Windows 8 takes up a lot of storage space on the Surface. Does it really matter?

How much space do you really need on a tablet or laptop?

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Earlier this week, news broke that Windows 8 is a space hog, at least on the upcoming Surface Pro tablet. The OS, built-in apps, and recovery partition will take up 41GB (or more) of space, leaving just 23GB free on the smaller (64GB) Surface Pro base model and 83GB on the larger (128GB) model. This news met with sound criticism around the web from tech bloggers and writers, but is it really a big deal? Let's explore.

If you look at the Surface Pro as a tablet, the 23GB free space isn't too shabby at all, considering Android tablets and iPads start out with 8GB or 16GB of free space (and go up to 64GB usually). Tablet users don't normally need a lot of space because these devices are used as secondary machines and we don't store as much information locally on them. Everything's in "the cloud."

The Surface Pro is a bit of a conundrum, though. It's a tablet, but it's also a complete laptop replacement running a desktop operating system. For that reason, it uses desktop/laptop-like resources--and the full desktop OS, Windows 8, occupies a greater percentage of the overall space. I think people are freaking out about the amount of free space on the Surface Pro because they see it not just as a tablet but as a full-fledged laptop or main system where you keep all of your data (It's priced as such as well).

Where did all the space go? It's not just the OS, but a recovery partition and software such as Metro-style apps like SkyDrive and Mail that are claiming the space. Office 2013 takes up 3GB of storage space. By comparison, a similarly spec'ed 64GB MacBook Air may have double the amount of free space as the similarly-sized Surface Pro.

Making matters worse for Microsoft, at just about the same time we learned Windows 8 took up so much of the total Surface Pro space, Apple announced a 128GB version of the iPad with 121GB space free for $799 ($200 less than the Surface Pro equivalent, without keyboard).

Still, for tablet-like usage, 23GB should be fine for most users and 83GB on a laptop isn't really bad, depending on whether you use external or cloud storage. It's simply disappointing because the tech specs promise so much more space.

At least the Surface Pro supports expandable memory via USB 3.0 hard drives and microSDXC cards--something the iPad does not. You'll have to roll in the costs of that extra storage media, however, when you consider whether or not to buy the Surface Pro.

Read more of Melanie Pinola's Tech IT Out blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Melanie on Twitter at @melaniepinola. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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