I have a 1tb external hard drive that has 931gb of space available out of the box, so far I've used about 825gb of that leaving about 100gb left. I'm curious...should I leave a certain percentage of space open for performance purposes? I'm using the drive for archival purposes for now but do plan on getting a media player soon and will be hooking up the external hard drive to that for playback.
What's the general rule of thumb on how much of the available space to use on external hard drives without sacrificing performance?
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Depends whether any of your applications are trying to save tmp files to that drive. As a disk fills the free space becomes fragmented to the extent that the heads must seek over the drive to save even small files. You can use the extra space for MPeg files since playback uses only a fraction of the drive speed.
Probably 30% is optimum, but more often I stick with 25% freespace, especially with a boot drive where the data is changed often and defragging becomes more important to maintain drive efficiency. Windows will show the drive space in red if you get near the maximum usable size. (In Tile view) At that point, you may want to relocate some data. If you defrag the drive, that will usually keep the performance at a optimum level. But to efficiently defrag, you want about that 25% free space. Having less, the defrag will take much longer.
How you use the drive is important. An archival drive can get away with a lot less freespace if you aren't changing the data that often, and still be efficient. My external 1TB drive shows about 87GB freespace of 931GB available and Windows shows it in red as having too little freespace. I moved some video and it shows 89GB free now and is no longer shown in red. So it looks like Windows likes about 10% freespace minimum. Probably a good number to use with a archival drive that would rarely need to be defragged.
With your numbers, it looks like you can add about 15GB - 18GB before Windows complains.