Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Sufficient hard drive space in a laptop for engineering?

  1. Jun 15, 2009 #1
    I have a laptop at at the moment but I'm afraid that I chose the wrong one. Its a 16in, 7.1lb monster with a battery life of a measly 2.5hr max. I could upgrade the battery but it would add over a pound in weight and make it even bulkier though.

    I'm thinking about returning it (if I can) and getting a smaller, lighter, more portable laptop that I think would be better suited for a college life. The new one I'm looking only has a 128GB hard drive space but it's a solid state drive. Is that enough capacity for whatever I may need? Engineering programs, papers, etc.

    And while I'm on the subject of laptops, should I even bother to get a new one or is the one I'm currently using fine? Thanks.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 15, 2009 #2


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Basic rule stay away from HPs.
  4. Jun 15, 2009 #3
    What are the specs for both computers (Processor, Memory, etc.)?
  5. Jun 15, 2009 #4
    FYI, theres a section in the Computer Science forum titled "Technology" which is specifically for questions like this.

    No one can tell you how exactly much HDD space you need because we don't know what you are going to be doing. If your just an undergrad, 200GB will probably be more than fine. And if you have the kind of money where you can buy a solid state drive, buy a portable laptop and a decent desktop PC. Laptops are not made for power and have a much greater MTBF than desktops. This way you will have a computer you can take to school with you and a computer you can store data and do computations on.
  6. Jun 15, 2009 #5
    What the hell do you plan to be putting on there thats going to be remotely anywhere near the order of 100's of GB?

    As a personal preference i'd just have a tiny laptop that is for portable word processing and that mundane stuff only, but thats only becuase I hate them. Desktops are the way to go.

    Edit: This isnt a crack at you, but what is the obsession with technology. If you buy a remotely modern laptop it'll be completely fine, having a slighty better laptop makes not a jot of difference academically speaking.
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2009
  7. Jun 15, 2009 #6
    Oh, I wasn't aware there was a specific forum for this. Sorry.

    My HP (didn't know I should stay away from them) has 500GB capacity 5400rpm, 2.4Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 4GB DDR2 RAM, 16in widescreen with Brightview, Nvidia 9600M GT graphics card. Battery life is about 2.5hrs and it weighs 7.1bs. Windows Experience Index is 5. It costs about $1200.

    The laptop I'm looking at is a Dell Studio XPS 13in with either a 2.4 or 2.53Ghz processor ($50 difference), either 500GB 7200rpm (free upgrade) or the $125 128GB SSD, 4GB DDR3 RAM, Nvidia GeForce 9500M. It costs about $1250 but I could change some things and probably get it cheaper.

    Can a moderator please move this to the appropriate forum?

    Haha. Not sure why I'm so into this. I really don't know what to expect in college/what I'm going to want to do with it so I guess I'm making sure it can handle whatever I throw at it. I guess I'm also kinda one of the people that likes to have the best and latest technology. Not to the extent that I get a new cell phone or computer every couple of months though.
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2009
  8. Jun 15, 2009 #7
    Both are fine to overkill for anything you'll need with engineering.

    If this is going to be your only working computer (ie no desktop) go for the 1st one basically as staring at a postage stamp screen can become a major drag and you'll have to take the penalty of hoofing round a heavy laptop with crap battery life.

    If you are going to have a desktop too, then go for a small cheap laptop with better battery life.
  9. Jun 15, 2009 #8
    Well I'm definitely not getting a laptop and a desktop but like you said I don't exactly want to haul around my desktop replacement everywhere.
  10. Jun 15, 2009 #9
    It's a matter of personal preference then, from what you are saying it sounds as though the smaller lighter laptop would suit your needs more.
  11. Jun 15, 2009 #10
    Yeah I'm beginning to think it would. The thing is though that I'm not sure if I can return this laptop or not and get my money back. If I'm not able to, do you think its going to be a huge hassle to lug this around with me?
  12. Jun 15, 2009 #11


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Just don't underestimate the value of a big screen, especially with engineering tasks. You'll be looking at schematics, diagrams, pages of code, etc. If you go with a small ultra-portable laptop, consider purchasing an external monitor. (Of course, you can also go hijack a big monitor at a computer lab.)

    - Warren
  13. Jun 15, 2009 #12
    I suggest you just stick with the notebook you currently have. It should have no problem getting you through your next 4 years of school assuming nothing dies.

    The 4 gigs of RAM and the 9600M might come in handy for CAD but other than that its pretty overkill. I concur about the desktop + cheap laptop strategy. It really is the very best option.
  14. Jun 15, 2009 #13
    I would personally keep the laptop you have...13" screens are great for airplane trips and car rides, but for school, I'd stick with the 16". But again, it is preference. Both will handle anything you come across.
  15. Jun 15, 2009 #14
    Well I can't return it so I'll just have to make do with this one. I'll probably have to get the 12 cell battery which will add another pound or so but I guess I don't have a choice unless I put it on eBay.
  16. Jun 15, 2009 #15


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    If all we're talking about here is space, then yes; absolutely.

    If for some strange reason you find yourself needing more than 128 Gigs, buy an external drive.

  17. Jun 17, 2009 #16


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    The other option is to get a nice LCD for your desk. When you need to do CAD work, plug in the external monitor, and open up documents / browser on your laptop. Or vice-versa if you're the type to have 4+ windows open.
  18. Jun 17, 2009 #17
    For the record, I recommend against buying machines that are in between laptop and desktop sizes. Your laptop should be extremely portable if not a netbook or smartphone, and you desktop should be powerful, comfortable, and with a large screen for long periods of work.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook