How to Maximize Storage Space in a Desktop


When buying a desktop computer, how much thought do you put into its storage capacity? How much do you think you can store, and how long can get by with just a 1TB hard drive? At first, it always seems plenty, but once we start saving photos, videos, movies, games, and more, we find ourselves in a predicament. There’s still so much Internet and life we want to download and keep, but that red bar slowly creeping to the edge has got us all feeling anxious. Most people opt for an external storage solution, which is important for backups, but what if you don’t want to deal with handling (and losing) all those extra devices and cables? Luckily, we’re here to give you a few tips on how to cram as many gigabytes into your current system as possible while keeping everything in one place.

Fill Up Those Extra Drive Bays

Generically speaking, a standard desktop computer has plenty of storage drive bays made for internal 3.5" HDDs, usually located in the front of the case. Before you over-simplify things and purchase a bunch of drives, check the amount of free SATA ports on your motherboard first. After that, you’re welcome to buy whatever capacity drives you want and install them. Simple, right? Now you’re thinking to yourself, “I just installed an 8TB drive. Problem solved.”

WD 4TB Red 5400 rpm SATA III 3.5" Internal NAS HDD

Yes, but here are a few other things for you to chew on. Hard drives are slow and clunky. Why not upgrade to solid-state drives? SSDs are much more compact and can operate faster. If your system doesn’t have any slots for them, you can pick up an adapter. Some of them will let you install up to two SSDs in a standard 3.5" drive bay. While you’re at it, consider setting up your own RAID with all those new drives. (DIY Tip: SSDs don’t really need a dedicated slot. You can even tape them to the back of your motherboard tray if you’re struggling to find room.)

Samsung 500GB 850 Evo 2.5" SATA III SSD

On the off chance that you’ve gotten too invested in shopping or really need all that room, and have run out of SATA ports, don’t fret. Hopefully, your system has an empty PCIe slot or a few in which you can install a SATA Expansion Card. These cards provide you with additional SATA ports and some even have built-in RAID support. A few, such as the Sonnet Tempo SSD Pro Plus, even lets you install SSDs directly on it.

Sonnet Tempo SSD Pro Plus SATA III PCI Express Card

Nobody Uses CDs Anymore

While we’re filling up those unused drive bays, why not put those empty 5.25" bays to use, too? In fact, some cases don’t even have 5.25" bays. If yours does, check out 5.25" bay adapters. The more empty bays you have, the more drives you’ll be able to install. Some support hot-swapping, some can be secured by lock and key, and some such as the Icy Dock Black Vortex, has a built-in fan for additional cooling.

Icy Dock Black Vortex 4-Bay 3.5" Hard Drive Cooler Cage

Ditch Standard Drives

Standard 2.5" and 3.5" drives are so last year. Consider getting yourself an M.2 drive. Newer motherboards usually have one or two M.2 slots, and you can always add more using handy dandy adapters. The form factor most commonly varies between a small rectangular chip and a PCIe card. M.2 cards are also compatible with laptops for a boost in capacity and speed. Moreover, NVMe drives such as the Samsung 960 EVO, offer even faster read and write speeds compared to a SATA M.2 one.

Samsung 500GB 960 EVO NVMe M.2 Internal SSD

On another note, the recently released Intel® Optane Series M.2 Memory Module can accelerate your system, increasing its responsiveness and reducing load times. Made for M.2 slots and effectively acting as cache, Optane delivers SSD-like speeds or faster, even if the rest of your drives are hard drives. They’re ideal for users who want to have plenty of storage space and SSD speeds, without having to spend money on buying all SSD drives. Please note that Intel Optane memory requires a compatible motherboard and an Intel 7th-generation processor.

Intel 16GB Optane Series PCIe M.2 Memory Module

Now that your bases are fully loaded, you won’t have to worry about running out of room again. Instead, be on the lookout for our upcoming article on storage drive how-tos to learn more about drive maintenance including formatting, partitioning, migrating data, disk cleanup, defragging, and more. If you have any other ideas or unique ways to increase your desktop’s storage capacity, let us know in the Comments section, below.

Share a photo of your current Hard Drive on Twitter with the tag #HardDriveWeek for a chance to win a new Hard Drive!


Very good

I don't get this at all. I can't find a new desktop computer with any free hard drive bays. Can you show me one that has free hard drive bays?

I think you might want to check out the differences between disc drives and SSD first.  My impression at the moment is that SSD's are great for "storage", but don't last as well as normal disc drives if you are constantly feeding data files into and out of them.  That said, I believe it's possible to "restore" them somehow when they start to fade a bit.

I love the idea of "no moving parts" and in fact use them as storage - but that's not quite the same as the functions of drives on a computer.

Hi: has anybody given thoughts about how a new "large" HDD of say 4TB can work in a slightly older computer?  I'm thinking that some operating systems have a cap (say 1.2 TB) on what size is the maximum that the system will support.

You're correct that older operating systems (much older) have caps.  If you're unsure, please let us know which operating system you're running.

Lots of talk about storage but not one mention of what this is doing to the power supply.  Add all those drives but be sure to check the max current rating on the power supply, too!

One of the things about digital photography is that one can see photos taken more than a century ago. That makes them (and the subjects of that photos) a part of the history of ours families, towns, countries and humanity that can be seen by people one hundred years away, half world away.

I'm not so sure about digital photography making that. Do not misunderrstand me: Photos by some pros, of some events and hallmarks will be visible for centuries now on, buy I'm worried by the photos "WE" take. My grand grand descent wilkl not se mye curren family, home and our way of lifw. They will not se a digital photo taken aa hundred years ago by their grand grand family because there will be not a shoebox full of photos found in an attic or basement.

This said, parto of my problem is that you favor the use of SSDs instead of HDDs, just for speed. Having a los of space only makes sense for keeping thing. Up today, the SSDs can keep your files for a lot shorter time than HDDs, They are not as safe as the old HDD and that makes them useles for "archival" use. Even less useful than HDDs

I use HDDs while waiting for the "Eternal Storage" to be invented that will be readable in the next 2 centuries in the hope my files will be transferred to that "E.S." before they are lost.

Is there a storage device that checks spelling??

To say "No one uses CD's anymore" causes me to believe that some millennial who salivates all over his keyboard next to his plastic banana plant wrote this article, and has no idea how the real world works.  We need the drives to create DVD's, to read and rip DVD's, and a lot more.  Obviously, you need to get out in the real world more so you stop making such asinine statements.

I have a desktop computer tha ha a space for two hard drive bays including mounts . So I went out and bought two but never could get the soft ware to run them. Does anyone know how to do this?

I agree with John. To say 'nobody uses CDs anymore' is absurd. What I do not use are MP3s and never did becasue the quality is crap. I still buy CDs and rip my CDs .wav or flac. I have not one, but two optical drives in my desktop. These were upgrades and when I build a new system they will move to that new system. I also don;t understand the suggestion to tape an SSD to the back (?) of the motherboard. Not sure how that would work, but SSDs can be taped to any open space in the case. Motherboards get hot: You do not want anything "taped" to it.

I too agree with John. I know many of the latest cases do not even contain 5.25" slots, but I have a multitude of legacy CD, DVD, and Blu-Rays that I would prefer to keep in their original format.

The other issue I have with the article is that the author doesn't compare the relative costs of the storage solutions presented. Apparently money is no object to him, but it matters to me. Has anyone priced the Samsung M960 EVO M.2 1TB drive lately? It's an awesome drive, but not everyone can afford it. Platter drives may load software a tad slower, but how many terabytes of platter drive storage can one buy for the price of the Samsung drive? My personal preference is a 1TB boot/software SSD with several platter drives for data storage and a NAS for backup and longer term storage, but I realize not everyone can afford that setup. It's plenty fast for my needs. And I do have a pair of Blu-Ray RW drives as well.

I agree with most commenters, but I just wanted to say that the article says to tape them to the back of the motherboard tray, not directly to the motherboard.

Pretty asinine to say "Nobody uses CDs anymore". Plenty of people use CDs, that's why they're for sale everywhere. That's why CD drives are for sale everywhere. Just because you don't use CDs anymore, that doesn't mean the whole world has fallen in step behind you.

Yes You are correct.

John wrote:

Pretty asinine to say "Nobody uses CDs anymore". Plenty of people use CDs, that's why they're for sale everywhere. That's why CD drives are for sale everywhere. Just because you don't use CDs anymore, that doesn't mean the whole world has fallen in step behind you.