When Apple introduced the first MacBook Pro with Retina display in 2012, it was shipped with at least 256 GB of flash memory. Almost a decade later in 2020, the entry-level MacBook Pro only has 256 GB of storage unless you update it.
In 2012, the iPhone 5 was delivered in the variants 16 GB, 32 GB and 64 GB. In 2020, the iPhone 11 will be available in 64 GB, 128 GB or 256 GB versions. Why did Apple put the MacBook on a diet? And is 256 GB of storage space enough?
Let's examine why you shouldn't settle for just 256GB of storage when you buy your next MacBook.
The unstable price of storage
In most cases, we expect the price of technology to decrease as it spreads. However, this is not always the case with components such as memory and storage. Scarcity is one of the biggest drivers of technology price increases. Keep in mind how expensive graphics cards were during the 2017 and 2018 cryptocurrency mining hype.
Although the price of SSD storage has dropped overall in the past decade, there have also been some notable price increases.
After prices dropped in December 2016, some manufacturers increased prices by high percentages early in the following year. Price increases are due to changes in manufacturing techniques, rising raw material costs, demand for components in other industries, and unusual weather events such as the flooding in Thailand in 2011.
Has Apple Been Hit by the Volatile Price for Computer Storage and SSDs? For sure. But the company has a lot more bargaining power with manufacturers than consumers and most retailers. This is probably why we saw only a small increase in iPhone memory (like a 64 GB baseline that was taken from 16 GB and 32 GB), rather than major jumps in basic memory for MacBooks (like the switch to 512 GB or even 1 TB).
Apple's high-end offerings (like the iMac Pro) come standard with a 1 TB solid-state drive. However, these devices are extremely expensive. The iMac Pro starts at an incredible $ 5,000. Apart from creative people, hardly anyone needs that.
Upgrading to a 1TB SSD increases the $ 1,299 you already pay for a 13-inch MacBook Pro by $ 400. Despite the cost, Apple should still have more than 256 GB in its flagship laptop.
Is 256 GB Enough?
If you buy a MacBook model and want to use it as the main device, buy a model with more than 256 GB of storage. Even if you only double the internal storage to 512 GB, you will thank in a few years. Juggling constantly with free space is miserable.
MacBooks generally last a long time. Aside from aging internals and the lack of some newer fancy features, you may be able to use a MacBook for almost a decade before you need to replace it. It obviously doesn't work as well as newer models, but your purchase will last longer than many other technical items.
Photo credit: Simon Waldherr / Flickr
The downside to the much-praised reliability of MacBooks is that you may have to live longer than expected with the machine you choose. If you don't have the money to upgrade the hardware, or if you see no point in replacing a laptop that is perfectly serviceable, you will regret choosing the smaller capacity model.
As the main computer, your MacBook hosts your photos and iTunes libraries. All your iPhone photos and videos as well as all media managed or purchased via iTunes are stored here. It is possible to save some MacOS libraries remotely
Move backups, apps, and photos from your MacBook to free up space
This is impractical for reasons of space. You have to rely on connecting external drives or network drives on your local network.
If you're not paying for iCloud storage and backing up your mobile devices to the cloud, you should do regular local backups instead. These backups are stored on your computer in the ~ / Library / Application Support / MobileSync / Backup folder. Depending on the size of your device, these backups can be very large. Saving elsewhere is a solution, but is also based on external drives.
If you use cloud storage to sync your files from other computers, they can also take up a lot of space. It's easier to access everything instantly than to constantly change what you're syncing. However, you need free space for this.
Don't forget to make room for your apps. If you're a student who spends half of your digital life in a web browser and the other half in a word processor, this may not be a problem. However, if you're a photographer with an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription, you'll probably want to get your money's worth by installing the apps you need. Apps like Premier Pro CC and Lightroom can each take several gigabytes.
After all, you want space for the projects you are working on. This can be your Lightroom library or a place where you can save your video files as you edit them. If you are working with high bitrate videos or any other medium that relies on fast read and write performance, you will probably need to keep your source files on your SSD and not on an old external drive.
It is better to buy big
It is always better to buy more storage than you need at the beginning than to upgrade later. While you can increase your storage space by replacing the drive on older models, most MacBooks won't be able to be updated by users from 2016 onwards.
The latest MacBook Pro models have soldered RAM, an attached battery, and a proprietary solid-state drive that Apple doesn't provide outside of its own channels. It is possible that compatible SSDs will hit the gray market at some point, but they probably won't be cheap if they do. You must also upgrade yourself.
You can currently only purchase SSD upgrades for MacBook Pro models made in 2015 or earlier. While this is a great option that is inexpensive if you have a compatible machine, it does have its own drawbacks.
Performing such an upgrade yourself will void your warranty and any AppleCare plans you purchase. You can also look at other methods of adding memory to your MacBook
How to add more storage to your MacBook: 6 methods that work
However, the latest models lack an SD card reader. This was the previous method to add a nice storage space to the capacity of your laptop.
Apple relies on iCloud
macOS Sierra introduced a feature called Save to iCloud. This will automatically upload files to iCloud. If you run out of space, only recently opened files remain on your system so you can access them locally. This only works if you have enough free iCloud storage space after activating the function under System Preferences> Apple ID> iCloud.
Similarly, iCloud Photos offers the ability to save your high-resolution photos so that you can optimize the local space with copies of lower quality. Subscribing to Apple Music gives you access to around 30 million songs, while iCloud Music Library makes them available on all of your devices. However, you need a data connection to stream it.
The main reason why most people buy more iCloud storage is having enough space for cloud backup. This eliminates the burden of storing all your backup data locally. Apple's 5 GB of free space has not increased since the service was launched in 2011, although customers have continued to be driven towards cloud solutions.
But even if iCloud is to close the gap, we urgently need more local storage.
When smaller is better for MacBooks
If you already have a desktop or other primary computer, MacBook storage is less of an issue. If you don't keep personal photos and iTunes purchases, it can even increase your productivity. You can save money by choosing a smaller model and relying on your main computer for memory-intensive tasks.
For anyone else who is wondering how much storage space they need for their MacBook: Think about how long you will be using your computer and what storage requirements you have before you buy. 512 GB of storage space is sufficient if you don't plan to install large apps or manage large photo / video libraries. If you do this, you will receive at least 1 TB. Otherwise, you'll need to add more MacBook storage by relying on external drives, the cloud, and network storage.
If you run out of space and can't update your computer, learn how to free up space on your Mac
How to make space on Mac: 8 tips and tricks you need to know