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Squeeze that notebook disk into your new ultrabook SSD

Submitted by Peter on Wed, 2012-01-25 23:29

Ultrabooks are quickly replacing notebooks netbooks, tablets, and pads. Your iThing can be relegated to a display accessory for your full powered mobile computer. The only problem is squeezing the contents of your old notebook magnetic disk into that little SSD.

The good news is the ultrabook gives you a choice of magnetic disk or SSD. If you really do need 600 GB, you can get it in a magnetic disk. You are not restricted to one brand of supplier. Acer, Asus, Toshiba, and a bunch of other brands already have a wide range of ultrabooks on the market with a wide range of storage options. You are also free to choose based on performance with different brands varying speed versus price.

A good SSD is faster than a magnetic disk and 128 GB SSDs are competitively priced. 256 GB SSDs are a touch expensive. The most common purchase is the 128 GB SSD. Your old notebook is probably 3 to 5 years old and most likely has a 320 GB disk because that was the most common purchase a few years ago. Your disk is probably 50% full, a common situation. You have 160 GB to fit into your new 128 GB SSD. How do you squeeze that 160 GB onto the 128 GB SSD?

Backup to an external disk

The first step is to backup your existing notebook to an external disk drive or a directory on your server. Copy everything. You can then look for anything that is missing even if it is not missing and you just made a mistake with the file name.

Archive projects

Modern SDHC cards are fast and large. You can back whole projects to SD cards. When you project is finished, archive to SD. You will most likely find 10 to 20 GB of old projects to archive on a notebook that is several years old. I recently delete several Linux ISO images from one computer, freeing up 5 GB of disk space. The Linux images covered different distributions, were not current and, in every case, there was a more recent version in the same directory. After deleting the obsolete ones, I moved the current ones to an SD card, removing another 5 GB.

USB3 gives you very fast access to external sold state disks for anything too large for an SD card. A server at the end of a local connection or a broadband connection can provide the same storage. I have a collection of CD and DVD archives I am about to put on a single server disk so I can occasionally search the archives. With the low cost of magnetic disks, I will replicate the server disk to several external disks using USB3 and the network.

My archived projects vary from 10 GB to 250 GB. The 250 GB projects have several sections and some were squeezed into Bluray disks. Today I would use a cheap 500 GB magnetic disk for the backup of the larger projects and SD for the smaller ones. If a software project has not been touched for more than a year, there is a very high chance the software can no longer be used because the environment is obsolete. I tend to split big projects into smaller modules then archive the modules with a view to possibly using some of the modules as future building blocks.

If I set a target of a maximum project size of 32 GB to fit the smaller convenient SD cards, I should keep 32 GB spare on my SSD to import a project. That means squeezing 160 GB down to 96 GB instead of 128 GB. I will not attempt that because modern ultrabooks have USB3 sockets and USB3 connected SSDs are almost as fast as internal SSDs. The small projects will go on SD to copy onto the ultrabook SSD than back to the SD. The larger projects can sit on an external SSD full time.

Delete old applications

I recently cleaned up a computer that contained Microsoft Office 2010 and OpenOffice using a total of 0.5 GB. the same computer already contained Microsoft 2003 and the owner had never moved off 2003.

The Java runtime is medium size but the SDK version is a monstrous 150 MB and many applications install the gorilla version instead of the regular version. Multiply the wastage by the number of versions of Java installed. Three is common. You can usually delete all the versions and then install only the latest small runtime version. If one of your applications fails to work, you may have to update the application.

I can often delete a GB of old applications per year of use. This includes both the applications and the data directories in each use profile. you delete the application then you step through each user profile looking in the application data directory. Windows 7 changed the name of the application data directory plus Windows 7 creates three sets of duplicate directories under different profile names.

Linux is easier for the applications I use. Some other Linux applications hide data all over the disk under some really weird directory names and do no delete the files when the application is deleted.

Delete work files from editing

Your editing programs leave backup and work files everywhere. The files have easy to identify formats you can see when you list files in a directory while editing. If you edit example.txt, you will find an example.bak or an example.tx~ or similar. Check what is produced by your editing programs then perform a global search and delete the files. based on this type of cleanup on many machines, you will remove one percent of the used disk space. using our example 160 GB of files, you will delete more than a GB after several years of use.

Delete temporary files

Temporary files are files that should disappear when they are closed. For some reason all the operating systems keep some or all of the temporary files forever. You have to run a program to delete the files. On Windows the files are often in directories named temp or tmp. You can search for the directories and empty the directories.

If your computer is infected with Internet Explorer, there will be directories with stupid names along the lines of Temporary Internet files. There are a bunch of other applications that also infect your computer with temporary files buried in data directories and never deleted.

The last time I cleaned out the temp directories on a notebook containing 50 GB of files, I deleted over a GB of temporary files. I cleaned out the Internet Explorer directories on a similar machine and removed 0.5 GB. Scaled up to our example 160 GB problem, you can save a couple of GB.

Housekeeping programs

There are several housekeeping programs available to automate the cleanup. Windows includes one that has about five options and removes some of the junk. Linux has the Computer Janitor. They remove a lot of files but do not know enough about your applications to remove everything.


If you use Windows, you can use Winmerge to compare large collections of files. If you use Linux, you will have to wait until Winmerge is developed for Linux. AN easier approach for Linux users is to share their disks to a Windows machine and use Winmerge on Windows to perform the comparison. You can use Winmerge to highlight similarities and differences in directories with what look like different versions of the same content. You can then remove massive duplication. I recently reduced one file collection from 1500 GB down to 400 GB.


If you are using a typical 160 GB on a 320 GB disk then update to a 128 GB SSD, you can squeeze your useful files into the 128 GB SSD. All you need do is the housekeeping you skipped for the several years you owned the old notebook. For the occasional larger project, you can use a USB3 connected external SSD.