Managing Maxed Out Storage


Today’s Question: What would be your suggestion when I have maxed out my 20TB external hard drive?

Tim’s Quick Answer: While you could certainly find storage options with higher capacity, I do think it is reasonable to divide storage across more than one hard drive when there isn’t a practical solution to increase storage on a single drive.

More Detail: Once you get beyond about a dozen or so terabytes, there aren’t as many options available for hard drive storage, and those that are available tend to be relatively expensive. If you have specific requirements for hard drive features, your options will be even more limited. Therefore, it may make more sense to divide your photos across more than one hard drive rather than trying to find enough storage capacity in a single device.

To be sure, there are large storage options, such as hard drive arrays and network attached storage (NAS) devices. These consist of enclosures that contain multiple hard drives that appear as a single storage device to your computer. This provides a high-capacity storage solution that can be expanded over time by adding hard drives or replacing existing drives with higher capacity drives.

For example, the Promise Technology Pegasus32 ( is a hard drive array that is pre-configured with 32 terabytes of storage capacity. This is a relatively straightforward solution in that it connects to your computer via Thunderbolt 3 just like many smaller hard drive options.

A similar option is available via a NAS device, such as a Synology DiskStation ( featuring six bays for hard drives, with an eight-bay model available as well. Note that in this case the device does not include hard drives, so you would need to buy those separately. A NAS device connects to a network so that any computer on the network can access the storage.

These types of high-capacity storage devices require a bit more technical knowledge than a traditional hard drive, and they can be more expensive than more basic storage devices. Therefore, if you need particularly large amounts of storage capacity you may find it simpler to divide your photos and other data across more than one hard drive.

This is an issue I’ve run into myself. Because I generally travel somewhat frequently, I prefer to use external hard drives that are bus-powered, meaning they don’t require a power adapter. Specifically, I use LaCie Rugged ( hard drives, which have a maximum capacity in the form factor I prefer of five terabytes. There is an eight-terabyte model (, but the size is a bit awkward in my view.

Because I’m storing my photos across two hard drives, I use one drive for the photos I’m most likely to use most frequently, with photos I am likely to need less often stored on a secondary hard drive. This system works well for me, even though I’d prefer being able to store all my photos on a single hard drive.

Of course, another option that can help is to review your photos and delete outtakes more aggressively than you have in the past. This is a project I’ve started to undertake, which could potentially get my storage needs back down to the point that a single bus-powered hard drive will be able to accommodate all my photos.