With the power of hardware these days, it is tempting to just buy a cheap lightweight laptop. After all, you can cruise the internet, check your email, and watch videos on them. Windows 10 is a great operating system for all PC’s for light surfing or heavy duty gaming. No brainer.
A student of mine with not so deep pockets, decided a Lenovo Yoga 300 would suit him – a laptop that flips over into a tablet format. The 32 GB fast hard drive was great and he stored most files on an external drive. But it slowed down a bit. Then crawled and finally became useless. Returning to the shop to complain, the staff obligingly formatted it – it was a one button function that the student didn’t know about. Happy days again. Till it slowed down, again. Agonisingly. By the time I found out, he had given up on it and was looking for any cheap laptop that could actually work. He even considered an old 2007 Dell could be a better performer. That is when I found out his problem.
He didn’t know why it was so slow and had given up on it. A glance at his hard drive in Windows Explorer showed red – not enough space. The 32 GB hard drive only shows up as 28.5 GB in C drive. Presumably the other 3.5 GB was taken up by the Recovery drive? He said he had hardly any files in it. I doubted that but when I investigated, it was true. No videos and no pictures. I deleted every file that was outside the Windows folder that I felt was safe to get rid of. That increased the free space to about 3GB, with 25GB being used. It did run faster. The Windows folder itself was close to taking up all that 25GB! Wow! I thought that perhaps someone, or a virus, had dumped a lot of large files there – or he had somehow used it as his media folder. Couldn’t find any evidence of that, and when I checked on the internet, it seemed to be quite a common problem (see https://www.cnet.com/forums/discussions/low-disk-space-on-empty-laptop/).
We decided a reformat would presumably help a lot. But the laptop declared it needed more free space to enable the reformat to take place. After a couple of hours I had deleted enough files from within the Windows folder to enable the recovery option. It showed “error”. Finally I did a clean install of Windows 10 – no Lenovo software, just a straight Win 10 installation. That took up 15.7GB. Almost half the hard drive, and more than half the C drive. After the first set of updates, it showed as 12 GB free. This is with NO added software. No Word, Excel or PowerPoint. No Chrome or Firefox.
So how much of this 12 GB will the student have to use for himself? When it approaches 90% of the C drive, it will probably start to slow down, so that will take 2.8 GB from the 12GB. The Software Distribution folder in Windows is where a lot of update information and downloads land and it grows over time. It is now 767 MB, but before I had formatted the hard drive, this folder had grown to 2.5 GB. So that will be almost another 2 GB lost. After the installation of some software another couple of GB could be shaved off the remaining free space. Maybe 6GB for the user? Most smartphones have more useable space than this!
Chromebooks manage to leave more room for personal files and are geared towards cloud usage. Linux, especially those distros created for older PC’s and smaller drives, would make a smaller impact than Windows. The obvious solution would be to just add an SD card. But this solution is far less convenient than it ought to be with the Lenovo Yoga 300, as the SD card doesn’t hide snugly in the interior. It sticks out which means it would have to remove it every time you travel with it. In my opinion, this type of laptop is not fit for purpose.