Are you just starting out with music production, or do you wish to add a couple of TB to your existing setup? Then you’re in luck. In this article I show you exactly how much storage you need for music production.
- You need a 512GB SSD for your OS.
- You need a 1TB hard drive for your project saves (or Dropbox premium instead).
- You need a 1TB drive for your sample libraries.
- You need a 4TB+ backup drive.
- In theory, you can use just one drive but in practice, you will encounter significant problems.
But why listen to me? Well, I have a total of 16.2TB of storage (divided over two computers), a mix of SSD’s HDD’s internal, external, and cloud storage. I also have been producing music for the better part of the past decade. You might say I know a thing or two about hard drives and music production. 🙂
Ready to explore the specifics? Let’s dive in!
Ask Your Self 3 Questions to Determine How Much Storage You Actually Need
For music production, these are the three most important questions to ask yourself before purchasing or upgrading your storage:
- How often do you expect to record/produce music?
- What VST’s/software are you going to use? (If you don’t know this one yet that’s okay will talk about it in a minute)
- Will the laptop/PC be used only for music production recording or also for everyday use?
Your answers will determine the amount of storage you will need for music production, more on that later.
The Golden Rule When It Comes to Storage
There is one rule should you should always follow when it comes to purchasing hard drives either external or internal. The golden rule is “always purchase more storage than you think you’ll need.”
Trust me on this one, get as much storage as you can. In the past I have wished many times that I had more storage available and I’m talking mainly for my OS drive.
The Right Amount of Storage That You Need for Music Production
1) You Need a 250GB or A 500GB SSD Drive For Your OS
This is the best internal 250GB SSD you can get: Samsung 860 PRO SSD 250GB
This is the best internal 500GB SSD you can get: Samsung 860 PRO SSD 500GB
And for your laptop, this is the best Internal 500GB SSD you can get: Samsung 860 PRO SSD 500GB
Your best choice is a 500GB SSD. That said, a 250GB SSD could also be sufficient but ONLY if you use your compute for music-related activities and not everyday applications.
A cheaper alternative to the Samsung 860 PRO is the Samsung 860 EVO (covered bellow). That said I highly recommend the PRO version because there IS a noticeable diference in performance.Mark Deniel
If you use your computer for day to day tasks and music production then a 250GB drive will be too small.
Why Use an SSD and Not an HDD as My Main Drive?
When you’re producing music, you want your music software to load fast, when inspiration strikes or when you’re working with deadlines every second counts. Not only that but a SSD will make your whole computer perform better and give you very fast boot times!
That’s why I advise you to use an internal SSD on which you will install Windows plus every other application/software your computer needs. I choose SSD’s over HDD’s for my main hard drive because SSD’s last longer and are almost four times faster than their HDD brothers.
Isn’t 500GB Too Big of a Drive for Music Production?
If you are like most of us, you will probably use your computer not only for music production and recording but also for everyday applications. If that’s the case, then you will need a minimum storage capacity of 500 GB or more.
Music programs take up a lot of space, and if you use your PC or MAC for daily activities, you could run out of storage very quickly to prevent this from becoming an issue choose a large SSD 500GB hard drive.
The only reason to choose for a smaller main drive such as a 256GB is if you are absolutely sure you will use the computer only for music production without installing other types of programs which you would normally use on your everyday computer.
However, I must say that anything smaller than 512 GB can prove to be a risk because, like most starting music producers, you likely have no clue what programs you will end up using and how much space with these programs need.
2) You Need a 1TB/2TB Hard Drive Or Dropbox for Your Project Saves
I don’t know if you know this, but music project files take up a lot of space, not as much as video production, but still, the files can be very large.
- Buying a 1TB or a 2TB drive for your project saves might seem a bit unnecessary to you, but trust me, it’s not. If you stick with music production, I can guarantee that after a couple of years, you will have hundreds of gigs of project files lying around.
- Of course, the more you produce, the more space you’ll need, and the larger the project, the more storage it will take.
- Ideally, I would recommend you purchase a 2TB drive for your project saves or set up a Dropbox premium account. Truth is you probably don’t need more than 1 TB, but since the price difference between 1 TB and 2 TB is not more than $20 it’s best to choose a 2TB hard disk after all (remember the golden rule? Always buy more storage than you currently need).
These Are the Best Hard Drives for Your Project Saves:
A) External HDD’s:
- LaCie Rugged USB-C 2TB
- Transcend 2 TB StoreJet M3
B) Internal HDD’s:
- For desktop: Samsung SSD 860 EVO 1TB (or the) WD Black 1TB Performance
- For laptop: Samsung SSD 860 EVO 1TB
SDD’s are now waaay cheaper than a few years back. Therefore for project saves your best choice is the Samsung 860 EVO drive!
Western Digital is a brand I trust when it comes to internal HDDs. The WD Black, while not as fast as the Samsung SSD 860 EVO, still has realy good read and write speeds.
I have used external LaCie hard drives and external Transcend hard drives for years, and I never had a problem. I still even use the first rugged hard drive that I bought back in 2014.
NOTE: I saw that on Amazon, there are a couple of negative reviews on both hard drives, but the positive ones are way more. Lacie has at least 500 positive reviews and Transcend more than 13.000! Both these drives are Military Drop Tested.
Should I Choose an Internal or External Hard Drive for My Projects Saves?
If you decide you want to save your projects on your computer and not in the cloud, then you have the option of choosing either an internal or external hard drive. Performance-wise it doesn’t really matter which one you’ll choose.
That said, I would choose to save my projects on an internal drive simply because you don’t run the risk of disconnecting it by accident or forgetting it somewhere. Plus, internal hard drives have a longer life expectancy.
Dropbox vs a Hard Drive for Saving Projects What Is the Difference?
If you don’t want to use a second hard drive for your project saves, you can always use cloud storage such as Dropbox premium. That is what I use.
I have a 2 TB dropbox account; in there, I save all my projects and samples that I create and download.
The main reason I use Dropbox instead of a hard drive is because I want to open each project on both my laptop and my desktop computer. I have installed a dropbox on both stations, when I make a change, it automatically syncs across all my devices.
Keep in mind that having a Dropbox account will cost more in the long run than purchasing an internal or external hard drive. But for me, it is added convenience.
3) You Need a 1TB or a 2TB Drive for Your Sample Libraries
In addition to our main OS hard drive and our second hard drive for our project saves, we also need a third hard drive for our sample libraries.
These are the best hard drives for your sample libraries:
A) External HDD’s:
LaCie Rugged USB-C 2TB
Transcend 2 TB StoreJet M3
B) Internal HDD’s:
- For laptop: Seagate FireCuda 1TB or the Seagate FireCuda 2TB
NOTE: If you have the budget choose an SSD drive and not an HDD. This is not necessary but it will increase performance. I would choose the Samsung SSD 860 EVO 1TB.
The Reason Why You Need a Dedicated HDD for Sample Libraries
Right away, I want to tell you that it is possible to use one large drive for both your project saves and your sample libraries, but I don’t recommend it.
The main reason I don’t recommend this is mainly due to performance and security reasons.
- For performance, if you demand from a hard drive to simultaneously read and write different files, it becomes slower by nature.
- And the security reason is that if you decide to format your PC, you can delete and reinstall the sample libraries without worrying about the safety of your project files. This is an enormous piece of mind you get by simply purchasing a dedicated drive for your sample ribraries.
But What Are Music Sample Libraries?
Large sample libraries are needed for music programs and VST’s such as Omnisphere, Kontakt or East-West so that they can deliver high-quality and realistic sounds. Many pros use these, Hanz Zimmer and Armin Van Buuren are just two of them.
These types of libraries are called sample-based libraries meaning each note of each instrument was recorded live in the studio from a real instrument. Which then was imported inside the music software (VST).
That’s why they are at least a couple of hundred gigabytes in size.
In contrast, music software such as Massive or Serum are virtual instruments (VSTs) that use synthesis to create electronic music; thus, they are not in need of such large libraries.
Each tool has its usage. Sample-based libraries are used for their authentic sound mainly for instruments such as violins, guitars, acoustic bass, stage pianos, etc.
Where synthesizers are mainly used to create electronic sounds and special FX’s. A synthesizer allows you to create sounds that never existed before; look, for example, at Skrillex or Noisia. They both created their own character sound through Virtual Studio Technology synthesizers, otherwise known as VST’s.
You Also Need a 4TB+ Backup Drive
Lastly, you will need a backup drive and this will complete our hard drive journey. PLEASE DONT SKIP THIS STEP! Having a backup is very important, Imagine what would happen if you had to install all programs and set up everything from scratch again! Been there (unfortunately) done that. It is a nightmare!
Some even recommend you double or triple backup your OS, programs, and files. This is sound advice, but not necessary at this point, but in the near future, consider placing a second back up drive.
These are the best backup hard drives:
A) First, back up drive:
WD 4TB My Book
B) Second, back up drive:
WD 6TB My Book
Purely considering the added cost, I recommend you leave the second backup drive for later. For now, one dedicated backup drive is enough to get you started. However, if you have the extra $130 to spend, I would purchase a second backup drive to be double sure all your files are safe!
Lets now explore what the main differences are between internal and external hard drives.
Internal vs External Hard Drives
If possible, for both your music projects and sample libraries, choose internal hard drives over the external ones. There are a couple of reasons for that.
1) Internal Hard Drives Are Faster
In some cases, internal hard drives can be a bit faster compared to external hard drives -but not always. The main factor you should consider is writing and reading speed.
An internal hard drive with a slow reading and writing speed is still going to be slower than an external hard drive with a faster reading and writing speed.
- This is especially true when we compare internal HDDs with a 5.400 RPM speed together with external HDDs with a 7200 RPM speed. The higher the RPM the faster the drive.
- If your budget permits it, always go for SSD hard drives (internal or external) since they are much faster than their HDD counterparts, and they have no moving parts; thus, their speed is not measured in RPM.
By the way, if you don’t want to devote time on the technical aspects, don’t worry, I’ve got you covered! In this article, I show you exactly what type of hard drives and models you need.
And for the ones who would like to dive a little deeper into the technical aspect, I would say keep reading. 🙂
Writing and Reading Speeds When Producing Music
Okay, let’s continue. Writing and reading speeds are used to measure how hard drives perform. Think of reading speed as to how long it takes to open and a file from your computer. Think of writing speed how long it takes to save the file on your computer.
When you are producing music, the DAW is constantly “reading” data that is stored on your PC, such as samples, sounds, and project data. Also, the DAW is continuously writing new data; this happens while you record, produce, or save a project.
With USB-1 is used to be that external hard drives were much slower than internal hard drives, today with USB-3, speed is no longer an issue. Since USB-3 & Thunderbond were invented, the difference in speed between internal and an external hard drives is almost unnoticeable.
But how fast are SSDs, and why not use SSD’s for everything?
The reason why I don’t recommend using SSD hard drives for everything is simply because of the cost. SSDs are double or triple the price of the HDD’s.
Also, it’s not necessary to have an SSD for backing up your files. SSD’s provide added speed and performance, something that is not needed for hard drives that are intended for backing up purposes.
However, I 100% recommend you use an SSD as the main drive where you install your OS and software.
I know I repeat my self, but this is crucial!
When it comes to SSD’s we are looking at a 700 MBps and 800 MBps speed! Compare this to the much slower external HDD’s with an average speed of 100 MBps and 200Mbps, and you will clearly see a massive difference in speed. This is the speed you want for your OS and software.
2) With Internal Hard Drives If You Perform Live You Have Less Risk
If you want to DJ or perform live and your planning on taking Your laptop with you, you must be very careful when using external hard drives.
Whether it is a USB-2 or USB-3, It is very easy to accidentally disconnect the drive from the computer. If you’re playing live shows and you are running your samples through an external hard drive disconnecting it at the moment of performance can be a disaster!
The way I solved this issue is by using duct tape so that I’m sure the drive stays connected to the laptop.
3) Internal Hard Drives Are Cheaper
Internal hard drives tend to be cheaper because the manufacturing process is cheaper. This is because it is not necessary to create a protective plastic shield around internal hard drives, which is the case with external hard drives.
That said, I must mention that lately, I noticed that there is a very small price difference between the two, which is a good thing, especially if you need more than 1 TB.
RAM: How Much Do I need For Music Production?
For Small Productions and Beginner Producers: 8 GB RAM memory
The absolutely minimum RAM memory you need is 8 GB. This is the most recommended number of music software and DAW manufacturers. However, if you have the budget go for more RAM!
For Large Productions and Serius Producers: 16-32 BG RAM Memory
The best RAM you can have is the Patriot Viper Steel Series DDR4 16GB
And the best budget RAM you can have is the: Corsair Vengeance LPX 16GB
I have a desktop and a laptop which I use for music production, both machines have 16 GB of memory.
16 GB is enough for most music productions I make, but when I use a lot of sample-based library instruments (remember those?), then my computer starts complaining because the RAM memory is running out. To be fair, I encounter this issue only when I use very heavy VST’s.
But this issue is easily solved by bouncing a few tracks from midi to audio.
What this means is that you want to use fewer plugins in order to free up some horsepower. The way to do that is by converting (bouncing) a few MIDI tracks to audio tracks.
It doesn’t matter if what I just said is a bit difficult to understand. The point of all this is (if you have the budget) to choose 16 GB of RAM or more, and you’ll be all set!
Okay, we just saw how important it is to use multiple hard drives for music production. We also saw what types of hard drives and RAMwe need.
I hope you found this guide useful and interesting. I believe I covered every question you could possibly have regarding the subject. Below you can check my latest articles.
See you around my friend!