Even though traditional hard drives have gotten cheaper over the years, many people still have basic drives of 500GB or less. Why? Well, mostly because new computers come with solid state drives (SSDs) and the larger sizes are too expensive.
If you get a warning about low disk space on Windows, there are several things you can do to reclaim some free space. However, the first thing to do is figure out how much space the operating system and your data / programs are taking up on the system. Once you know this, you can decide what to remove, remove, etc.
The best tool I’ve been using for years is TreeSize for free. It’s a small program that you don’t even need to install, and it quickly tells you which files and folders are taking up the most space on your computer.
As you can see, the largest directory on my computer is Windows. This may or may not apply to you. If so, the only safe way to shrink older versions of Windows is to use Disk Cleanup. If you have a large Windows.old folder, be sure to read my post on how to delete it using Disk Cleanup.
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If you find that there is a large driver folder in the Windows directory and it has a lot of files associated with your graphics card (Nvidia, AMD), you should run the display driver uninstall tool, which saved me a lot of GB in space. For some reason NVidia etc. keep previous versions of drivers when updating older versions, which can take a lot of space.
The next largest folder will probably be the Program Files or Users folder. If Program Files is very large, expand it and see if there are any programs that you no longer need and can be removed. I also wrote an article about a program that can remove all unnecessary software that comes with new computers.
As far as individual files on a PC go, hiberfil.sys was the biggest for me. This is the file used for hibernation, however if you are not using hibernation you can delete this file and save a few GB of space. Read my previous article on how to delete the hibernation file easily.
In the Users folder, it will be easier to delete any personal items that take up a lot of space, such as photos, videos, etc. However, you may also find that the AppData / Local folder is quite large. It is a hidden system folder that is used by various programs to store temporary and application data.
The best way to reduce the size of this folder is to use a tool like CCleaner. You don’t want to manually go in and delete files from there, as this can cause problems with your programs and with the OS. I wrote a detailed article on whether these types of cleaners are actually useful, but the bottom line is that CCleaner does a great job of removing hard-to-find temporary data.
I also wrote another article that talks about various ways to save space on your computer, namely checking the size of the recycle bin, as well as the amount of space allocated for system recovery.
Another problem that can arise is that your C drive partition is very small to begin with. You may have a 500GB drive, but for some reason the system partition (C) is only 30GB in size. In such cases, you can actually increase the size of the partition if you have free space on the extended partition.
The best way to do this is by using a free tool like Easeus Free Partition Manager. They have all sorts of ways to get you to purchase an updated version, but the free version should work for most people.
There aren’t really many other ways to free up hard drive space other than replacing it with a larger drive, but hopefully some of the tips above will give you a breather until then. Enjoy!