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All operating systems require a certain amount of disk space in order to run and function properly, so how are ‘economy model’ laptops able to properly function with the small drives that are built into them? Today’s SuperUser Q&A post has the answer to a curious reader’s question.

Today’s Question & Answer session comes to us courtesy of SuperUser—a subdivision of Stack Exchange, a community-driven grouping of Q&A web sites.

The Question

SuperUser reader AngryHacker wants to know how Windows 10 can function with as little as 32 GB of disk space:

There are a number of sub $200 Windows 10 laptops that only have 32 GB SSD hard drives in them (like the Lenovo 100s and HP Stream 13, for example). Given that the Windows directory itself is over 32 GB on my regular laptop, how do these laptops even function? Is there any space left over to store anything? Would I have a hard drive that ran out of space soon after starting to use it?

How can Windows 10 function with as little as 32 GB of disk space?

The Answer

SuperUser contributor magicandre1981 has the answer for us:

Windows 10 uses CompactOS, which compresses Windows files to make them smaller:

  • Compact OS installs the operating system files as compressed files. Compact OS is supported on both UEFI-based and BIOS-based devices. Unlike WIMBoot (because the files are no longer combined into a single WIM file), Windows update can replace or remove individual files as needed to help maintain the drive footprint size over time.

This can be done automatically by Windows 10 setup or by manually applying an image:

  • DISM.EXE /Apply-Image /ImageFile:INSTALL.WIM /Index:1 /ApplyDir:C:\ /Compact:ON

Or in a running Windows 10 system via this command:

  • COMPACT.EXE /CompactOS:always

Have something to add to the explanation? Sound off in the comments. Want to read more answers from other tech-savvy Stack Exchange users? Check out the full discussion thread here.

Akemi Iwaya
Akemi Iwaya has been part of the How-To Geek team since 2009. She has previously written under the pen name "Asian Angel" and was a Lifehacker intern before joining How-To Geek. She has been quoted as an authoritative source by ZDNet Worldwide.
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