How-To Geek

7 Ways To Free Up Hard Disk Space On Windows


Hard drives are getting larger and larger, but somehow they always seem to fill up. This is even more true if you’re using a solid-state drive (SSD), which offers much less hard drive space than traditional mechanical hard drives.

If you’re hurting for hard drive space, these tricks should help you free up space for important files and programs by removing the unimportant junk cluttering up your hard disk.

Run Disk Cleanup

Windows includes a built-in tool that deletes temporary files and other unimportant data. To access it, right-click one of your hard drives in the Computer window and select Properties.

(Alternatively you can just search for Disk Cleanup in the Start Menu.)


Click the Disk Cleanup button in the disk properties window.


Select the types of files you want to delete and click OK. This includes temporary files, log files, files in your recycle bin, and other unimportant files.

You can also clean up system files, which don’t appear in the list here. Click the Clean up system files button if you also want to delete system files.


After you do, you can click the More Options button and use the Clean up button under System Restore and Shadow Copies to delete system restore data. This button deletes all but the most recent restore point, so ensure your computer is working properly before using it – you won’t be able to use older system restore points.


Uninstall Space-Hungry Applications

Uninstalling programs will free up space, but some programs use very little space. From the Programs and Features control panel, you can click the Size column to see just how much space each program installed on your computer is using. The easiest way to get there is to search for “Uninstall programs” in the Start Menu.

If you don’t see this column, click the options button at the top right corner of the list and select the Details view. Note that this isn’t always accurate – some programs don’t report the amount of space they use. A program may be using a lot of space but may not have any information in its Size column.


If you’re using Windows 10, you can also open the new PC Settings and go to System -> Apps & features.


This will let you remove either Windows Store apps or regular apps, and should also work on a tablet. You can, of course, still open the regular Uninstall Programs in the old Control Panel if you want.

Analyze Disk Space

To find out exactly what is using space on your hard drive, you can use a hard disk analysis program. These applications scan your hard drive and display exactly which files and folders are taking up the most space. We’ve covered the best 10 tools to analyze hard disk space, but if you want one to start with, try WinDirStat (Download from Ninite).

After scanning your system, WinDirStat shows you exactly which folders, file types, and files are using the most space. Ensure you don’t delete any important system files – only delete personal data files. If you see a program’s folder in the Program Files folder using a large amount of space, you can uninstall that program – WinDirStat can tell you just how much space a program is using, even if the Programs and Features Control Panel doesn’t.


Clean Temporary Files

Windows’ Disk Cleanup tool is useful, but it doesn’t delete temporary files used by other programs. For example, it won’t clear Firefox or Chrome browser caches, which can use gigabytes of hard disk space. (Your browser cache uses hard disk space to save you time when accessing websites in the future, but this is little comfort if you need the hard disk space now.)

For more aggressive temporary and junk file cleaning, try CCleaner, which you can download here. CCleaner cleans junk files from a variety of third-party programs and also cleans up Windows files that Disk Cleanup won’t touch.


Find Duplicate Files

You can use a duplicate-file-finder application to scan your hard drive for duplicate files, which are unnecessary and can be deleted. We’ve covered using VisiPics to banish duplicate images. If you want a tool that also checks for other types of duplicate files, try dupeGuru – the free version can only delete or move up to ten files at once, but it will show you what duplicate files are cluttering up your hard drive.

Reduce the Amount of Space Used for System Restore

If System Restore is eating up a lot of hard drive space for restore points, you can reduce the amount of hard disk space allocated to System Restore. The trade-off is you’ll have less restore points to restore your system from and less previous copies of files to restore. If these features are less important to you than the hard disk space they use, go ahead and free a few gigabytes by reducing the amount of space System Restore uses.


Nuclear Options

These tricks will definitely save some space, but they’ll disable important Windows features. We don’t recommend using any of them, but if you desperately need disk space, they can help:

  • Disable Hibernation – When you hibernate your system, it saves the contents of its RAM to your hard drive. This allows it to save its system state without any power usage – the next time you boot your computer, you’ll be back where you left of. Windows saves the contents of your RAM in the C:\hiberfil.sys file. To save hard drive space, you can disable hibernate entirely, which removes the file.
  • Disable System Restore – If reducing the amount of space System Restore uses isn’t good enough for you, you can disable System Restore entirely. You’ll be out-of-luck if you need to use System Restore to restore your system to an earlier state, so be warned.

Bear in mind that you’ll never get as much space as a drive promises on the box. To understand why, read: HTG Explains: Why Do Hard Drives Show the Wrong Capacity in Windows?

Image Credit: Jason Bache on Flickr

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 09/23/15
  • savithaarunatha

    1.To open Disk Cleanup from the desktop, swipe in from the right edge of the screen, and then tap of the Settings tap or click Control Panel, type Admin in the Search box, tap or click Administrative Tools, and then double-tap or double-click Disk Cleanup.

    2.If we have for prompted,and it's tap or click the drive that you want to clean up, and then tap or click OK.

    3.In the Disk Cleanup dialog box in the Description section,and click tap or click Clean up system files. Administrator permission required You might be asked for an admin password or to confirm your choice.

    4.If prompted, tap or click the drive that you want to clean up, and then tap or click OK.

    5.In the Disk Cleanup of dialog box, on this Disk Cleanup tab, select the check boxes for the file types that you want to delete, and then tap or click OK.

    6.In the message that appears, tap or click Delete files.

    7.Go back to Computer in File Explorer, tap or click the drive you cleaned up, and then tap or click Refresh. If you need to free more space (the drive is still marked red), go to the next tip.

  • Scott

    binaryman, two posts, both for the same shareware? Deleting.

  • Jason

    Another great disk analysis tool is TreeSize. Its fast and lightweight which I use on my desktops and servers to find out why some of my users have such large profiles/backups!

    Their free version works really well for local installations. No need to ever pay unless you're the supporting type or want the pro features. Updates are released fairly regularly.

  • Mike

    What about turning on hard drive compression (under the hard drive properties -"compress this drive to save space" )? I haven't seen any discussion of this and would like to hear about the pros and cons of doing this in different scenarios (ssd vs hd / fast vs slow machine). How about it HTG?

    I used to use treesizefree, but discovered wiztree - which uses the same super-fast method as Everything search to scan files and list by size. It's a great utility.

  • David George

    You're ignoring one of the best features of WinDirStat: The ability to delete files and/or folders directly from the application. If you have say a 6 GB folder with a movie you don't want to keep, you can quickly delete it there. It's faster than using the 'send to recycle bin' method in Windows.

  • Eric A. Tuttle

    Creating a lot of video, and having 5.5Tb of storage, I often find myself needing to remove some of the video and the associated creative files. I generally archive them to 50Gb Blu Ray DVD's where I can later retrieve on a file by file needed basis.

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