Is 128GB enough for college?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by aberamati, Jul 10, 2017.


Mac For College: is 128GB enough?

  1. Yes

  2. No

  1. aberamati macrumors newbie

    Jul 10, 2017
    Hello everyone. I'm going to start college this fall and buy my first ever personal computer, after using iPad as my main device for few years. I'm not going to store any Movies or Music on my computer, I'm using Netflix/Amazon/Apple Music for entertainment purposes. I'm not playing any games. I'm going to study Computer Science, which may require few GB for compilers, Virtual Machines etc., but I can't Imagine that taking more than 20GB, correct me if I'm wrong. I'm a hobbyist photographer so I do have some photos, but I don't need to store my entire photo library on my Mac. I import photos from my recent shooting session, develop them on Lightroom, upload to Flickr (free 1TB of lifetime storage), share on social media, and at that point I don't need them on my laptop anymore. I can back up the files, Including RAW files, to an external HDD just in case, but for that purpose even 256GB is not enough so anyway I need external HDD for that.
    Everywhere I read that nobody should ever buy the 128GB variant of the MacBook Pro and I don't understand why. I wanted to ask here maybe I'm missing something and these warnings are well founded.
    From my perspective 128GB should be more than enough for me, I just want to make sure because Everyone seem to argue otherwise and I never actually had a Laptop to be able to accurately judge.
  2. krause734 macrumors 6502a


    Jul 30, 2010
    You can easily get by with 128GB. 256 might give you some breathing room but not necessary at all. Most people could get by with a 16GB Chromebook. You can alway get an external hard drive. I'd consider 256 for resale value and making it last longer but do whatever fits your budget.
  3. kschendel macrumors 6502a

    Dec 9, 2014
    128 Gb would be tight, but probably doable. I use my rMBP for work, on-the-road software development and "office" stuff, and if I were to delete the modest amount of photos and music, and clean off a couple iPhone backups, I could just manage to squeeze into 128 Gb. For a new user without years of "stuff", 128 Gb would probably suffice. (Except for virtual disk files for VM's, of course, but you can put them on an outboard USB drive.)

    Having said that, I'm going to suggest that you go for the 256 Gb anyway, unless you absolutely can't spend the money. The reason is that 128 Gb will likely get tight after a while, and it's a pain to be moving things to and from an external drive. Also, if you have 128 Gb filled to 80-90%, you might not have room to download some large file you need, or do updates, or who knows what. With 256 Gb you probably won't have to think about it at all for the life of the laptop unless you start accumulating lots of large files.

    (so my poll vote is "maybe".)
  4. AFEPPL macrumors 68030


    Sep 30, 2014
    I've run a 128GB 2012 Mac for 5 years and its still less than half full.
    I store all my data externally to the mac, either in the cloud or on a central NAS drive.

    Just depends what you want to do, and how you want to manage it. but for sure YES, its totally doable.
  5. Populus macrumors 6502a


    Aug 24, 2012
    Valencia, Spain.
    I just purchased a 128GB 13" MacBook Pro, because it is the only 2015 model available as of now. But, if I had the chance, I'd buy a 256GB machine. So, now you've got the opportunity to buy a bigger storage Mac, do it if you can. Maybe you can work with 128GB, but eventually, it is probable you'll need that extra storage.

    I'm going to buy a JetDrive Lite, in order to expand storage on my recently purchased MacBook Pro, but new MacBook Pros don't have any SD card reader or other way to expand your storage, so I wouldn't recommend a non upgradeable/expandable machine with only 128GB.

    If there is no other way, well, you'll handle it. Somehow.
  6. mpConroe macrumors regular


    Feb 14, 2017
    Arbroath (UK) / Wroclaw (PL)
    I'm computing student and I have MacBook Pro 13'' 256GB (2016) and I must say that 256GB it's NOT ENOUGH. My computer is almost full now and I'm going to buy an iMac with 1TB but I will be editing videos in macOS and play games on Windows (bootcamp), also watching some movies and tv series. I'm doing nothing from this list on my MacBook Pro and at 256GB is ALMOST full. I couldn't live with 128GB.
  7. throAU macrumors 603


    Feb 13, 2012
    Perth, Western Australia
    depends what you do, but 128GB in a macbook is very cramped. you will be streaming media rather than downloading because storage is tight, disabling things like local time machine backups due to storage concerns (even if you don't, likely the system will auto delete them a lot more quickly than otherwise due to space constraints), etc.

    256 gives you some breathing space to take advantage of stuff like time machine local backups, some larger projects, working with video, etc.

    512 gives you enough to worry less about shuffling things around once you finished working on stuff.

    more is obviously better, but i personally would not purchase a mac with less than 256 GB of storage in 2017. this would be why it is entry level on the "macbook" now.

    if you plan on boot camp or virtual machines as per above, i'd consider 512 as a minimum.

    if you can live with storing all your data on external drives you can maybe get away with less.... but external drives suck for a portable machine. it's another thing to carry, and you want to leave it at home you play data shuffling magician on a regular basis.
  8. maxsquared macrumors regular

    Jun 27, 2009
    When you talking about development, depends on how many environment you are working with, Virtual Machine is a storage killer.
  9. Fishrrman macrumors Pentium


    Feb 20, 2009
    You might be able to "get by" with 128gb.
    But 256gb would be better, and leave you "breathing room".

    You're going off to school.
    Things tend to… "accumulate"…
  10. G5isAlive macrumors 6502a

    Aug 28, 2003

    To answer your question. 128 Gb - Do able? Maybe. Enjoyable? Nope. Will you spend a lot of time managing your storage? Yes. Will you increase the risk of not having what you want when you want it? Yes. Will someone want to buy it from you? No.

    For so many reasons, do yourself a big favor, say no to 128. Yes to 256. You will be glad you did.
  11. theluggage macrumors 68040

    Jul 29, 2011
    Well, just the XCode app on my machine is 12GB.
    I've got Ubuntu Linux installed as a virtual machine and its 9GB.
    My Windows 10 VM image is 55GB! (but you might not need that for Comp Sci).

    ...then if you're doing Comp Sci, you're presumably interested in it so you might want a bit of flexibility for doing stuff that you haven't thought about yet.

    If cash is tight then you can probably get by with 128GB - worst case is that you have to get some external storage and waste a bit of time keeping things tidy or copying stuff about. However, if you can afford it and want your computer for more than communications, office productivity and word processing I'd go for 256GB.

    My other suggestion is to think hard about whether you need a shiny new computer on day 1, and find out as much as you can about what the CS course is going to entail before committing your money.
  12. xnatex macrumors member

    Nov 19, 2012
    I personally have a lot of VMs for work. I have a Windows 10 VM for testing IE 11/Edge (barf) and it's 25GB, and a bunch of Ubuntu VMs for different work projects and those are all 3-5GB each. I currently have a 58GB folder of VMs and it contains 7 Ubuntu and 1 Windows VMs.

    Also one thing to note, Docker for Mac tends to be a huge disk space hog. It's ridiculous. So, if you're planning to use Docker, be wary. My Docker is currently configured with 64GB of space and is using 59.4GB. It's got a shared database in it, but Postgres thinks the DB is not even half that size (though it is large).

    I don't know how many VMs you'll have. Just wanted to mention that for reference. You might be able to get away with 128GB, but I'd go 256GB if you can swing it. You'll probably end up installing some software along the way, and struggling with disk space usage in the computer science world is not fun.

    If you end up needing to diagnose disk space usage, I recommend Daisy Disk. It's great!
  13. ignatius345, Aug 2, 2018
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2018

    ignatius345 macrumors 68000

    Aug 20, 2015
    If I was buying a laptop to rely on for several years as my main machine, I'd probably pony up for at least 256 GB if not 512 GB to future-proof my setup. With a desktop you can always pretty painlessly plug in a USB drive, but that gets clunky really quick with a laptop.

    If you're on the fence and end up skimping on local storage, though, cloud storage is quite fast and easy to integrate these days. Dropbox selective sync is a great way to plug in a folder on demand provided you've got good, reliable internet access. I've also been using iCloud Drive's "optimize storage" setting, and that is quite good too, though it gives you less granular control of what's synced. And of course there's always Google Drive, Box, etc. For my money, iCloud's $10/month 2TB plan is a very good deal and Dropbox is a close second.

    You mention being a hobbyist photographer, and as someone with at least 30K photos in my iCloud Photos, I can vouch for the sync being very good. When set to optimize storage, the Photos app keeps low-res copies of your images locally and then downloads the high-res only when you need them. Sync between iOS devices and Macs is handled very well, even down to the edits you make and the history of those edits.
  14. ggibson913 macrumors 6502a


    Sep 11, 2006
    I would go 256 GB. Presumably you are gonna have not only XCode on your mac but some variant of Visual Studio/ Eclipse. If money is the issue purchase a refurb.
  15. throAU, Aug 2, 2018
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2018

    throAU macrumors 603


    Feb 13, 2012
    Perth, Western Australia
    OK real world.

    On my 512 GB MBP right now i have 144 GB used by system (likely time machine local backups included, also xcode), 90 GB of applications, 16 GB of documents (a virtual machine or two, some ISO files to build VMs with, photos, etc.), 10 GB of itunes, and 15-20 GB of other data.

    So i have 218 GB free.

    Sounds like heaps right? I'm not storing any media on there really. I stream nearly everything.

    What if i want to back up my 128 GB iphone?
    What if i want to import 32 GB of video for processing off my GoPro (raw data before i use the mac to compress it).


    I'm really not keeping heaps of stuff on here that I can go without and i'm well over half full (i.e., on a 256 GB machine i'd be out of space).

    Also, free space on an SSD helps with wear levelling; if you're pushing things at 90-100% full all the time you're going to be hammering the same NAND cells over and over which will kill them a lot quicker.
  16. Starfia macrumors 6502a


    Apr 11, 2011
    aberamati – your thinking is right; if those are your activities and you consciously manage your storage, you could get by with less if you had to. Whoever you're reading is generalizing. The biggest surprise factor is the size of the OS itself, which takes up an appreciable amount of that.
  17. darkmatter343 macrumors regular

    Sep 18, 2017
    You could also get the 12" MacBook, which IMO would be great for college and has 256gb as default... but you'll have to decide if the 12" would work for you, although it's incredibly light to carry around. If you have an external display you could hook up that may make it easier as well for times when you need more screen real-estate.
  18. kreasonos, Dec 27, 2018
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2018

    kreasonos macrumors regular

    Dec 4, 2013
    More than enough. If I were going to college today I'd use a Chromebook.
  19. revmacian macrumors 6502


    Oct 20, 2018
    I would recommend 256GB storage. The reason for my recommendation has to do with the way solid state drives handle data and the actions taken to prevent cell exhaustion (limited reads/writes) - more cells equal longer overall life of the drive. I think the relevant question here is; how much of your storage space is going to be allocated to virtual machines?

    Also, if money is a primary concern, you might want to consider seeing what is available on Apple's refurbished store.
  20. sgtaylor5, Dec 27, 2018
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2018

    sgtaylor5 macrumors member


    Aug 6, 2017
    Cheney, WA, USA
    CompSci major: 512 GB SSD for free space (wear leveling and speed of writing to the SSD) and 4 CPU cores, because those VM's need their own cores and RAM. You'll need 2 cores just for the host OS, at least. Compiling will need more cores, as well. Don't skimp.

    EDIT: There is a definite speed bump when comparing a system with a 128 GB SSD vs a similar system with a 256 GB SSD. It's noticeable.
  21. The Oak macrumors regular

    Nov 12, 2013
    You spoke of VMs. Depends on how many ... Each VM will probably need 10GB at a min. Now throw on what ever application you are putting on that VM. That can add up pretty quick.

    You may squeak by. RAM and CPU cores will be your friend.
  22. Mikael H macrumors 6502a

    Sep 3, 2014
    In addition to what others have said: Unless you truly can't afford it here and now, think of the additional storage cost split over the likely lifetime of your computer. Those $200 today will likely be the difference between having a computer that "may" make it through 3 years, and a computer that will still be a workable laptop in five years' time.

    Eat noodles for a month and get the bigger storage option. ;-)
  23. StellarVixen macrumors 65816


    Mar 1, 2018
    If you are only going to take notes during lecture, yes it is. For anything more, no way.
  24. maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    My $.02 is 128GB is just not worth the cost. If you're taking notes on it and aren't pushing the computer, then why even spend that much money on something that expensive. Why paint yourself into a corner in this day and age, where 128 is incredibly inadequate for a laptop
  25. kreasonos macrumors regular

    Dec 4, 2013
    Remember these days?

    Introduction Date: November 6, 2002 Discontinued Date: September 16, 2003

    Processors: 1 Geekbench 2: 556

    Processor Speed: 1.0 GHz Processor Type: PowerPC 7455 (G4)
    Details: The PowerPC G4 includes the AltiVec "Velocity Engine" vector processor.
    Processor Upgrade: Soldered FPU: Integrated
    Details: N/A
    System Bus Speed: 133 MHz Cache Bus Speed: 1.0 GHz (Built-in)

    ROM/Firmware Type: Open Firmware ROM/Firmware Size: 1 MB

    L1 Cache: 64k L2/L3 Cache: 256k (on chip), 1 MB

    RAM Type: PC133 SDRAM Min. RAM Speed: 8 ns
    Details: Supports 144-pin PC133 SDRAM SO-DIMM memory modules.

    Also see: How do you upgrade the RAM in the PowerBook G4 models? How much RAM of what type do these systems support?
    Standard RAM: 512 MB Maximum RAM: 1 GB
    Details: In the US (and many other countries), site sponsor Other World Computing sells memory -- as well as other upgrades -- for this PowerBook G4.

    In Australia, site sponsor RamCity sells memory and other upgrades for this PowerBook G4.

    Also see: Actual Max RAM of All G3 & Later Macs.
    Motherboard RAM: None RAM Slots: 2

    Video Card: Mobility Radeon 9000 VRAM Type: DDR SDRAM
    Details: ATI Mobility Radeon 9000 with 64 MB DDR SDRAM (4X AGP).

    Also see: What kind of video processor is provided by the PowerBook G4 models? What is the maximum resolution each can support on an external display?
    Standard VRAM: 64 MB Maximum VRAM: 64 MB

    Built-in Display: 15.2" Widescreen Native Resolution: 1280x854

    2nd Display Support: Dual/Mirroring 2nd Max. Resolution: 2048x1536
    Details: The maximum resolution supported on an external display is 2048x1536 at millions of colors.
    Standard Storage: 60 GB HDD Std. Storage Speed: 4200 RPM

    Details: A 60 GB (5400 RPM) hard drive also was available as a build-to-order option.

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