The Paradox of Local Drive File Bloat

Our ever expanding multitude of useless hard drive documents in the age of the cloud.

September 19, 2016

If your hard drive is anything like mine - then your hard drive is a mess.

If you local file storage story resembles my own - and I bet that it does - then you have thousands upon thousands of files on your laptop/desktop local drive.

Files that you have created, or downloaded at some point - but have not looked at in years.  Files that you don’t need.  Files that you are keeping because you think that you may need them at some point- but in reality will never be useful to anybody.  Files from projects that you worked on that have ended - with teams that have disbursed and colleagues who have long since left the building.

You have so many files on your local hard drive that you have created folders to store folders.  Places to stash files that are no longer relevant or useful, but which you are saving because it is more work to delete then to keep them.

Even the most militant zero inbox evangelists are digital hoarders when it comes to retaining files on their hard drives.

My hypothesis is that in the age cloud storage, we have more local files than ever before.

We thought that Google Drive and Dropbox would be consign our hard drives to the technological dustbin of history.  Didn’t happen.  At least not yet.

We are inveterate PDF downloaders.  Excel, PowerPoint of Word creators.  We download and store videos, reports, and presentations.  Our drives have thousands of images that we once thought we needed, but never needed again.

One reason that so many of us have so many files on our laptop/desktop hard drives is that we are keeping our hardware longer.  There is no longer any need to upgrade our computers every 3 years.  Solid state drives last much longer than spinning disks.  Processors are fast enough to do everything that we need to do.  Even the smallest of laptops comes with enough drive storage to store every file that we create or download - and do so for years and years.

It used to be that getting a new machine was an opportunity to clear out old files.  We now keep our computers much longer, and therefore engage in file cleaning less frequently.  When we do get a new machine, it is now a seamless process to transfer over old applications and files.

The irony of our hard drive file bloat is that the utility of local files is diminishing.  Our work is largely collaborative, and that collaborative work takes place on cloud platforms.  In my case, that collaborative cloud platform is Google Docs (or Googe Drive - I still get confused what to call the thing).  What about you?  Are you working mostly in Dropbox?  Some other cloud file creation and exchange platform?

Or maybe the idea of discrete files is decidedly old school.  Slack has everything that you need.

Nowadays, nobody has the time or the incentives to clean out their hard drive.  Why bother?  You have plenty of space.  It is a pain to go through file-by-file to delete something.  All those extra files aren’t slowing down your regular work.  And besides, you just might need that slide deck or report one of these days.

Who amongst you has left the local drive behind?

Are there any brave souls who are willing to keep all their digital crap in the cloud - as opposed to both their local drives and the cloud?

Have any of you completely left the world of MS Office - doing all your document creation, sharing, collaboration and downloading through the cloud?

How old is the oldest file on your computer?

Are you, like me, a local hard drive digital pack rat?



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