128GB Microsoft Surface Pro Only Offers 83GB Of Usable Space

The standard Windows 8 Surface tablets came in for some stick, thanks to the Windows files eating up 13GB of hard drive space. That's nothing compared to Windows 8 Pro, which requires an astonishing 45GB of the Surface Pro's disk space for its files.

The numbers, obtained from Microsoft by Softpedia, would make an absolute mockery of the 64GB version of the Surface Pro tablet if replicated there, with the machine possibly only having 19GB of space for users to use if Windows 8 eats up a similar chunk of drive space on the more affordable Pro option. [Softpedia via T3]

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    I don't know what a surface pro is so I'm okay with this.

    Seems a lot. But then Microsoft wouldn't know code optimization if they stepped in it.

    But how does this compare to other manufacturers? For example, how much of the available RAM does the OS of an iPad or Android tablet use?

      As with the RT, this includes a recovery partition, so it has bugger-all to do with code optimisation and everything to do with the fact this is a proper computer, not a toy. But as it's a PC, anyone should be able to wipe the drive and start from scratch to get back as much of it as they need. My 128Gb Samsung Series 9 had less than 60Gb of actual storage when I bought it but I had no trouble at all increasing that to well over 100Gb with the SSD reformatted and Win8 reinstalled. And remember, every 128Gb HDD/SDD really only has about 119Gb of space in the first place.

        Thanks. Any idea how much space can be recovered by deleting the recovery partition?

        I wonder how much memory iOS takes up on an iPad? I don't have one, but it would be interesting to compare.

          I've got the 64 GB iPad, and with all my apps and free space added up the OS takes up approx 3-5 GB of the total capacity, this is only a rough estimate though.

          iPads aren't computers

            What are they then? Walruses? Pine Trees? Small Rocks? Of course they are computers. Drew obviously needs to bone up his bone head on some technology facts. iPads, iPhones, Blackberries, Android Phones, Rasberry Pi's, Macs etc etc - all computers. Definition of computer "A computer is a general purpose device that can be programmed to carry out a finite set of arithmetic or logical operations. Since a sequence of operations can be readily changed, the computer can solve more than one kind of problem." Last time I checked you could program all the devices I mentioned. Perhaps Drew owns a Surface Tablet so that's why he doesn't know what a real computer is?

              iOS, Android, Windows RT, WebOS and other mobile OS based devices aren't fully features computers.

              Technically, yeah they are computers but not in the same sense as a laptop or desktop running Mac OS/Windows/Linux etc

          I'm pretty sure I read it was about 8GB could be freed up by moving the recovery files.

            The recovery partition on my Series 9 was 20-odd Gb. It's apparently 7Gb on a SurfaceRT.


        Unfortunately, whilst this is possible to recover space, 99% of users will not know how to re-install windows, let alone what a partition is.

        But would all read this article or use their new computer and be immediately put off for reasons they do not understand.

        While I don't blame the writer for jumping at a sensational headline, details are important when this is a TECH site.

          Exactly, the reason recovery partitions are placed on devices is to help the moronic masses when they need support.

          its so much easier to walk someone through using a recovery console built into a device than trying to walk them through downloading WIN8 and then creating a bootable USB/CD/DVD.
          Its bloody hard enough trying to explain to someone what a desktop, icon, CMD or a clock is let alone how to re-install windows.

          you lose some space to make support easier, so that when you need to re-install windows you're not complaining about how bad the support was when in fact its normally due to your own stupidity.
          It saves you money and time, you dont have to pay someone at the local PC store to re-install windows, you call the manufacturer and they walk you through it over the phone.

          if you have any clue on how PC/Tablets and OS's work, you can quiet easily remove the recovery partition and get that extra space back.

        Reinstalling the OS may not be a trivial a task it is on normal PC's though due to the fact the Surface Pro does not have an optical drive.

        What you're going to need to probably do is either find a USB optical drive that the BIOS of the Surface recognises, or find a USB thumb drive large enough to hold an image of the Windows 8 installation and hope the Surface boots from that (there's no confirmation yet on whether it actually does). Or maybe put a disc image on the hard drive on a separate partition but that sort of defeats the purpose of reinstalling to save space.

          Installing windows from a USB has been pretty damn easy for years. I can't remember the last time I installed Windows 7 from an optical disc.

            The question is though, as I said, does the BIOS of the Surface actually recognise USB drives?

            Remember that even though this will run a PC's operating system and will have a PC like keyboard, it's not actually going to be a PC. It's going to be a tablet.

            Last edited 30/01/13 10:10 am

              I can't imagine that the BIOS would be that different to a regular PC or laptop, though, so I'd assume booting from a USB drive would be at least possible, if not necessarily easy or straightforward.

              It's a full blown PC tablet. It's just an ultrabook touch screen without a keyboard. No difference at all. It sounds like you're thinking of an arm tablet like the Surface RT.

              I haven't even had an optical drive on my laptop for the last two years, and our laptop with an optical drive we only use to rip the occasional CD.

              If you couldn't do it, Microsoft wouldn't be advising how to move the recovery partition to a USB drive would they?

              Last edited 30/01/13 10:19 am

                Having Windows access it and having the BIOS access it are two different things.

                You're probably right though, there will likely be a way it can be done. I'm wondering though, aside from an detachable keyboard, what advantages does this have over a regular ultrabook?

                Personally, I still can't live without an optical drive. While we are slowly moving into an age where everything is 100% digital, there's still plenty of software out there that still comes packaged on physical media, meaning if you need to install it on a device that doesn't have an optical drive you need to waste time fiddling around with USB thumb drives or a portable optical drive or something. Until software actually comes packaged on USB sticks, and/or our internet doesn't suck balls and allows us to download as much as we want at high speeds, I won't be letting my optical drives go. I still have one in my desktop PC, and while I don't own a laptop, if I did I'd get a model that had one. It's a major reason why I'm not too interested in the Surface even though the rest of it looks pretty cool.

                Last edited 30/01/13 10:50 am

                  If you really need one, you can get a USB Bluray drive for about $40 these days. The issue with a Surface wont be people wanting to re-install Windows, that will be easy, I doubt it will be so easy to install an "other OS" however.

          Neither of my last two PCs have had an optical drive and I've not found it any kind of problem (unlike installing Adobe CS4). Buying Win8 on a disk would actually be more of a hassle than downloading it and putting it onto a bootable flash drive.

        Apparently the Surface Pro also comes with a trial of Office 2013. So if you uninstall that and move the recovery partition onto a USB stick, you'll be freeing up a decent amount of space. But you'd probably want Office on there anyway, so it's one less program to install I guess.

          Not sure about 2013, but the bloody 2010 trial stayed on Windows 7 PC's I set up even after installing a full version, so still had to be uninstalled. It's only helpful if you upgrade the trial to full and purchase the licence online from Microsoft that way.

          Given I installed 2013 on a PC the other day and 2007 did not upgrade, just stayed alongside, I'd say it's not going to be removing the trial.

          Last edited 30/01/13 12:21 pm

        how do you do that with a surface? can you go and spend more money buying windows 8 and install it via usb install? how do you get access to and remove that recovery partition???
        its a marketing gimmick thats close to false advertising

          You cant install WIN8 full onto a surface without using a hacked rom, plus the hardware wouldnt handle it, the surface uses an ARM processor (phone chip basically) but the surface pro uses a full intel i5 mobile processor from memory), as well as potential driver issues and hardware incompatibilities.

            i was talking about the surface pro, not the surface rt
            can you install x86 windows 8 on the surface pro with the x86 i5 cpu via usb or other way?

              Not sure if its x86 or x64 on the surface pro, but its the full windows8 OS(unlike the RT), and from what i read your able to install it from USB if you do decide to remove the recovery partition, i imagine that it wont be as simple as plug in and run, but give it a couple of weaks and someone will creat a simple process.

      That is a terrible comparison. It is closer to an ultrabook than a tablet. The RT was unfairly compared with PCs and now the Pro is being compared with tablets.

        Because it IS, at it's core, a tablet. Microsoft will be marketing it as such. They won't be marketing it as an ultrabook.

          No, at it's core it is a full blown PC with x86 processing power. iOS and Android tablets use mobile phone CPUs. In fact, for several months the iPhone 5 had a more powerful CPU than the iPad.

          The RT is a tablet. The Pro is a full PC functionality (as per, say, and ultrabook) in the same tablet form. It is a different beast altogether under the skin. Also, it will run Minecraft. :P

      I think the real problem with Microsoft is that they don't dictate what hardware you have to use. For that reason they have to make sure that their software is compatible with the hardware that it might be used on.

        I don't see that as a 'problem' at all, that's a selling point.

    How much of that space is 'Crapware"..?

      None? A couple of small apps would come pre-installed which you could delete if you wanted to. A big chunk of it is the OS backup/install media though which can be moved.

      Assuming they don;t make some bg change, there are some generic Microsoft store apps which you can remove when you customise your menus, for movies, music etc. Not any of that third party stuff.

    I'll be ordering a 64gb micro sd for music storage at the same time as a 128GB Surface Pro anyway, plus moving the backup to a USB would be a no brainer. For the general consumer though who doesn't plan on expanding storage on their new device straight away, and doesn't know how to move a backup, this sucks.

    Last edited 30/01/13 8:29 am

      This is pretty much what I do now, as my last 3 laptops have had 128Gb SSDs. I have a 1Tb USB 3 HDD for back-up and long-term storage (application installers, etc.) and a 64Gb SD sard which is currently empty because it is no longer big enough for my music collection (which lives on the USB drive).

        I have a 7TB WHS, so not really worried about storage space. I realised long ago that I can't have a portable computer able to hold everything I want to keep, which is why I got the server.

    Still don't know what could be taking up all that space: I know the surfaceRT kept disk on the side for future upgrades for the os/office... but this is a bit beyond that.

    Still. Do want.

    Mmm.. I thought windows 8 only required 20gbs of space? I wonder if it has reserved HDD real estate for some other function?
    I'm interest in the surface pro 120gb so I'd like to know the reason behind it.

      Every PC you buy is much, much worse than that. My Samsung Series 9 had less than 60Gb of it's 128Gb available until I reformatted it and reinstalled Windows.

        But that's generally due to crapware coming from the manufacturer (Samsung, in your case).

          Same here. I don't think there was more than a couple of Gb of Samsung software on it and the only trial software was anti-virus. When you buy high end PCs you don't tend to get lumbered with all that stuff. I've certainly never had a problem with it.

        Um no. My xp installations are around 7 gb and my win 7s are between 20gb to 30gb. I also have win 7 booting from a 16gb usb drive. I just install win 8 but I haven't had a chance to play with it yet to see how it hogs HDDs.

    The problem as I see it (on my recent Win8 install); the winsxs folder is the largest component, and from what I understand, that's Windows Side-by-Side (http://www.ghacks.net/2010/07/24/the-winsxs-folder-explained/) , and if Microsoft could get their shit together and compress it, it'd save a ton of space.

    You also wouldn't need a large driver repository - it's all one set of hardware (albeit with capability for external mouse, HDD etc - just use generic drivers like a Mac does ffs, take 1 second for it to work instead of 20)

      Right, because Mac drivers are soooooo freaking great!?! Mac drivers are a big part of the reason the few cross-platofrm applications I use run measurably worse on Mac than on PC. In any event, Win8 loads device drivers much more quickly than MacOS, just as it starts, shuts down and does everything else much more quickly.

        I didn't mean for everything, just for mice/thumbdrives, as an example. I know there's incompatibility with some things, but for really quick and basic tasks, I'd much prefer Apple's implementation (you can use their generic drivers or load up ones from the manufacturer if you choose). I suppose the issue is much more apparent with older PCs, but plugging in a mouse and waiting forever for Windows to decide how it wants to let you to use it (and then installs a pretty generic driver anyway) gets old.

        Don't get me wrong, I use both on a regular basis - there's good and bad points with both systems.

      Except you're wrong about the "all one set of hardware" thing. This isn't an iPad or even a Mac. Remember the version of Windows 8 running on the Surface is the same version that's running on desktop PC's, laptops, and other non-Microsoft made tablets. The OS, just like previous versions of Windows, needs to support all of that hardware properly.

        only hardware that you plug in, which should usb generic usb hid drivers, or contain the driver on board. it does not need extra drivers for the hardware it runs on, because you wont ever change them. the wifi card for example, will always be that wifi card.

          My point is the wifi card inside the surface won't be the same wifi card that is in other tablets, or other devices like laptops and desktops.

            Except you're wrong about the "all one set of hardware" thing. << this makes me think you think that it has to have a large driver database. it doesnt - it only needs to work with the hardware its made and sold with, so it can be tailored to a specific hardware set and doesnt need the generic drivers a normal windows 8 install has.

              But what you don't seem to realise is that Windows 8 ISN'T tailored towards the hardware. It's a standard OS that can be installed on everything, just like the previous versions of Windows before it. It isn't like iOS or even MAC OS that's designed to work on specific hardware. The installation of Windows 8 you will find on a Surface Pro tablet will be exactly the same as one you find on an Asus laptop or a Dell desktop (vendor crapware not withstanding).

              Last edited 30/01/13 6:01 pm

                and im saying it should be, to save space.

                  Doing that would strip your ability to do a clean install from external media, unless every manufacturer provided you with their own homebake installation package, and a different one for every product they made that had different hardware. That's how it works with some mobile devices at the moment and it's a pretty horrible experience. Space isn't such a premium that stripping out drivers is going to matter much.

    exactly as motormouth said.
    any computer is the same.

    yes it takes up room, but windows is a little larger and better than IOS

      It's unfair to compare Windows to iOS. iOS is far better than Windows RT. You should be comparing Windows to OSX.

    I'd almost put money on having a recovery partition beside the O/S install. Win8 Pro does not take up that much space.
    And guess what? Reporter fail in a big way, a 128Gb storage device doesn't not actually have 128Gb available. As someone said previously, it'd be around 119Gb.

    Last edited 30/01/13 10:21 am

    Whoopdey do. My 128GB laptop only had 80 GB free when I bought it too. If you really need more, then delete the recovery partitions.

    128gb is actually 119gb... in real disk space
    so your claim of 45gb for windows... is 8gb too much to start with
    oh plus you get FULL windows and a recovery partition... sorry but i'll take that anyday over a dumbed down os like ios or android
    this is as expected

    i cant believe people are surprised by this.
    has no one ever seen a pc before?
    ive installed win 8 on 3 machines now and i know exactly how big a typical instal is so this size revelation is complete crap you should have been able to write about this the second it was announced that it will be 64 or 128GB and full win 8

    I pay a visit everyday a few web sites and websites to read articles or reviews, however this web site presents feature based content.

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