Tech Tip: Free Up Disk Space in Windows

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Weston has invested a lot into tools to monitor and take care of the computers and servers under our care. One of the errors we’ll fix regularly is a computer running out of disk space. When a computer or server is running short on disk space, bad things can happen, beyond just the inability to save files. We have automated tools to quickly clean things up for our managed systems, but what if you are looking to do a bit of manual cleaning or automated tools aren’t helping? Here are some ways to reclaim space on your system.

Use Disk Cleanup: The built-in Disk Cleanup app is the quickest and easiest way to cleanup drive space. It’s built by Microsoft and is the safest tool as it will generally leave stuff alone that you may not want to toss. You can open Disk Cleanup by clicking the Start button. In the search box, type Disk Cleanup, and then select Disk Cleanup. If prompted, select the drive that you want to clean up (usually your C: Drive), and then select OK. Let it scan, and it will present you with several checkboxes of files that can be removed (Recycle Bin, System Files, Temporary Files, etc…) and also show you the size of the files to be removed. Obviously make sure you don’t have files you need in any of those locations (you shouldn’t) and you can then hit “OK” to let it clean up.

If Disk Cleanup doesn’t clean up enough to get you moving again, you’ll have to start using more advanced techniques: Note, these can get dangerous so beware of what you’re doing before deleting files in bulk.

Uninstall Applications: If you never use an application, it may be taking up valuable space on your system. Search for “Uninstall programs” in the start menu to open up Windows’ program uninstaller. If you click on the “Size” Column in the window that appears, you can see what programs are taking up the most space. Talk to your IT people if you don’t recognize a program, or if you know you don’t need it, right-click and select “Uninstall” to begin the process of removing the app. Note: Some applications don’t report disk space usage back to Windows, so this still may not get all the large apps.

Analyze Used Space: If the above two tools don’t free up enough space on your system, you need to take a peek at what files and folders are taking up the most room on your computer. Our favorites at the office are Tree Size Free and WinDirStat to visually see what files and folders are taking up the most room. That being said, don’t just go on a deleting spree, as there are many of those folders and files that you can’t and shouldn’t get rid of, but this will give you an idea where to look or point your IT Support to.

Find Duplicate Files: This is more applicable to home users, we’ve found, than business users, but you may have duplicate copies of files taking up space on your system. There are a couple tools out there that are good for this sort of thing. The free Duplicate File Finder is a simple, easy-to-use program to find duplicate files on your system. If your needs are more advanced, DuplicateCleaner provides more options that you may not be able to find elsewhere, but you will have to pay for it.

More Aggressive Cleaning: Programs like CCleaner will clean up unneeded files (like extraneous browser cache and log files) that will free up a bunch of space. Combined with CCEhancer, you can clear up a lot of space. But beware: We’ve found some specialty commercial applications are developed to save files in locations on your system that will be cleaned up by programs like this, so use these programs with caution.

Buy More Storage: If after all this you’re still unable to free up enough space, you may just need to get a bigger hard drive. We generally prefer solid-state-drives because they perform so much better, but for raw capacity alone, it’s hard to beat a 12 terabyte mechanical hard drive for cheap capacity (an equivalent capacity SSD is quite a bit more expensive). We can help you come up with the best solution for your needs – just give us a call!

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