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Microsoft: You’re doing it wrong. Surface Pro should have more free storage

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Before you go out and buy that $899 Surface Pro, make sure you know what you’re getting: Of the 64 GB storage capacity, only 23 GB are available to you. Microsoft confirmed the specification details to The Verge on Tuesday, stating that the Windows(s msft) install files, recovery partition and built-in Windows software apps are taking up the bulk of the device’s flash storage. While all computing devices have some storage taken up by system software, Microsoft’s Surface devices are the first I can recall that take up the majority of the storage capacity.

In this day and age, I don’t find the situation acceptable. Why? Because a consumer is paying for a device with 64 GB of storage but only getting to use 36 percent of that storage. A more acceptable percentage would be more than double that, in my opinion. Of course, you can always add extra storage through USB or memory cards, but after spending upwards of $899, does that sound like an appealing choice?

Lion recovery USBWhile users can create their own recovery drive, it’s an extra step that most won’t do and none should have to do. I hate to point to Apple(s aapl), since I don’t want to start Windows v. OS X flame wars, but the USB recovery that came with my MacBook Air is a perfect example of such a customer-oriented solution.

This situation is similar on Microsoft’s $499 32 GB Surface RT, which has about half of the storage free and it tells me that Microsoft Windows isn’t really a lightweight operating system for mobile devices.

While I understand that Microsoft has hundreds of millions of legacy Windows users to support, there’s still too much cruft in Windows that isn’t needed for truly mobile devices.

This is the same problem that Microsoft has always had: trying to use Windows to be one solution for every type of user. At this point, I’m starting to think the company would have been better off scaling Windows Phone up to tablets instead of trying to scale Windows 8 down to them.

27 Responses to “Microsoft: You’re doing it wrong. Surface Pro should have more free storage”

  1. John Nemesh

    How hard would it have been for MS to include an EXTRA 32GB of storage reserved for the system files? Or just skip the part where you “reserve” the memory and put an extra 32GB in there anyway to cover it? This boils down to poor design and greed.

  2. Another reason why I love my netbook with it’s 250GB Samsung SSD…

    I actually have a Surface RT in for testing, and while I do feel the storage space is limiting, the situation is far batter than an Android or iOS tablet. For one thing, Windows RT has a native file system – that means I can view my NAS connected to my network directly from File Explorer, WITHOUT requiring any kind of special “app” to access. In addition, I can connect a thumb drive and 2.5″ hard drive to the USB port, and have a microSD card loaded as well. I can have up to 4 storage devices viewable in File Manager (more if I use a powered USB hub).

    If anything, I’d say Windows RT is the OS best designed for tablets, not a crippled smartphone OS merely running on a larger screen.

  3. Corrupted Mind

    The simple solution (that I note no-one here is mentioning) is that all companies should only be able to report “free space”. OEMs and parts suppliers would literally stampede to provide those round numbers that customers love.

  4. Microsoft has gone astray with Windows 8, Windows Phone 8, and the Surface, and they’ve missed the mark by a large margin on all those products. This is just the latest in a long list of errors.

    The company would have been better off with a new CEO a year ago.

  5. Matthew Evans

    I disagree with regard to scaling Windows Phone up versus Windows 8 down. Windows 8 runs circles around Windows 7 on low end hardware, especially when served up via solid-state. Scaling Windows Phone up (based on the ancient CE kernel) would have created a nightmare for developers whom would have had to develop two versions of every piece of software; one for Windows 8 and one for Windows “Phone.” As it stands now, they develop once and only need to target RT if they want the compiler to produce ARM code.

    While it is a disgrace that you’re getting less than half the storage you’re paying for, storage is getting cheaper by the day and both the Surface RT and Pro have MicroSDXC slots which support SD cards up to 2TB in size.

  6. I’m in two minds about this. On the one hand 64gb is too small for many people. It’s not a total disaster because it has an Micro SDXC card reader which should mean that it can use cards up to 2TB although the biggest i’ve seen on sale is 64GB, I bet 128GB micro sd cards aren’t too far away.

    But 128GB is I think fine for most users. I survived with 120GB SSD for two years and only recently upgraded to a bigger drive so I know this isn’t too much of a problem.

    I don’t understand your point about recovery disks? Windows 8 is far easier to recover than OS X. You can easily restore the system to the original state without using a disk or a USB key. If that doesn’t work you’ve got a hardware problem which you’re not gonna be able to fix with a USB key.

    Lastly the only reason that I am considering buying a Surface Pro is because it is full Windows. Microsoft has demonstrated with Windows Phone 8 that they can make the Windows 8 kernel work on a device without taking up loads of room but the point of Surface is it’s a no compromise machine. I’m looking forward to using it as a tablet and a desktop replacement.

  7. Don’t compare it with RT, RT has no software at all,even less so software that would eat the entire storage.
    64GB win 8 tablets are just useless , there are lots of windows apps and games that can eat over 20GB of storage.
    It’s not ideal, but not a deal breaker for a 200-250$ Chromebook but for Windows or Mac it’s just stupid (yes the Air “sells” ,not really if you look at how big the PC market is, but that only means that there are some unreasonable buyers).

    ps: i for one am still waiting for regulators to stop M$ from selling a Windows PC.

      • physical

        Do you honestly think that it isn’t?
        The Surface Pro IS a laptop (minus the keyboard, but you can buy one for extra). Many Windows 8 Pro devices ARE traditional laptops.
        You should consider the utility of the device, in addition to the form factor when comparing devices.

        Putting the Surface Pro in the “tablet” category simply because of its form factor is a very narrow thinking.
        I would say from a utility standpoint, there is nothing that a MBA could do that a Surface Pro couldn’t (provided you picked up a type cover). From that very same perspective, there is a boat load of things that the Surface Pro can do that the MBA can’t.

        Maybe you should take the OS as the primary factor in determining equivalency.
        iOS and RT are valid comparisons. Both limit their overall functionality to “apps”
        OS X and Windows 8 are valid comparisons. Both are full featured operating systems which find themselves on desktops, laptops and tablets. (Well, not OSX on tablets, unless you count the modbook)

      • Same CPU, memory, HDD, screen size (well, less than half an inch difference), price. Roughly the same weight. Both run Office and other “big computer” apps.

        In what light is it *not* a direct competitor to the Air? Because it has a higher res screen and touch, and can be used without a keyboard? Since when is being more functional at the same price point not considered competition?

      • Spinedoc

        Which is about the same that a surface pro has when you account for true hd space 1000 vs 1024, a 64gb hd is really a 59gb hd), account for the recovery partition, and the office trial. SHAME on you Kevin, I respect you otherwise and enjoy reading your posts, but this time you sunk to the level of generating clicks with a sensationalistic and misleading article. By the way does Apple include the USB recovery anymore? I may be wrong but last time I checked they didn’t and had you restore from the Internet.

        It’s too bad, I expected more from you Kevin after keeping up with you for years.

        • I know and appreciate that you’ve been a reader for a long time. Bear in mind that I’ve always tried to look at things as an end-user or consumer in my coverage. And as a consumer, I’m disappointed that 2/3rds of the actual storage space is taken up by Windows, installation files, a recovery partition and built-in apps. There’s nothing nefarious about my post; it’s not about clicks: It’s to point out that the situation isn’t going to help Microsoft sell Surface Pro devices and that there are better ways; ways a 30+ year tech company should already know: have the recovery bits on a USB (or as you pointed out: available online) and work hard to slim down the platform. In any case, thanks for the conversation and the years of support!