How Much Storage Do You Need on Your Mac

How Much Storage Mac Featured

When you buy a new Mac, there are just some questions that are more difficult to answer than others. One of those questions is how much storage do you really need? In the case of a new Mac purchase, how you plan to use the computer and what you need it for weigh heavily in your purchase decision. So how do you decide? Here are some of the factors you should be considering.

What Are Your Choices?

Before we get into how you make a storage choice, let’s take a look at what your choices are. The 2020 MacBook Air makes the storage question a little easier, as it now starts off at 256GB. That’s more than enough storage for the average computer user and likely enough for most professional work. You can purchase up to 2TB with the Air. The 13-inch MacBook Pro also starts at 256GB with storage options maxing out at 2TB, similar to the Air. Apple’s premium 16-inch MacBook Pro starts off at 512GB and then jumps to 8TB with a multitude of options in between.

How Much Storage Mac Your Choices

Things are a little murkier for the 21.5-inch iMac, as you start with a 1TB hard drive but also have a 256GB SSD available as a purchase option. The iMac Pro is definitively a “Pro,” so storage unsurprisingly starts at a 1TB SSD and caps out at a 4GB SSD. Finally, the Mac Mini also starts off with a 256GB SSD with options ranging up to a 2TB SSD. As you can tell, the days of 128GB storage for all-Mac computers are over. That’s good news, but it still doesn’t answer the question of which storage option is right for you.

Where to Look

The best way to get a sense of how much you need is to determine how much you are currently using. On a Mac, it’s super easy:

1. Click on the Apple logo in the top-left corner.

2. Select “About this Mac” and then “Storage.”

How Much Storage Mac About Storage

On Windows:

1. Click on the “Start” button.

2. Select “File Explorer.”

3. Find and click on “This PC.”

How Much Storage Mac Windows Storage

Getting a look at your existing storage use is a great predictor of how much space you will need for the future. However, adding space to a Mac laptop after purchase is virtually impossible without voiding your warranty, so it’s a good idea to default to the next size up.

Should I Buy 256GB, 512GB or Larger?

If you are trying to decide between these two sizes, start by asking yourself some simple questions.

How Much Storage Mac Storage Costs

1. Do I plan to keep every photo and video I capture on my Mac hard drive?

2. Do I like to download movies or TV shows and keep them available for watching at any time?

3. Do I not want to worry about having enough space for applications?

4. Do I need more space to edit photos or videos?

The answer to those questions might seem simple, but they are difficult when you remember that you are purchasing something you cannot upgrade. If the answer to any of the above questions is yes, purchase the 512GB. The $200 or so that it costs for the hard drive upgrade is well worth it when you factor in the lifespan of ownership. If you are genuinely concerned about never running out of space, the TB (terabyte) options are available and will serve you well for the whole lifespan of your Mac.

Can You Make It with 256GB?

Are planning to get the base 256GB model? Assuming that your Mac is going to be filled with catalogs of music, photos, applications, and likely videos you own, rented or captured, and on top of all of that you also want room for future projects, like Mac gaming or video editing, suddenly the base 256GB storage doesn’t look big enough.

The trick here is to optimize the storage on your Mac. As much as possible, offload all those files that you have little use for to the cloud storage or external drive.


Choosing the right storage size is never easy. The good thing is that all Mac models come with a base storage of 256GB. The bad thing is, it doesn’t make the decision any easier. Ultimately, choosing the right storage size depends on whether you have needs for the space. Think about what you really want to do with your computer over the next few years and let the answer be your guide.


David Beren David Beren

David Beren is a freelance tech writer with over 10 years of experience in the tech industry. He loves dogs, his kids and all things Nintendo.

One comment

  1. “1. Do I plan to keep every photo and video I capture on my Mac hard drive?”

    Don’t do that. Use external drives. From the looks of the prices of the upgrade drives, they’re still using SATA-3 drives, which have a maximum transfer rate of 6 Gbps…and USB 3.0 is nearly the same, at 5 Gbps. So, while an external USB 3.0 drive is slightly slower than an internal SSD, it really isn’t that noticable…I’ve been watching movies (recorded from TV) over a USB 3.0 connection lately, and they’ve been playing without any problems.

    Plus, there’s an issue of price…Apple’s upgrade prices for RAM/HDD/SDD have always been pretty outrageous, especially back when I bought my Mac mini in 2012 (which is why I bought it with only 4GB of RAM and upgraded it to 16GB myself, saving a few hundred CDN dollars in the process). Last August, I bought a Western Digital 10TB My Book Desktop External USB 3.0 Hard Drive (WDBBGB0100HBK-NESN) from Amazon Canada for $274.70CDN (which would have cost me around $200.00USD on Amazon US, depending on what the exchange rate was at the time)…it’s currently on sale on Amazon US for $199.99USD (regular price $299.99USD). That means that for the same price that Apple wants to upgrade the SSD from 256GB to 512GB (or just 50% more, if you use the regular price of the WD drive), you can get a drive with nearly **20 times** the capacity…and barely notice the difference in speed.

    “2. Do I like to download movies or TV shows and keep them available for watching at any time?”

    Same as #1.

    “3. Do I not want to worry about having enough space for applications?”

    Probably don’t have to worry about that. I got my Mac mini with a 256GB SSD and set it up for dual-booting…the main partition is 112GB and I have a secondary partition (used for testing new software before installing it on the main partition and also for installing new versions of macOS before putting it “live”) that’s 110GB. I’ve been running OS X 10.10 (Yosemite) for 5 years now, and with all the applications I’ve installed, and all the cruft one gets after that length of time, there’s still 12GB free on the main partition. Most people wouldn’t partition the drive up like that, though, and would just keep the one partition the drive comes formatted with (and with macOS installed on it)…if I’d done that, I’d would now have about 122GB – nearly half the drive – still available. “Having enough space for applications” really isn’t a consideration when the default drive offered is 256GB. Now, if the default drive were only 128GB … :-)

    “4. Do I need more space to edit photos or videos?”

    Most editing of photos and video’s is done in RAM…and if it is being done on/to a drive, then we’re back to being the same as #1.

    My conclusion: don’t spend money on upsizing the internal SSD, get external USB 3.0 drives instead…the only real difference is that the SSD is slightly faster, but you’re unlikely to notice the difference in speed. Instead, spend the money on upsizing the RAM…that’s where you’ll notice a performance increase, expecially if you’re doing things like program development or editing photos/video’s. Get as much RAM as you can afford, because these days you usually can’t upgrade the RAM yourself – particularly in the laptops – like I did with my Mac mini…Apple has taken to soldering the RAM directly to the motherboard :-(

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