Sunday, 26 May 2013

Where Have My Gigabytes Gone?

When you buy a new pc or laptop, the space available for your files may be less than you would expect. A current case in point is Microsoft's Surface Pro: the 128GB model comes only with 89GB of free space, while customers choosing the 64GB incarnation receive a mere 29GB of space for their own files and downloads. What gives?

The problem starts with the way storage is measured, because not everyone agrees on exactly how big a kilobyte is. The traditional view is that a kilobyte is 1,024 bytes, a megabyte is 1,024 kilobytes and so forth-this being a convenient scale for binary calculations. Windows conforms to this convention, so it considers 128GB  of storage equal 128x1,024x1,024x1,024=137,438,953,472 bytes of data.

Hard Disks manufacturer, however, prefer to use powers 1,000. A hard disk that's advertised as having a 128GB will infact hold 128x1,000x1,000x1,000= 128,000,000,000 bytes of data. That's quite a big shortfall: to Windows this appears as only 119GB of storage. Right off the bat you've "lost" 9GB of capacity.

On top of this comes the fact that at least 4GB of your hard disk may have been sectioned off as a recovery partition, enabling you to easily restore the system to its factory settings should you need to. It is possible to remove this partition and reclaim the space for your files, but make sure that you should have some alternate means of re-installing Windows before doing this. Also check that  you should have copies of any necessary hardware-specific drivers and utilities. Re-imaging your system from the recovery partition will restore these by default, but if you re-install from a generic Windows DVD, they may not be included. 

A third factor that eats away at your available space is Windows itself, along with whatever applications manufacturer has pre-installed. On an android tablet or an ipad, the OS demands around 2GB of storage, but a full Windows 8 installation comprises more than 6GB of core files, with the page file and hibernating files adding many gigabytes in top of that.That's the price you pay for having a full OS that supports both desktop and tablet apps.