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

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.

Storage Sense can be found from the Windows Storage settings. This screenshot is from Windows 11.
Here are the configurable options of Storage Sense. This is from Windows 11.

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.

Once loaded, Disk Cleanup asks which disk to check.
This is the main screen. You can scroll down to see what is available to clean up
If you press the “Clean System Files” button you get various system files that can be cleaned safely

Third-Party Applications

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.

This is a screenshot from my local system drive, you can see which folders are taking up the most space. You can also expand each directory to see in great detail what folders are eating up disk space on your system.

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.~BT, 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.

Compress Files

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.

Maintenance Tips

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.

Elsewhere On TurboGeek:  How to Reinstall Windows 11 on a PC


Richard Bailey, a seasoned tech enthusiast, combines a passion for innovation with a knack for simplifying complex concepts. With over a decade in the industry, he's pioneered transformative solutions, blending creativity with technical prowess. An avid writer, Richard's articles resonate with readers, offering insightful perspectives that bridge the gap between technology and everyday life. His commitment to excellence and tireless pursuit of knowledge continues to inspire and shape the tech landscape.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *