How to Free Up Disk Space on Microsoft Windows
Microsoft Windows is available in many different versions, but a universal problem experienced by users is what to do when Windows runs out of disk space. Learning how to free up disk space is a vital skill for everyone, even if you are a novice or perhaps a systems administrator. Either way, it’s vital to know what you clean up safely.
Why Disk Space Matters
Disk space plays a pivotal role in ensuring the seamless operation of your computer system. Insufficient disk space not only affects your ability to store new files but can also degrade your computer’s performance. It can result in slower file access, hindered software updates, and in the very worst-case scenarios, lead to data loss.
The biggest impact you will experience is your PC or Laptop slowing down. This will be much more noticeable on less powerful systems.
Identifying Disk Space Usage
Windows Built-in Tools
Windows offers built-in tools like ‘Storage Sense’ and the ‘Disk Cleanup’ utility that allow you to monitor and manage your storage.
Storage Sense can be accessed from the Settings app and provides an overview of disk usage. You can also enable an automated feature that will clean up temp files, and purge locally cache cloud content, for example, local copies of OneDrive Files that are not used frequently.
The Disk Cleanup utility offers options to remove various types of unnecessary files, and it is one of my personal favorite tools to clean up disk space. It is great at finding local files such as Windows Update cache, Windows Upgrade cache, and temp files.
Apart from built-in features, third-party applications like CCleaner and TreeSize offer more comprehensive functionalities. These applications give a more detailed view of your storage distribution and offer advanced features like bulk file removal and system optimization.
Treesize is available as a free or paid-for pro version. The free version is more than adequate for everyday users. The biggest limitation of the free version is that you cannot scan network drives. But it’s absolutely fine for local disks.
Basic Methods to Free Up Disk Space
Empty the Recycle Bin
Often, we forget that deleted files move to the Recycle Bin and continue occupying disk space. Emptying the Recycle Bin is an effective and immediate way to free up space.
Uninstall Unused Programs
Open the ‘Control Panel,’ navigate to ‘Programs,’ and select ‘Uninstall a Program.’ From this list, identify and remove programs you no longer use.#
Clear Temporary Files
Temporary files accumulate over time and can consume considerable disk space. Navigate to the ‘Temp’ folder by typing
%temp% in the Run dialog box and delete all the files within.
Advanced Methods to Free Up Disk Space
Remove Duplicate Files
Tools like Duplicate Cleaner Free can help you find and remove duplicate files, freeing up valuable storage.
Free Up Disk Space from Windows Update
Windows stores copies of all installed updates from Windows Update, taking up a large amount of disk space. To remove these files, you can use the ‘Disk Cleanup’ utility and select the option ‘Windows Update Cleanup’.
Manage Restore Points and Shadow Copies
System restore points can also consume significant space. Open ‘System Properties,’ go to the ‘System Protection’ tab, and manage your settings under ‘System Restore.’
Moving the Page File
The Windows Page File (pagefile.sys) acts as ‘virtual memory’ and can take up several gigabytes of space. It can be moved to another drive by accessing ‘Advanced system settings’ and then navigating to ‘Performance’ settings.
What Windows System Folders Can Be Safely Deleted
Be cautious when deleting system folders. However, folders like
Windows.old, and contents within
C:\Windows\SoftwareDistribution\Download can often be deleted without causing issues.
Optimize Storage Space
Using Cloud Storage
Cloud storage services like Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive allow you to offload files from your local storage, serving as a viable alternative for physical storage.
Compressing files can save space but may also slightly reduce the speed of file access. You can use built-in tools or third-party software for this purpose.
Regularly reviewing your storage consumption and performing routine cleanups will help you maintain an optimized system. Schedule periodic disk cleanups and be mindful of the files you download and store.
Managing disk space is crucial for maintaining a healthy and efficient computer system. Employing a mixture of basic and advanced strategies, as outlined in this guide, will allow you to reclaim and optimize your storage space effectively. Take the initiative today to clean up your disk and breathe new life into your computer.