Marie Kondoizing a 240GB SSD

by James Wallace Harris, Thursday, February 2, 2018

This is one of my essays where I think out loud trying to solve a problem. Sometimes this helps other people with the same problem, and sometimes I get comments with insights I didn’t imagine. It’s surprising how beneficial thinking by writing can be.

A few years ago I decided I wanted a minimal computer system, so I swapped out my big tower rig for an Intel NUC with a 240gb M.2 SSD (solid-state drive). This little computer is smaller than a Mac Mini, drives a 27″ 4k monitor, takes up very little desk space, and is very quiet. I’ve been happy as a cosplayer at ComicCon until yesterday when I noticed the red warning that my disk was almost full. I don’t even have a full 240GB because after formatting the drive is only 232GB. That’s my whole digital world.

Intel NUC


I could add an external drive, but that would ruin the elegance of having a small computer. I don’t have 232GB of user-generated data but I do use Dropbox for my main file system which I replicate with Second Copy to OneDrive. Both my Dropbox and OneDrive offer 1TB of space in the cloud, but my files are stored locally and backed up to the cloud. This means I have quicker access and automatic backups to two different cloud locations. I store around 50GB of data files on Dropbox, which when copied to OneDrive, makes up a total of 100GB on my SSD. With the OS, data I don’t back up, and programs on my C: drive brings the total to around 210GB.

Lately, I’ve been collecting scans of old pulp magazines from the web. Yesterday I got in 25GB of pulp-scans in CBZ format from a collection I bought on eBay. I wanted to add them to Dropbox, which means with replication to OneDrive, would add 50GBs to my system.

Astounding Stories020


My digital life just got bigger than my digital universe. So last night I spent the evening Marie Kondoizing my SSD. I uninstalled programs, cleaned out files, ran cleanup programs, and got my SSD down to 23GB free. I had hoped to build a folder on Dropbox called Pulps and eventually collect entire runs of all my favorite magazines.

I figured my ultimate pulp collection might run 200-300GB, which means after replicating to OneDrive I’d need 600GB. I could fork out $350 and upgrade my SSD to 1TB.

I then put on my Marie Kondo thinking cap and wondered:

  1. Do I need complete runs of all these old magazines?
  2. Do I need to back up all my digital content in quadruplicate?
  3. Could I upload the magazines to Dropbox and OneDrive without using my local SSD?
  4. If the magazines are readily available on the web, do I need to own and manage copies of my own?
  5. Since I have Dropbox on my Linux machine, and it replicates my Dropbox cloud to its local drive, do I really need OneDrive as a secondary backup?
  6. Will my digital universe legitimately grow enough over time to make it worthwhile to expand my digital universe to 1TB?
  7. Should I rely more on free cloud services like Flickr and Google?
  8. Should I upgrade my M.2 SSD to 1TB? (About $350)
  9. Should I go ahead an upgrade my whole computer? Maybe even make things simpler by getting an All-in-One computer with a 1TB drive. (Either Dell or iMac will approach $3,000)

To answer #1, it’s very cool to have the entire history of science fiction pulp fiction on Dropbox, where I can call up any issue I want on my iPad to read. But to be honest, it’s not that much trouble to find the issue online and just copy it to Dropbox as needed. Hell, it might even be possible to use my iPad to find the issue and read it directly without even saving it to Dropbox.

Number #2 is intriguing. If I simplified my backups I could reduce the amount of space needed on my SSD. I could even stop running the background copy program, freeing up other resources. This might be a way to have my cake and eat it too.

Number #3 offers some very interesting possibilities. I’d need to study how Dropbox and OneDrive work in greater detail. Can I store stuff on OneDrive that isn’t replicated to my SSD? I could unmap my OneDrive and only upload stuff to it via the web. But it would be nice to have part of it mapped locally so I could automatically back up essential files from Dropbox in real time.

Number #4 is the heart of the matter. A true Marie Kondo insight. I’m spending a lot of time and effort to collect something I might only use for 1% of its content or less. On the other hand, if collecting brings me true happiness, it’s not an issue. If The Pulp Magazine Archive became the perfect repository for old pulp magazines I wouldn’t need to collect. Why recreate a library when someone else is already doing all the work?

Number #5 is interesting but also complicates things. If I only relied on Dropbox for my backing up I’d have a copy of my files on my SSD, in the cloud, and another local copy on my Linux SSD. That’s pretty safe. But if my house burned down there would only be one copy, on Dropbox. Having all my files on Dropbox and OneDrive means if my house burns down and one of those companies has a catastrophic failure, I’d still have access to my files. Also, Dropbox on Linux doesn’t keep up that well with changes to Dropbox on Windows. Finally, I have a bad habit of reinstalling Linux whenever I want to play with a new distribution.

Number #6 brings up questions about my future and longevity.  If I excluded data I didn’t create like pulp scans, music, videos, audiobooks, etc., my digital universe would shrink dramatically. I could exist on the free space I earned from Dropbox and not even pay their $99/year fee.

Years ago I ripped my 1,700 CD collection. I kept multiple copies of 130GB of around 30,000 songs. I was always worried about losing it. Then Rhapsody, Rdio, Spotify came around and I got less and less worried. Awhile back I uploaded it all to Amazon and let all my local copies disappear one by one as drives died. I hardly ever go to Amazon to play that music. If there was a Spotify for old pulp magazines I wouldn’t even think about collecting them. I got rid of hundreds of CDs, but I’ve kept about 500. I sometimes wonder why I even keep them, or why I still buy CDs on rare occasions. I tell myself it’s because of the better fidelity, but I’m not sure if I can tell the difference anymore.

The odds are my digital universe will shrink over time, rather than expand.

#7 is something I should also consider. Why keep all my photographs on my SSD? And replicate them to my two paid cloud services when there are several free cloud services for photographs? Again, I couldn’t rely on just one company. If I’m going to trust cloud storage I need to always use two companies — especially if I’m going to abandon all local storage.

If I managed things correctly I don’t need to go to #8 or #9. Hell, I saw the other day where users can rent high-end graphics cards in the cloud for playing extreme video games so they don’t even need a powerful gaming computer locally. If that’s true, the future of computers will be moderate machines that just view data processed and stored in the cloud. It means we’d need less powerful CPUs, basic GPUs, less RAM, and less SSD space.

Still, should we rely on the cloud completely? If the internet goes down I can still work with all my files on Dropbox because they are replicated locally. Of course, I freak out when the internet goes down just like I do when the power goes out. I don’t want to live without either.

Have we moved to a wired world we can’t live without? Is there any need to own any work of art that could be digitized? Do we even need any local storage? I believe I have this urge to collect copies of old pulp magazines because back in the 1970s I actually collected the real issues and hated I could never afford all I wanted. I sold my collection because pulp magazines are all disintegrating. Pulp scans on the web are preserving these old magazines for the future. But do we really need more than one copy if everyone can access it on the web?

I think I’ve answered my questions. No to a bigger SSD drive. No to a new computer. I don’t need to collect pulps but I can without hardware upgrades, but I should assume my collection efforts will be invalidated by the web in the future. If I was a photographer or videographer, I’d need massive amounts of local storage, but writing fiction and nonfiction takes little hard drive space. I’ll keep this computer until it dies. My next computer will be an All-in-One because that’s even more minimalistic. I’m not sure I can break my pulp collecting habit, but it’s rather minor compared to collecting stuff in the real world.





10 thoughts on “Marie Kondoizing a 240GB SSD”

  1. I’d go with USB thumb drives or (micro) SD cards for each collection. First, they are independent of both the cloud and a particular computer, but fairly universal. Second, they’re relatively inexpensive. Thirdly, they’re fairly reliable, and any failure would affect only the files on a single device. And lastly – they’re real. You can actually pick one up and say that here’s my collection of old pulp magazines, and this one is my music library (i.e. Lili Haydn’s version of Maggot Brain). There is something to be said for having something tangible in hand.

    And then, if you want to get science-fictionary, you can imagine some collector (or archaeologist) of old data, a hundred years from now, going though a box of antique memory cards in an antique mall, just to see what sort of things he or she might turn up – and loo! A vast collection of 200 year old SF stories! What an amazing find!

    1. Hi, syncing files is not enough. If a file gets corrupted you simply mirror the corrupted file to onedrive.
      I suggest to use only dropbox on the linux and the windows computer to have all your files synced. Additionally have a look at and try this out on the windows computer. You can backup your local windows computer (including the dropbox folder) to onedrive, without the need to use onedrive locally on the windows computer. As a plus you have a backup history to restore old versions of your files if something goes wrong. Best regards, Joerg

      1. Thanks, Joerg. I ended up disconnecting OneDrive and replicating to it. That gave me 80GB of space. I’m now considering an online backup program like ARQ as my secondary backup.

  2. JW – Your questions and discussions are all pertinent, and as you and others have noted there are alternatives, all which offer benefits, and comparisons. Back-up hard drives can be used in more than one way; backing up your entire hard drive, or backing up your “saved “data. With a big enough hard drive, you can partition it for both. It seems to me you would be happiest with both options. The high-GB flash drive is probably the easiest way, although you’ll have to label them in order to know which one you want to access – unless you like the idea of plugging them in each time you want to look for something.

    The Cloud is something I’ve continued to dodge, so I can’t offer any thoughts on that.

    Ultimately I think it comes down to what you want the most: security and guaranteed access on demand; or ease of use and easy access.

    For me, ensuring those things that are most important to me leads to a bigger hard drive to keep that stuff handy (barring a massive EMP onslaught), and a back-up scheme that ensures all but the most recent items are kept safe elsewhere. That could be the cloud, an automatically uploaded extra hard drive, or it could be a routine of swapping back-up drives on a weekly basis. Depending on your data loads that could be as simple as putting a large USB drive (128GB) into the pc and backing up selected data files until they fill up. Of course if you want to back up more than that you will have to pay for more new flash drives or for a much larger storage unit (aka hard drive).

    Much of that (except for plugging in the device) can be automated.

    1. Jim, I think Dropbox is a great mixture of convenience and security. It’s an offsite backup. I can access my files from my phone and tablet. I was just using OneDrive in a kind of suspenders and belt overkill. However, I’m still thinking about using an online backup service.

      I haven’t had good luck with USB drives. They keep getting corrupted or misplaced. Also, I gave up on mechanical drives. They’ve let me down too many times too.

      I copied the Astounding Magazines to Dropbox and now I can call them up on my iPad mini. They look great.

      1. There is no doubt that having a cloud back-up or even a cloud “normal” storage service is a much easier solution for the user. All the work is done on the other end, and the costs for most non-multi-terabyte storage isn’t astronomical. Or so I think.
        But, if you live in the faint edges of 4GLTE service, or if you’re stuck with DSL (unless you really want to hand your money over to a CableCorpCrap) some of those options are limited, if not completely useless.
        Whatever works best for you is the obvious choice.

  3. If you are talking about storing your personal data “in the cloud”, what you are really saying is you are storing your data on someone else’s computer. Neither of the cloud services you mention encrypt the data on your computer, they merely encrypt it en route to their servers. While this makes it hard (never say impossible!) for third parties to intercept the data, it is important to know it’s possible for their employees to look at your files.

    And then, there is always the possibility that they will just lose your data. We live in uncertain times, Microsoft and Dropbox are legitimate, high profile targets. You wouldn’t have much comeback if they accidentally deleted your life, and despite what they say it is possible. All the major services have lost customer data in the past, and their reaction to this always seems to be to make the products more complicated.

    I would suggest that while simplicity is a worthwhile goal, you can just transfer your OS and digital life onto a larger disk. Larger SSDs keep getting cheaper, and a disk that is not so close to the limit of its capacity is not working as hard, which means it will be more reliable(this is just as true for SSDs as it is traditional hard disks). Then, back up onto a network hard drive using backup software that encrypts its data. For Windows, I like Cobian Backup. Then, send these encrypted backups to Onedrive and Dropbox. You can still copy the files you don’t mind being public to the services without encryption, and get the convenience of cloud storage.

    You already have a wireless router; the hard disk is just another box to sit next to it. Synology ones are good, and the small ones are very unobtrusive. The price will be about the same as a year’s subscription to a cloud service, give or take.

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