Getting Cramped? 5 Ways To Increase SSD-only Ultrabook or Netbook Storage

Simon Slangen 14-01-2013

netbook storageSo you purchased a top-of-the-line portable; a netbook, or an ultrabook. Maybe you’re still taken aback by the featherlight weight of the device, and how it fits into nearly every bag—or even large pockets. Yes, these are the portables of the portables. These days, you don’t even have to make too much of a sacrifice in processing power. There’s only one real drawback: storage space.


The ultra-portables can’t afford the room for a big, hulking hard drive. Most of the devices that roll off the line today, are equipped with ultra-light, ultra-fast SSD memories. But SSD comes at a price; literally, and figuratively. These expensive drives (although progress is made every day) still cannot reach the capacity of magnetic drives. Meaning, in essence, that you have to be very careful to rein in your data use.

Whether you’re limited to a 4 GB Netbook or a 256 GB Ultrabook, worrying about Netbook storage space is hardly enjoyable. Below are some tips you can use to increase the available memory of your memory-impaired device.

1. External Hard Drives

The most obvious solution to our predicament would be to use an external hard drive. They’re cheaper than ever, and easily give you the biggest storage increase you can give to your device. At the time of writing, even 2.5″ models are able to offer TeraBytes (thousands of GigaBytes) of data for 100 to 200 greenbacks.

netbook storage

The downside of external hard drives is their lesser portability; you have to carry yet another device on the road. A wallet-sized 2.5″ hard drive fits inside a jacket pocket and (unless otherwise specified) needs no external power supply. The 3.5″ models give more storage for a better price, but usually require an external power source, and likely defeat the purpose of your buying a portable.


2. USB Sticks

One step down the ladder are USB sticks. You won’t get the same juice out of them as you would out of external hard drives, but they sure are portable. The more bulky models are still accurately described using the term “thumb-drive” and easily fit into your pockets.

netbook storage capacity

You can expect a 32 GB or 64 GB storage upgrade in the higher range of flash memories if you’re willing to shell out enough money. For our purpose however, a mini flash drive is even more suitable. You won’t get as much storage for your buck, but these little devices sit snugly and unobtrusively in your device’s USB port, where you can leave them be at the cost of one available port.

3. SD Cards

If your device comes equipped with an SD card slot, this may be preferable over the use of USB sticks. If you have a more or less recent SD card slot at that (SDHC), the prices and storage capabilities are similar.


netbook storage capacity

The main advantages of SD over USB for our purposes are those concerning practicalities. You can leave the SD card inside your device, and likely won’t miss the SD card slot as much as you would a USB port. Because of the way most SD card slots are designed, it’s possible to use a card or micro-SD adaptor that protrudes very little from the side of your device.

netbook storage capacity

Pictured above, the Nifty MiniDrive is a (completely funded and already shipping) KickStarter project producing micro-SD adaptors for different MacBook models that blend in perfectly.


4. Replace Your Internal Drive

If you’re looking for a large capacity, ultimate portable hardware solution, you can always replace your internal memory. Most devices don’t offer quick access to the internal memory though, so you may have to get your hands dirty a little. First things first: go to Google to check what kind of memory your device is sporting.

can increase netbook memory

If your device has a 2.5″ (magnetic or SSD) hard drive and/or an optical drive, you can swap out one of these for a bigger hard drive. Both 2.5″ SSD and HDD disks are interchangeable, but shelling out the extra money for an SSD gives you faster disk speeds and lower power consumption. Check out Joel Lee’s article on how solid-state drives work How Do Solid-State Drives Work? In this article, you'll learn exactly what SSDs are, how SSDs actually work and operate, why SSDs are so useful, and the one major downside to SSDs. Read More for more information. James Bruce also wrote a wonderful tutorial on how to swap out your MacBook’s DVD drive for an SSD How To Swap Out Your Macbook's DVD Drive For An SSD Is your old Apple laptop starting to struggle? Is the boot time so long that you can actually go out and buy a coffee? If so, perhaps it's time to think about upgrading your main... Read More .

netbook storage


If your device instead uses an SSD module (for example, like the one shown above), you’ll have to do some additional research to make this work. Most of these are hardware specific, and although you can often find the replacement hardware on sites like NewEgg, there are other factors to take into account. If the memory is soldered (or worse, glued) onto the motherboard, you may want to leave it alone altogether. If your device offers no easy way to reinstall the operating system over USB, or you just want to hold on to your data, you’ll also need to clone your hard drive How to Use Clonezilla to Clone Your Windows Hard Drive Here's all you need to know about how to use Clonezilla to clone your hard drive in the easiest way. Read More . In any case, you’ll want to look for a device-specific tutorial. Try searching Google for your device name and model in relation to replacing memory.

Keep in mind that replacing your hard drive requires you to open up your device, unless you’re provided easy access by the manufacturer. This may void your warranty, and if you slip up you may damage sensitive electronics. If you head down this path, it will be at your own risk.

5. Custom Mod

Depending on the make and model of your device, more elaborate modifications of your device may be possible to add additional storage to your device. Like the category above, this requires you to search for your specific device. Just to give you an idea, Bit-Tech wrote a great article detailing how to put a USB drive inside an early model Asus Eee PC and, essentially, solder it to one of USB port’s internal connections.

These mods often require you to solder and void the warranty of your device. Again, if you choose to do this, it will be at your own risk.

How hard are you in need for additional Netbook storage, and what way (or ways) will you go about it? Drop a line in the comments below the article, and tell us about the approach you’ll take!

Related topics: Hard Drive, Solid State Drive.

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  1. Austin
    November 13, 2017 at 5:08 pm

    Can Zed air laptop 32gb SSD be upgraded to about 500gb or 1tb without any problem? Pls help me out before I purchase it.

  2. james braselton
    June 21, 2013 at 2:11 am

    hi there chrome book on bestbuy website says 16 gb ssd 100 gb cloud storage and suports 2 terabyte sdxc cards and suport external ssd drives soo sells 256 gb sdxc cards and 1 tb ssd usb flash drives

  3. harley bellwood
    February 28, 2013 at 7:09 pm

    I have an Asus Eee PC 4G & have a 32G SD card & 8G Tough & Tiny usb drive attached for my files, any portable apps, etc. This puppy barely holds Windows XP let alone any updates. I have tried Jolicloud installed, but find my connection a bit slow (music skips, etc.) I am definitely going to look into the article about soldering the usb drive inside.

  4. dragonmouth
    January 16, 2013 at 8:11 pm

    My advice, try to be more discriminating and selective about the crap you dump on your hard drive. Be objective when asking yourself "How much of this junk do I REALLY need?"

  5. Mihovil Pletikos
    January 16, 2013 at 5:19 pm

    add a small usb drive like LaCie MosKeyto, and you can forget that you plugged it in... it is so small that you won't even notice it...

  6. Achraf Almouloudi
    January 15, 2013 at 2:37 pm

    Buy one of these 128 Gb SD cards. Enough said.

  7. Shakirah Faleh Lai
    January 15, 2013 at 7:54 am

    External hard drive is practical for me.

  8. Antriksh Yadav
    January 15, 2013 at 12:03 am

    I would recommend just getting a large hard drive and to start dumping all your photos and videos there. If you can, maybe even your music library. Should solve most of the storage problems.

  9. James Johnston
    January 14, 2013 at 10:56 pm

    Great advice, I recommend these tips to my clients when they are looking to upgrade their tech.

    Storage is the main issue my wife and I have with tablets and ultrabooks. We are about to purchase a new ultrabook and a tablet. With the Ultrabook I was planning to replace the SSD with a bigger drive before we even start using it.

    As for a tablet, we will be purchasing a new tablet with an SD slot and have multiple SD/MicroSD cards as needed. Its not the great solution but it works great when cloud storage isn't option.

  10. George Hilbert
    January 14, 2013 at 10:38 pm

    Do a full backup on an external drive and go through and slash everything you do not have to keep on the local drive. Get an account with a "Cloud" service and transfer much of the seldom used data there. You could also buy a large USB thumbdrive or a SD card as an adjunct. I have found the SDHC reader/writer to be a great way to get a quick 64GB...OR, probably the most expensive route, replace the drive with a larger SSD. The larger sizes are coming down in price, although they are still expensive..