to all the data on the drive.

    9. RAID Array: “Very Expensive”

    Now *there’s* an understatement :-) Just keep in mind the RAID mantra: RAID is *NOT* backup. So, for every GB in the RAID, you need to have a GB of backup as well. In fact, if you’re setting up a RAID system, it’s best to set up *2* of them at the same time, both of them having the same number and sizes of drives, so that one is the backup of the other.

    10. Personal File Server

    This really isn’t an option for most people, especially the “rent it from a farm” option. That’s essentially “the cloud”, except that *you’re* the one running it…and thus it has all the disadvantages of “the cloud”. But worse, in most cases you’re just renting the hardware…*you* are responsible for installing the OS and any other software you need to be able to do what you want to do, *you* are responsible for keeping it all updated and *you* are responsible for the security of the server, keeping up-to-date on security vulnerabilities and installing patches/fixes and hardening the server so that crackers can’t get in and start using your server for their nefarious purposes. All of this takes a huge amount of time and effort, which most people aren’t going to want to do. Or you could go the other route and get a full server package, but then you’re effectively hiring people to do all that work *for* you…and they’re not going to do it for cheap! Either way, it’s going to be cheaper for most people, in terms of money and time, to simply buy a bunch of external USB drives or a NAS (Network Attached Storage)…which is what most people are going to do to get the RAID array mentioned in number 9 anyway.

    “Do you have a preferred method?”

    Basically, a combination of 9 and the “build it yourself” option of 10: a NAS. Either a 4-bay NAS with four 4TB drives configured in RAID 5 or a 5-bay NAS with five 4TB drives configured in RAID 6; plus a second identical one as backup for the first. That’s a total of 12TB of storage, as RAID 5 uses one drive, and RAID 6 uses two drives, as parity for the others, leaving the total available space the sum of the sizes of the remaining drives…plus a full backup of all the data. That’s probably enough for *most* people :-)

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