When you buy a new Mac, there are just some questions that are more difficult to answer than others. One of these 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 November releases of the 13” MacBook Air and MacBook Pro marked a huge leap forward in Apple laptops. With the company’s first in-house processor, the M1, now available for purchase, performance has jumped ahead of the previous generation of Apple laptops across almost every metric. That said, Apple left the storage mostly alone as the MacBook Air arrives with a 256GB SSD standard in the $999 base model. Similar to the previous model, you can upgrade to a 512GB, 1TB or 2TB SSD for $200, $400 and $800 respectively.
The 13” MacBook Pro retains similar sizing as before with a 256GB SSD of storage standard when combined with the M1 chip. Similar to the Air, storage can be upgraded to 512GB, 1TB and 2TB SSD of storage for the same prices as noted above. Things get a little more interesting with the 16” MacBook Pro, which has yet to receive the M1 processor upgrade. Storage starts off with 512GB SSD on the “base” model with upgrades ranging from 1TB to 8TB with the latter costing upwards of $2,400.
On the iMac side, specifically the 21.5” model, you can look at the 256GB SSD “base” model as the best entry point with a 1TB Fusion Drive option available for no additional charge. If performance is your biggest consideration, the SSD should be your preferred option. The Fusion Drive is something of a hybrid, where apps will load from the SSD portion of the drive, but storage rests on the spinning drive, which can lead to slower performance overall. On the 27” model, the base model is stuck at 256GB while the more premium versions with faster processors and more RAM begin at 512GB and work their way up to 8TB for $2,400.
Finally, the last consumer Mac hardware is the Mac Mini, which begins at 256GB of base storage. With some upgrades, you can max out memory at 2TB with 512GB and 1TB storage sizes landing in the middle. Like the MacBook models, upgrades max at $200, $400 and $800 respectively.
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,” then “Storage.”
1. Click on the “Start” button.
2. Select “File Explorer.”
3. Find and click on “This PC.”
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.
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.
Don’t Forget iCloud
With the introduction of macOS Sierra, Apple introduced a new feature called “Store in iCloud.” Somewhat self explanatory based on the name, this feature does indeed upload files to iCloud when you are running low on storage. The caveat here is that you need additional or enough available storage on iCloud to make room for files, documents, photos, videos and more. Apple offers three options:
- 50GB – $0.99
- 200GB – $2.99
- 2TB – $9.99
Ultimately, this won’t make up for local storage, but adding in cloud storage will allow for additional flexibility by freeing up space on your computer. iCloud storage is first and foremost for cloud backups, especially for iOS and iPadOS, but that you can use this to free up local storage is a great second purpose. The same goes for Dropbox, which also offers a similar feature with “Smart Sync.”
Can You Make It with 256GB?
Are you planning to get the base 256GB model? Let’s assume that your Mac is going to be filled with catalogs of music, photos, applications, and likely videos you own, rented or captured. 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 seem big enough.The trick here is to optimize the storage on your Mac. As much as possible, offload all those files you have little use for to the cloud storage or external drive.
A second thought is that you can also get by with less storage on a MacBook or iMac if you have another desktop or primary computer. That won’t be true for most people, but for those who have a second computer, less storage may be feasible. For everyone else, 256GB is more than likely good enough to get by for years to come. If you can pick up the extra storage at 512GB, it definitely provides you with more than enough cushion for well into the future.
Choosing the right storage size is never easy. On the plus side, all Mac models come with a base storage of 256GB. Yet on the negative, 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.