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How much storage space do you actually need on your programming laptop?

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How much storage space do you actually need on your programming laptop?

One of the biggest stresses that comes with picking up a new laptop (particularly if you're a developer) is the process of having to pretty much ruin the pristineness of its hard drive by having to install a dozen or so applications immediately after you get it in order to get your job done.

I've done it at least a dozen times during the past decade (both work and personal), and at this point, I kind of have an idea as to how to configure it in under an hour with the least amount of junk as possible. At least if you're dabbling in web development. But be forewarned, it definitely doesn't come cheap in terms of resources needed.

So if you've just picked up a fancy new machine that you don't want to ruin, and you're a developer, then read on as I navigate roughly how much storage space you will need.


Most modern laptops typically don't come packed with the latest and greatest utilities right from the factory. So before we get to any development tools, you're going to need a good browser in order to download them.

I personally use Brave browser as my default and go to, for a variety of reasons:

- It's lightweight and fast
- Automatic ad blocking
- Based on Chromium (stable)
- Low resource usage
- Let's you earn tokens for viewing ads

I technically use every browser throughout the week, to be fair, but my primary default for research and browsing has been Brave for the past few years and so far it's hogged the least amount of RAM and it tends to crash the least.

Once the browser is installed, I typically will download Notepad++GIMP and Inkscape to start as they are all lightweight free tools that any web developer can use on the daily.

These are my guilt-free installs, as they barely make a dent on storage and are mostly low resource intensive applications. They can run in the background with little to no issue.

Storage Required: < 1GB


While you don't technically need an IDE (as you could use notepad or the command-line for everything), you should get an IDE. And these days, you have a fair number to choose from though the most popular choice is probably going to be VS Code.

The good part is that VS Code is as lightweight as it comes when comparing to other code editor. And it's default state and configuration is good enough to get to work pretty fast. And if you so choose, you can configure the life out of it with various extensions and such.

I typically work on a React based application during my day to day work, and VS Code handles that workflow perfectly fine.

I also split my days working on various other "non-work" projects, and typically most of that work is done in a .NET environment. Which means VS Code isn't enough for me.

Visual Studio 2022 is my primary IDE for most of the complex development that I do, and it doesn't come cheap in terms of storage. And that's because this is a full IDE that can build anything from a simple website to a complex 3D Unity game. I mainly use it for ASP.NET Web Development however, so I can save myself a few extra gigabytes.

On average I typically use up around 10GB-15GB of storage for my Visual Studio installs. But you can go much higher, depending on your needs. And I mean much higher, such as 30GB-50GB for a full robust installation.

While I could select every possible install option available, just in case one day I get the urge to build a 3D FPS, these days I go as minimal as I need to.

This particular installation will usually require a fair amount of time to complete, so a coffee break is in order. But Microsoft has done a great job of making this a one-click install essentially, so no pesky prompts every 2 minutes asking you to choose between cryptic options.

And that's it for IDE's for me personally. While there are many others to choose from that may be fun to try out, such as JetBrains Fleet, I don't typically venture too far out from what I know best.

You're particular use case might be different though, so install appropriately.


Even if you aren't a full-time JavaScript developer, at some point you are going to need to use Node.js, I assure you. But for the most part, it's lightweight, downloads quick and doesn't really interfere with your day to day ops.

As I mentioned, I work on a React based application in my professional life, and so I rely heavily on Node day to day.

You can download it from the official site, here and once installed you can test out that you have the latest version by running the following in your command prompt.

node -v

This is one of the easier installs from this list and typically takes seconds. Having said that though, there is a good chance that you are going to end up installing libraries from NPM (Node Package Manager) constantly, and those packages can end up taking a substantial amount of resources.

Just setting up a barebones React application through one of the many pre-built templates can eat several 100MB's without even having written a single line of code.

Database server(s)

If you're doing any kind of local development, then you are probably going to need a database of some kind. And once again you have a few options to choose from depending on your particular tech stack and the kind of work that you find yourself doing.

For me personally, most of my work is split between SQL Server and PostgreSQL. Both database servers come in free developer edition version, which you're free to install locally and to use in your day to day development work freely.

But these aren't lightweight applications by any means. If you're going to install SQL Server Developer Edition, you're going to eat up anywhere from 5GB to 10GB depending on your configuration.

And if you aren't rocking a 1TB drive on your laptop and GB's matter, you can also consider the Express edition of SQL Server to save some bits. Most developers can probably get away with using the Express Edition for most local development.

PostgreSQL on the other hand, is very storage friendly and comes in at around 512MB of storage for the application.

At this stage, your brand new laptop is nearing a loss of anywhere from 15GB - 40GB. And there's still more to go.

Database management

To go along with your new database servers, you're going to need something to connect to them and to manage them essentially.

If you're using SQL Server, then the usual go to application is Microsoft's SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS). You don't have to use that particular management tool, but it works incredibly well with SQL Server as they are both Microsoft products.

Overall the install size isn't terrible here and there isn't much configuration once you run the installer. You should install this after you install SQL Server (above), that way your local server is ready to go when you launch SSMS.

And for your PostgreSQL connection needs, something like DBeaver (open-sourced) will do the job just fine. I've been using it for over a year now, and while it does have a few quirks (crashes, constant updates, UI bugs), it's lightweight and gets the job done relatively well.

You can also use DBeaver to connect to SQL Server instances, but as I mentioned above, SSMS does a much better job in terms of performance when it comes to working with SQL Server instances.


It goes without saying, everyone needs some kind of source control these days, and Git is typically the go to app for such things. Lucky for all of us, Git is lightweight and takes up relatively low resources on your new machine. Which is great, because if you tally up the total install size of everything on this list so far, your hard drive is quickly filling up.

You can download Git from the official site, and installation is fairly simple. For the most part, you might just need to click 'Yes' to every default if you have no idea what it's asking.

Project management

Everybody has their own go-to software applications when it comes to project and task management, so stick to what you know best. I personally, tend to always go with the most lightweight and fastest loading software that I can get my hands on. That helps to ensure that I actually end up using it and that it doesn't collect digital dust.

Currently I split most of my day to day management between Todoist, the popular to-do app that's minimalistic yet still quite a looker. And Notion, the app for pretty much everything else in my life.

You can read about my why I'm such a huge Notion fan over here.

And that's pretty much it for setting up a new developer laptop. For me personally, this isn't the funnest process as I hate bogging down a perfectly good (new) laptop still in pristine condition.

But a laptop that isn't being used to its full capacity, isn't a laptop that's fulfilling its purpose. And at the end of the day, you're probably going to pick up the next shiny version of it sometime before the year ends anyway.

Polishing it up

Every developer has their own style when it comes to file management and organization. Some keep 5 folders max, while others have no limit. And I think it's important to set up those rules for yourself early on in order to avoid digital clutter and headaches down the road.

I try to aim for somewhere in the middle and keep just enough folders to handle anything that I would need in a single day and once that's set, I rarely change it.

But finding out how you personally work best will be key to keeping a dev-machine up and running for the long term.

Walter Guevara is a software engineer, startup founder and currently teaches programming for a coding bootcamp. He is currently building things that don't yet exist.


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