Microsoft’s 32GB Surface Tablet Offers Only 16GB of Usable Space

Posted on November 6, 2012 3:22 AM by Rob Williams

If you’re in the market for a Microsoft Surface tablet, consider this a PSA. Unlike Android and iOS tablets, which have rather slim OSes installed, Microsoft Surface and other Windows 8 tablets have the same OS we use on the desktop installed. Where do you think its space requirements go? Nowhere at all. Windows 8 has that sexy NAND in its sights, and it plans to make good use of it. As such, the 32GB Surface model will offer only 16GB of usable space. Things are far improved with the 64GB model, which offers 46GB of usable space.

Windows 8 - Microsoft Surface

Given the fact that a standard Windows Vista – 8 install can take well over 10GB, the space that’s “lost” in these tablets isn’t much of a surprise. It is a bit of a gotcha, though, and something very easy to overlook. It’d be mighty depressing to bring home a 32GB tablet without realizing literally half of the storage space is inaccessible to you. And as for the 64GB model having even more space cut-off, that has math to thank.

To help avoid the misunderstanding with its Surface tablet, Microsoft has published a page that explains the math in simple detail. The 32GB model, as seen in Windows, is 29GB after byte conversion. The 64GB will be seen as 59GB. After lobbing off 5GB for recovery tools, that leaves 24GB and 55GB, respectively. Take off another 8GB for the OS itself, we then have 16GB and 46GB. Note that these numbers are for Windows RT, which is the OS used on ARM-based systems.

While it sucks to lose so much space due to the OS, Microsoft touts the ability to save data to the cloud (via SkyDrive, of course), external storage (microSD, microSDHC or microSDXC) and of course, via USB flash or hard drive.

  • e550mercedes

    I’m curious as to what iOS takes in space, even though I heard it’s only a fraction of what Windows 8 takes?

    • Rob Williams

      I’m not certain, but I’d imagine both iOS and Android would take up not much more than 1GB. These are extremely lightweight OSes in comparison to Windows. In truth, I am surprised Microsoft couldn’t trim -anything- for these tablets. I’d have to imagine some software on there is rather heavy.

      There’s also the fact that some Windows folders like to bloat themselves up over time, and you can do nothing about it (WinSxS is a good example).

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