Laptop Storage for College—Types of Storage & How Much You Need

Man changes hard drive disk to a modern ssd
Note: This post may contain affiliate links. Purchases made through my affiliate links provide a small commission for me at no extra cost to you. I only recommend products that I know/use.

When buying a laptop for college, you are faced with all these different options, and you don’t know what to pick. I get it. I had no idea what different types of storage were or how much laptop storage I needed for college.

In this post, we will break it all down.

Are you carrying around your laptop? You should get a protective caseOpens in a new tab., laptop backpackOpens in a new tab., or cute laptop bagOpens in a new tab.!

What is laptop storage?

Laptop storage is the space available to store your operating system, software, and files long-term.

Laptops commonly come with 128GB, 256GB, 500GB, or 1 TB of storage. 

Check out all the benefits of Prime StudentOpens in a new tab.. Click hereOpens in a new tab. to sign up for Prime Student.

Laptop storage vs. laptop memory

People talk about laptop storage and laptop memory as if they are the same thing, but they are not. Laptop storage is where your computer stores the programs and files long-term.

Laptop memory is its RAM which is the short-term memory that stores the data for the programs you are running and determines how many programs can run at once.

Learn more about Laptop Memory for College: What Is RAM and How Much Do You NeedOpens in a new tab..

Types of laptop storage

There are several different types of laptop storage.

Hard disk drive (HDD)

Hard disk drives (HDDs) are physical disks connected to the motherboard and store your operating system, programs, and files. 

They are the slowest kind of storage, but they are also the cheapest kind of storage.

Solid-state drive (SSD)

Solid-state drives (SSDs) do not have moving parts. They store your operating system, programs, and files on flash memory chips.

They are faster, quieter, and more durable than hard drives but also more expensive.


Some laptops come with hybrid storage—both a hard disk drive and a solid-state drive. 

They store commonly used software and files on the SSD to load faster and store the rest of your data on the HDD. 

The amount of storage on the SSD and HDD varies. 

Embedded multimedia cards (eMMC)

eMMCs are what you commonly find in smartphones or tablets. 

eMMCs are between HDDs and SSDs in terms of speed. They are slower but more affordable than SSDs.

Unfortunately, they do not come with much storage (commonly 32 or 64 GB). 

HDD vs. SSD for a laptop for college

College students should get a laptop with an SSD. The advantage of SSDs is that they are faster, quieter, and more durable. SSDs are worth the money. However, the advantage of HDDs is that you can get more storage for a cheaper price.

Other storage options

It is really important to consider other storage options because they can be used to supplement your storage on your laptop. 

If you use an external drive or cloud storage to save your files (especially larger items, such as videos), you can get a laptop with less storage and be fine. 

External drive

External drives are drives that you can plug into your computer to store your files.

Cloud storage

Cloud storage, such as Dropbox, iCloud, or Google Drive, uses internet servers to back up your files. To use this type of storage, you need internet access.

Cloud storage is inexpensive and allows you to access your files from any device. 

iCloud and Google Drive offer a fair amount of cloud storage for free, but if you need more, you can pay for however much you need.

How much storage does a college student need on their laptop?

In general, the ideal storage amount for college students, especially those on a budget, is 256 GB. This is enough storage for all programs students would use, and all files students accumulate throughout college. 

If students also want to do online gaming, store a lot of videos, or do extensive photo or video editing, 512 GB of storage would be best.

Let’s look at when you could use different amounts of storage.

Is 128GB enough for a student laptop?

A student laptop with 128 GB of storage is enough if the student also uses cloud storage or an external drive to store files when their storage gets full. However, as long as it is not significantly more expensive, it makes sense to get 256 GB of storage to future-proof their laptop.

Is 256GB storage enough for college?

A laptop for college with 256GB of storage is enough. Students will have space for all programs and school files. If students eventually have storage issues (such as having a lot of videos), they can use an external drive or cloud storage and still be fine with 256 GB of storage.

Many SSDs offer this level of storage as their default. 

If you play online games or want to be able to save a lot of videos, then get a laptop with 512 GB of storage.

Is 512GB enough for a college student? 

A laptop with 512 GB of storage is more than enough for a college student. All programs and files from school (including assignments, lectures, and pictures) will fit without a problem. Students will also be able to store videos and games. 

Is 1 TB storage enough for college students?

For college students, 1 TB of storage is more than enough. Even if students use a lot of storage-heavy programs for their major and save all of their assignments, notes, and lectures, they are unlikely to get even close to filling up their storage.

Unless the student is storing many videos or playing a lot of online games, I would say that 1 TB of storage is unnecessary, especially since they should still use cloud storage or an external drive to back up their files. 

My recommendation for how much storage to get on your laptop for college

I recommend you save your money and get a laptop with less storage (256 GB) and then use the money you saved to buy a cloud storage subscription or a 2-5 TB external drive that you can use to back up your files. 

I have used Seagate drivesOpens in a new tab. for over 5 years, and I love them! They are good quality, easy to use, and have good customer support.

How to decide how much laptop storage you need for college

Now that you know what laptop storage is, the different types, and when you would need more storage, you need to determine how much storage to get on your laptop.

Check with your college

Many colleges have a page on their website that states the technical requirements. 

If your school doesn’t have this, you can call/ email your advisor or tech department and ask them how much laptop storage they recommend.

Consider what you will be using your laptop for

How much laptop storage a person needs depends on what they use their laptop for. You should check the system requirements for the programs you will be using and see how much storage each one requires.

You may want to get the higher levels of storage, 512 GB, if you: 

  • Play online games
  • Want to store a lot of videos
  • Are an engineering major and will be running programs that require a large amount of storage, like CAD software
  • Are a graphic design major and will be doing a lot of photo/video editing 

For most students, 256 GB of storage will be plenty.

Go to a tech store

If you want someone to walk you through it and tailor their recommendation based on how you use your laptop, you can go to a tech store (like Best Buy) and ask what they recommend. 

However, keep in mind that, in general, more storage costs more, so they do have a financial incentive to recommend more storage.

My mom went to Best Buy for help when she bought me a laptop for school. They coached her on what I would need, and I ended up with a great laptop.

Now that you know how much laptop storage you need for college, you are ready to go and buy your laptop for college.

My favorite products for your laptop

Thank you for reading this article—I hope you found it helpful! Here are some of my favorite products for your laptop that I hope you’ll also find helpful.

External drive: Back up your laptop with an external drive. I have used Seagate drives Opens in a new tab.for many years, and their drives are great quality, and their customer support is very helpful!

Lap desk: Lap desksOpens in a new tab. make it easier to use your laptop anywhere, including your couch or bed.

Cleaning brush for electronics: Use a brush to clean electronics to keep your laptop clean.

Travelings case and/or bag: A protective laptop case Opens in a new a hard case that keeps your laptop safe when you are carrying it or traveling with it. Another way to carry around your laptop is with a laptop backpackOpens in a new tab. or over-the-shoulder laptop bagOpens in a new tab.. Use one (or even better, both) to protect your laptop when on the go.

To see all of my most up-to-date recommendations for tools and products for students, check out this resourceOpens in a new tab. that I made for you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Posts