How Much iPad Storage Do I Need?

The iPad is a handy whether you feel like playing games, reading a book, catching a movie or listening to your favorite music. In this week’s 2-Minute Expert, we break down how much data storage these activities require and help you pick the right model: 16 gigabytes, 32 GB or 64 GB.

What do I need for a basic setup?

Upon starting up the iPad, you’ll need to install the latest service update, which takes about 1 GB. A basic social apps — such as Facebook and Twitter  — take minimal space, about 10 megabyte or so. App Store listings usually indicate the size of an app as well as how much updates will add. Business apps can be much bigger, however. Apple's Pages word-processing app, for instance, runs 269 MB. So we will assume a generous 1 GB for all apps. With the update, that comes to 2GB.

The App Store has an abundant amount of video. Movies range from classics to new releases. You can also get TV shows. A feature-length film such as the awesome "Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol," takes about 1.5 GB, a one-hour drama like "Game of Thrones" is around 800 MB and a half-hour sitcom such as "Parks and Recreation" is a little over 350 MB. Longer movies, like "Transformers: Dark of the Moon," peak over the 2 GB mark. That’s for standard-definition films and shows. An HD movie can require a whopping 6 GB.

You can also go the streaming route, with tiny apps such Flixster, Netflix and Hulu Plus. Flixster, for instance, is a meager 21.4 MB. Because they aren't stored on the iPad, the videos barely take up any space. 

How about ebooks and magazines?

In most cases ebooks are simply text and small interactive menus to flip through pages. (Ebook reader apps, like Nook, are only around 10 MB.) Animated storybooks, such as Dr. Seuss titles or Disney/Pixar offerings, like the "Toy Story" books are larger, taking up around 170 MB or more — still not so much. However, a photo-rich magazine issue can run 2GB or more.

And music?

No matter which model iPad you own, you can store a lot of music. Most songs from iTunes are around 5 to 10 MB a pop, and full albums barely register over 150 MB. If you’ve got a hundred or so songs for a road trip, you’ll have no problem. If you have a vast collection, you might need to make some choices.


Smaller ones such as "Atari’s Greatest Hits," a superb collection of retro favorites, barely register more than 20 MB. Detailed games that make use of the new iPad’s retina display and other high-tech features take a lot more. "Infinity Blade II," considered one of the best games for iPad, goes over 700 MB. "Max Payne," a third-person action shooter with excellent effects, weighs in at 1.11 GB.

How do I keep track of storage?

Either go into the "Settings" menu and check under "About" or plug your device into a computer, fire up iTunes, and click the "Summary" tab. At the bottom, you will see the capacity bar, with a detailed breakdown for each kind of item, such as apps or music. (Note that games will be lumped in under "apps.")

With conservative estimates, let’s see roughly how much each iPad model can hold. The figures are below are for if you maxed out each medium. Don’t try to cram 100 albums and 10 movies on a 16 GB iPad. All of these estimates do include the basic setup of apps and updates, including streaming services, since they take virtually no space.

16 GB iPad

  • Two high-definition movies or 9 in standard-def, or
  • 100 music albums (about 1,200 songs), or
  • Roughly 450 small games such as " “Atari’s Greatest Hits,” or 15 large titles such as "Infinity Blade II," or
  • 450 ebooks (combination of regular and animated storybooks)

32 GB iPad

  • Five high-definition or 20 standard-definition movies, or
  • 200 albums or around 3,000 songs, or
  • About 900 small games or 35 large games, or
  • 1,100 ebooks

64 GB iPad

  • 10 high-definition or 40 standard-definition movies, or
  • 400 albums or 6,000 songs, or
  • 2,000 small games or 75 large ones, or
  • 2,250 ebooks