Tip #072: Where Should You Store Media

… for Random Weirdness

Tip #072: Where Should You Store Media

Larry Jordan – https://LarryJordan.com

Internal or external storage. Which is best?

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As much as we obsess about our computers, storage is much more important to media editors. When it comes to planning your storage and media, there are two essential questions you need to ask:

  • How much capacity do you need?
  • How much speed do you need?

Most current computers – and all Macs – use high-speed SSDs for their internal boot drives. These provide blazing speed but very limited storage capacity.

So, as you are thinking about where to store media, consider this:

  • If you have a small project, using the internal SSD is fine.
  • If you have a large project, or need to move it between computers or editors, external storage is better because it is more flexible.
  • For best results, store cache files (and Libraries in FCP X) on the internal boot drive or your fastest external storage.
  • SSDs are about four times faster than spinning media (traditional hard disks), but spinning media holds more and is much cheaper.
  • A single spinning hard disk is fine for HD, but not fast enough for 4K or HDR,
  • RAIDs are preferred for massive projects, like one-hour shows or features, large frame sizes, HDR, or faster frame rates. They hold more and transfer data much faster than a single drive.
  • Don’t store media on any gear connected via USB 1, 2, or 3 Gen 1. It won’t be fast enough. Howver, you can use these devices for backups and longer-term archiving.
  • Servers are fine for storing and accessing media, but they won’t be as fast as locally-attached storage.
  • In general, if you are getting dropped frame errors, it means your storage is too slow to support the media you are editing. Invest in faster storage.

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4 replies
  1. Zachary
    Zachary says:

    This is all good advice, but I have to disagree with you on using media stored on a drive connected via USB 3.0. It’s plenty fast for 1080p projects and even somewhat suitable for 4K work. That is if it’s an SSD.

    • Larry Jordan
      Larry Jordan says:


      You are always welcome to disagree. The problem is that the USB governing body decided to rename all the different formats of USB in a very confusing manner.

      If you are using USB-C, it is PLENTY fast enough. If you are using USB 2 or 3.0, it is woefully too slow. USB 3.1 Gen 1 is fast enough for HD, but not 4K, except for some very compressed codecs.

      Sigh… Because I was trying to limit my words, I didn’t precisely define all the different versions of USB and the bandwidth they provide. That strikes me as a good tip for the future.

      Thanks for your comments.


    LEE THOMAS says:

    I occupy something of a middle ground in what you recommend: I edit on a specially-configured gaming computer with 3 internal SATA drives: A boot drive 1 TB SSD where the programs are stored, a data drive 4 TB SSD where video, audio and cache files reside, and a 6 TB backup HD where data files are backed up after each session. Keeping things internal when possible keeps the system fast.
    Admittedly, most of my projects are small enough to handle internally with this arrangement. When finished, I export them to external storage. Well, it works for me. For what it’s worth.

    • Larry Jordan
      Larry Jordan says:


      Your comments are worth a lot. And it reminds me that I should clarify the word “external.” You are actually using “external” storage even though it is inside your computer. (I know, I know, weird.)

      When I use the term “external” I mean storage which does not also hold the operating system. You are correct. Using SSD drives inside your computer is very fast and, as long as you don’t need to take the drives anywhere, very efficient.

      The key point I want to make is that the drive that holds your operating system and apps should, in general, not also be used for holding media.



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